Choosing to include an older sibling in the birth of the new baby is a very personal thing. Many factors go into making this decision (especially place of birth) and there is definitely no one size fits all approach as to how you will decide.
When I was pregnant with Poppy, I knew just like her older sister, that I was going to have this baby at home. There are many reasons why I chose a home birth but an important one for me was the role it was going to allow Alomae to play. Prior to going into labor, I ran every scenario though my mind so I would be fully prepared and that her every need was met. Would she be scared seeing me in pain? what if it was a long and drawn out labor where I was incredibly vocal? there were so many things to consider. My hope was that I would go to into labor in the middle of the night and that she would wake up towards the end or even with her new baby sister already here for her to see. How it really turned out though was even far more sweet.
She was fully awake and aware when labor began. Of course I had no idea how long my labor would be so just like I had planned, I had Andy try and put her to sleep. The girl is smart though and knew something exciting was happening and that she definitely wanted to stay awake! She jumped right into being my nurturer and was concerned when I would close my eyes to breathe though a contraction (but nothing over the top), and when her baby was born, Alomae immediately got to bond with her long awaited Poppy Grey!
Personally, I have such beautiful memories of having my big girl by my side, but I am very aware that most births don't go as quick or easy as mine did. Know your personality and do it only if it brings you joy, and don't if you feel like it's just going to add more stress!
If having your older child being a part of your birth is something that is important to you or you may want to try, here are a few things I think would be really important to consider and have already set in place!
1. Consider your place of birth: If you are at home it will be easy to make your child comfortable. If you are headed to a birth center, make sure you bring some fun things for them to do; coloring, movies, favorite blanket. If you are going to a hospital, it will be a much more foreign environment in which you will want to do some extra prepping to make sure they feel at home (and you many want to consider having someone bring them towards the end of labor instead of being with you the entire time.)
2. Talk to your child about what a birth is like. Do not blindside them during the main event. Kids are pretty amazing when you allow them to hear the truth and can rise to the occasion much better then you may think
3. Show a birth video and talk to your child about what they hear and see!
4. Have someone at your birth thats only role is to hang with your child. A friend to distract, feed, put down for nap etc. Your Partner, Doula, or support person needs to be present with you so make sure it is someone who is totally fine not being in the room and knows they are simply there to be your older childs friend! (make sure this person doesn't stress you out though and is a calming presence!)
5. Arrange for a back up person to come get your child should he/she just not handle you being in labor well. No need for anyone to be stressed out!
If your older child does see the birth of the new baby, it will for sure be an experience they will NEVER forget. Alomae has been known to tell a random stranger or two "My sister was born in the bathtub." And you know what, I wouldn't have it any other way!