Images of a 3-year-old girl who participated, and even helped, during the delivery of her baby brother have gone viral on social media — and sparked a conversation about why it’s become the norm to prevent children from witnessing the act of birth.
After being asked by her mother, New York native Rebecca Joseloff, to be present during the homebirth, Hunter, 3, began watching videos, and even studying anatomy, in preparation for the big event. When it came time for her mother to start pushing, Hunter was there to provide support and stroke her hair. As her brother’s head was crowning, Hunter even helped by holding his emerging head. A picture of Hunter holding the newborn that was taken by birth photographer and doula Nicole Lahey, who documented the event, went viral after Lahey shared the image with the Facebook group Love What Matters.
“She didn’t cower when her mother roared her brother out and she didn’t get nervous or concerned about it, at all,” Lahey, who the operator of Ready. Set. Chaos. Birth Services, wrote in the Facebook post. “Birth is the most normal part of life; share it with your children and teach them from the beginning, that birth is nothing to fear. Birth is strength.” Not everyone in the group was in agreement that it was appropriate or beneficial for Hunter to witness the birth.
Lahey, who has been working as a doula and birth photographer for the last two years and is very active on Facebook and Instagram, was reluctant to speculate on why the topic was so divisive among commenters under the Facebook post. But she shed some light on where peoples’ squeamishness about the birth process comes from. In an email to Women in the World, Lahey said, “Before hospitals were popular, mothers gave birth in the comfort of their homes surrounded by their children and possibly relatives. It was normal for that time. When hospital births became popular, women were given medication, knocked unconscious, and woken up to hear ‘its a girl,’” Lahey said. “Doctors even hid the birth process from the mother and the father of the baby. Birth was seen as something women needed to be saved from, so in that mindset children definitely didn’t and shouldn’t see it either.”
But Lahey says we’re in the middle of a culture change, something she welcomes. “When we allow other people to make decisions for us, the ideology shifts and becomes a culturally acceptable concept. Thankfully, women have been pushing back, demanding to be a part of the decision making process and are trusting their bodies,” she told Women in the World. “I too read those comments of the women who were strongly against it and they all had a sexual undertone. I heard words like ‘lady bits’ and ‘hoo ha’ amongst some of those comments and that speaks to the fact that some women are not comfortable with their bodies. The ones that didn’t have a sexual undertone were out of fear — the ‘I’ve seen what happens when birth goes wrong’ type of comments and these would also be the same people who don’t agree with home births.”
View this post on Instagram
This will be dubbed the famous couch. She will always remember how she birthed her son safely in their home while her daughter, Hunter, was the first person to touch his head as he crowned. I will be blogging this entire family centered birth story soon as it's too good not to share. #birthday #birthphoto #birthworker #birthdoula #longislandphotographer #longislandmoms #doulalife #birthbecomesher #birthphoto
Lahey says that the decision over whether to include their children should be the parents to make, and that her own experience has shown that “siblings who watch their little sibling’s birth are much more connected and compassionate with one another.” Lahey said, “I had two of my three births photographed and those are some of the best memories of my life. They are the photos I cherish more than any other photo I have of my family and I am so thankful my mentor and best friend was there to capture that for us.”
Joseloff echoed the sentiment. “Kids perceive things in the way adults react to it, so if birth is not made out to be scary or traumatic or what not, kids are not going to think that it is,” said Joseloff in comments made to Cafe Mom. “Birth is such a natural part of life and such an awesome moment, especially for a brother or sister to be there when their sibling is born; it really makes such an awesome connection for them for the rest of their lives.”