What the Hell Do I Do With My Preschooler When I Go Into Labor?

During my first pregnancy, I obsessed about what to pack in my “go bag.”  That thing was a monster, and required wheelie luggage to hold all the nighties, scented candles, bedding, snacks, cute going home outfits, cameras, and the iPad and speakers ready to blast the pushing playlist I’d perfected.  (My daughter was born to Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home,” in case you’re wondering.)

As I start to plan for my next birth, I’m realizing I have one big problem: My 4-year-old is not going to fit in my go bag. What the hell do I do with her when I go into labor? 

If she’s home when my water breaks, I’m afraid she’ll see me in a great deal of pain. The first time around I dilated hard and fast, entering the hospital hunched over like Quasimodo and snarling like a Rodent of Unusual Size. I dare say I scared the nurses. I don’t want to freak out my daughter.

More importantly, I need to figure out who will take care of her while my husband and I are at the hospital giving birth. We live 3,000 miles away from our families. Several nearby friends have volunteered to help out, but I’m nervous about the hand-off — what if it’s 3 a.m. and I have to wake my sleeping child to take her to a strange bed? Won’t that be a bit traumatizing? 

If I sound like I’m overthinking this, I have my reasons. My earliest childhood memory is of my first sleepover sans parents, and it’s not a good one. I was nearly 3 and my brother was being born, so I stayed at my aunt and uncle’s House of Horrors. Okay, that’s unfair. Nothing really wrong with their house — it just wasn’t my house. The bedroom was much too dark (where was the damn nightlight?) and the bed had a big metal guard rail that creaked when I moved. Everything was unfamiliar — even the breakfast cereal options. Though I was completely safe, I felt little and lost. The fact that I can still access this memory 40 years later makes me worry for my daughter. 

Granted, she’s a year older than I was, and better able to understand what’s happening, but I’d hate for her to feel scared and alone — especially while I’m off having a baby. I don’t want my kid looking at her little sister like some kind of sinister intruder and thinking, “You stole all my mom and dad’s attention and it’s your fault I had to go spend a sucky night at the neighbors’!” 

When it gets closer to the birth, I think I’ll make a special go bag just for my kid. I’ll put some favorite stuffed animals in there, pictures of family and a reassuring letter from mom that can be read aloud to her. Maybe she’ll even get her own playlist, which will be easy enough to set up — just the Frozen soundtrack on repeat. 

Until then, I’d love your advice.  Moms with more than one kid: How did you prepare the bigger ones for the birth?

Photo: Amy Wruble