My daughter was 3.5 when I was preparing for the homebirth of our second child. I did three main things that helped:
- I told her that I might act funny and make loud or even scary noises. I even demonstrated them ahead of time, "Arrgghh!" "Oooohh!!!" and we laughed. That made her more comfortable with the fact that I was moaning during the actual birth.
- I told her that there would probably be blood, but that it wasn't "hurty" blood. I told her that the baby might be born with blood on it, or white stuff, and that the baby would look a little funny.
- I enlisted extra help to focus only on my daughter during the birth. I knew that my midwife would be busy, and I wanted my husband to be 100% available to help me. I asked one of my sisters to come, one that I knew would totally respect my wishes for the birth and be super supportive of my daughter. I was really careful about who I chose. I feared that some people would try to take her out of the house or distract her too much when she wanted to be part of the birth.
I tracked down a copy of Children at Birth by Marjie and Jay Hathaway, the Bradley birth people, and that was helpful. It was a really old book, but my library was able to get a copy by inter-library loan. (Cool side note: I met the baby from the book, the Hathaway's son, at the LLLI conference in Chicago last summer! He's about my age.)
One thing I did not do was prepare myself for the fact that I ended up needing absolute peace and quiet during transition. I kicked everyone out except for my husband and midwife, and my poor little girl was really upset about it. She was downstairs crying, thinking she was missing something. My sisters were there supporting her, but it was still hard. I wish I had known the intensity of the moment might not have me wanting my daughter there every single minute (she couldn't help but jump around and be chatty at her age). If I had just told her ahead of time that there would be times she could come in and times when she couldn't, but that I wouldn't have her miss the actual birth, she would have been satisified as she has always been quite mature in her thinking.
I also had my daughter watch a video of a real birth. It was a long video showing a lot of the labor and she asked to watch it again and again! As if it were Elmo or something! I thought it was great for her to see the mom looking uncomfortable so she knew that was normal if I looked that way. She was able to see where the baby would come out and see how the mom acted.
My second baby's birth was an awesome experience, and I'm so thankful my older daughter was there to witness it. She told me, "Good job, Mama!" and she gave her little sister her first kiss! I am teary eyed thinking about it.