Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: It turns out there is such a thing as TMI when it comes to childbirth and older siblings. But home-birthing mama Madeline Holler didn't figure that out until she was well into hard labor.
In a hilarious and honest essay on Salon.com, Holler writes about how her good intentions went terribly awry when she insisted that her young daughters -- ages 3 and 7 -- watch her give birth at home.
"I wanted [them] to know everything. And they did," she writes. "I told and retold their birth stories, I read them other people's birth stories. We looked at books, talked mechanics. I described the pain, the emotions, the little things (like Beatrice's hangnail at her birth) and the big things (like crapping on the floor during Frances')."
Holler asked her daughters if they wanted to watch their brother being born. They both answered with an emphatic "No!" So, rather than come up with a reasonable childcare arrangement prior to her delivery, she just avoided the issue altogether, chalking it up to poor planning on her part.
"I'm not exactly Type-A, and planning doesn't come naturally to me," she writes. "Added to that, this was my second home birth. It was easy not to get worked up over the details. Where to send the girls while I labored and birthed their younger sibling was even lower on my list of urgent tasks."
For some reason, Holler convinced herself that once her daughters heard her moaning and pushing and grunting and doing all the other very intense -- and often loud -- things a woman does when she births a baby, they'd love it. It didn't occur to her (at least not until her 7-year-old had locked herself in her bedroom and was sobbing) that maybe it wasn't such a bright idea after all.
"Each sound I made took her further away from the idea of a sweet baby and closer to the idea of losing her mother," Holler writes. Hindsight is 20-20, isn't it?
It all worked out in the end, though. The baby was born. The girl came out of her room. Everyone held the new baby. But still, you'd think that the mom would have paid attention to the cues her daughter was sending and known that she wasn't up for the event.
Of course, everything is context. A century ago, at-home births were the norm, and many children had no option but to watch (or at least hear) their mothers give birth. Now that we've removed birth from the home, the idea seems totally outrageous. But it didn't use to be.
As much as Holler hoped that the experience would open her daughters' eyes to the beauty of childbirth, it might have done just the opposite, terrifying them instead. Holler chalks the whole thing up to life experience. "Maybe they'll thank me later," she writes.