Going into labor alone with a toddler at home might keep you up at night. If you’re pregnant with your second child, it’s only logical to wonder what to do with siblings during labor and delivery.
Setting up emergency childcare during labor is a good idea for those on their own or have husbands who are at work/traveling during the 9th month of their second pregnancy. But when all else fails, yes, you may wind up taking a toddler to the hospital while in labor. And that’s OK!
Leslie’s Story of Going into Labor with her Second Child
I’ve told my story about having my first baby in China. My second daughter was also born in China. After that ordeal, I knew I could handle pretty much anything.
As the time got closer to the due date, my in-laws were fully ready and nearby. They wouldn’t venture far, so anywhere they went around town; they could be at our home quickly to help our eldest.
Honestly, one of my biggest concerns was that something would happen to me, and my in-laws would raise my eldest. I was terrified and spent hours on Skype with my parents back home telling me everything would be fine, and I was just anxious.
They were right, of course. But still, I had a backup plan to my backup plan, which made me feel much better.
The plan was to call my in-laws when I went into labor, and they’d come to our home to care for our firstborn. After delivery, they would bring our big girl to the hospital to meet her sister.
I remember asking my parents how much I would love this new baby as much as my first daughter. They laughed and laughed and promised me that I would. “You’ll see!” my dad told me.
Again, my dad was right. Not long after our second child was born, I held her in my arms and burst into tears. It was like that scene from Raising Arizona where Holly Hunter, who cannot have her kids with her husband, played by Nicholas Cage, steals one of the famed quintuplets from a well-known furniture store owner. She cries, “I love him so much!” Yup. That was me.
Anyway, I went to bed like usual and then woke up to pee around midnight. And shortly after I went, I had a contraction. I had gone through Braxton-Hicks a few days before, so I diligently watched the clock. After 15 more minutes, boom! Another contraction.
Relevant: How can you distinguish between false and real labor?
I watched and timed some more. They were real ones, alright. But remembering my first hospital experience, I knew I had plenty of time. So, I tried to sleep, then got up in the morning and told my husband I was in labor about as calmly as I would have said, “I just made the coffee.”
He called his parents, and I hurried to take a shower, knowing with that second c-section, it would be a couple of days before I could shower again. Then they arrived, and I hugged and cuddled my eldest. I didn’t want to let her go!
What we did about the separation time
Our firstborn was 3 at this time. She understood Mommy was having another baby. She was excited but sad because she didn’t want to be without me. Her grandparents then told her they’d be taking her to the park.
At this park, there were kiddie rides and all sorts of things. So, once they got her there, she was sufficiently distracted. They also spoiled her rotten, buying her any little treat and gift she pointed at. While I wouldn’t recommend spoiling so much, I was glad they had a way to keep her occupied.
And then, once baby #2 had been delivered, and we were resting comfortably in our hospital room, my in-laws were alerted, and they came, as they had promised me, with our eldest.
When she walked in, she suddenly looked giant and grown-up to me. I was so happy to see her. I hugged and kissed her and didn’t want to let her go.
What about going into labor alone with a toddler?
I was lucky that I wasn’t alone the second time. But if you’ve already had one baby, it’s less of a mystery when you go into labor. If there’s a solid chance you’ll be alone with your toddler when the second baby is ready to arrive, make your plans.
I would start with relatives, followed by friends. Have backup plans too. You never know when your #1 person gets stuck on the expressway and can’t get to you in time.
Relevant: Decide Who You Want to Be in the Delivery Room with You
And if you have to take your firstborn to the hospital, that’s ok. You can have a relative or friend get your eldest child from there.
How about that separation?
As for being apart from your sweet elder child, talk to them about this week in advance. Kids feel uneasy when their routine is disrupted. Talk through your plans with them. “Grandma and Grandpa will come to have a sleepover with you!” That’s what we told our big girl.
We also told her they’d bring her to the hospital to see us. So when the moment came, she was less upset about it. And she did great! My in-laws said she was such a good girl, and she really enjoyed spending time alone with them.
Honestly, you’ll have your hands full. Handling all these worries in advance by setting up your plans is the only way. You can’t over-stress about being apart from your firstborn. And framing it as a fun experience for your child will benefit everyone.
And what about your heart fitting the second child into it?
I can tell you true; it feels like a whole new section of your heart just opens up when you meet that other baby. It doesn’t take away anything from your eldest. And it may not happen immediately. I was recovering from that second c-section, and I felt awful. Once I removed the catheter, I could move around again, holding her as I shuffled around the room. That’s when I burst into tears because I felt that second beam of love coming from my heart.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.