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

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