Knowing your children will be well cared for when you are in the hospital giving birth and recovering can bring you great peace of mind. Under optimal conditions, you will have family and friends your children are familiar with near by to help care for them. Grandparents, friends, even long term caregivers can provide your child with familiarity and comfort while Mom is gone for a day or two. Working out arrangements might take some scheduling, but keeping the children’s routine as close to normal will help them cope. Perhaps grandma can arrange to spend the night in your house, or a neighbor will be willing to stick to a familiar routine by picking them up from daycare and bringing them back to the neighborhood. Even if close relatives are not nearby, you may find that your friends will be happy to help you out, particularly if they have a similar need.
Two families, each expecting a baby within two months of each other, agreed to be the others’ “on call” childcare. When the first mom went into labor, the dad-to-be made a quick phone call, and the other couple came to pick up their two older children. Several weeks later, the situation was reversed. Both families felt the situation was fair, and were thankful for such a simple solution.
However, often in today’s mobile society, with many of us far from close friends and family and too busy to really know our neighbors, what to do with our older children while we are giving birth can be a real dilemma. It is the unpredictability of the situation that poses the problem. Due dates are guesses at best, labor can begin at odd hours and be of short or lengthy duration. Relying on family and friends who may be hours away is not practical, nor is having them stay an indeterminate amount of time. Most feel it is an imposition to ask casual acquaintances for help under these uncertain conditions. Even under optimal conditions, having relatives and reliable friends close by can So, what other options are there?
Taking the child with you.
It is no longer uncommon for children to be at the birth of their siblings. However, not all children are able to handle the experience, nor should they be expected to. Remember that your husband will be busy with you, and the nurses are not there to babysit. Older children do not like to see their mothers in pain and younger ones may not understand the significance of the event. If labor is long, a child confined to a hospital room is sure to be bored. One mom says, “As I was giving birth to my youngest, I heard children running up and down the hospital hallways, shrieking. Eventually I heard a nurse speaking to the father, telling him he was going to have to take the children home. I felt sorrow for the mother, who then had to give birth without her husband.” If you have no other choice but to bring them to the hospital, make sure you plan well and bring lots of snacks and activities to keep them occupied. Call the hospital in advance, they might be able to arrange an extra place to sleep.
Check the phone book
There are professional babysitting services in many larger towns that have a staff of caregivers available for all types of babysitting needs. It may be a little expensive, but these sitters are background checked and will come to your home. Ideally, you should arrange an advance meeting so your child will have time to feel comfortable with the sitter.
Is there a college or even a nanny college in your area? Call the child development professor or director. It is possible they can recommend a student who will help you out for a little money, and you’ll have the added security of knowing that they are trained in child development Another place to call would be a daycare referral line. Typically staffed by the daycare licensing regulators, these referral lines are designed to match the needs of parents with available daycare providers. They might be able to recommend a night or drop in daycare. Make sure you take your child a few times so they are familiar with their surroundings.
If you are affiliated with a church, even if you haven’t attended regularly, now may be the time to become active. Some churches will provide a rotating schedule of people willing to be available to you as your due date gets closer. Even if you aren’t a member of a religion, a congregation may be willing assist you in your time of need. Talk to the clergy, explain your situation and see if he can help.
Many doctors will schedule a “social” induction. However, this should not be based only on need, but also on the health of the mother and the baby and the hospital policy. Check with your doctor, explain your problem, and see if he will be willing to schedule an induction. Knowing the actual birth date can be a huge relief, and that way you can schedule your family to come help when you need them.
Kindness of strangers
Despite discomfort at the thought of relying on people you barely know, this could turn out to be the best option of all. Isabelle Clover, mother of 4, states “The birth of a baby is so special that I think even some people who wouldn’t babysit under normal circumstances would be pleased to be involved. My children are playmates with neighbor kids, but we’ve never asked them to sit or exchanged childcare with them. Despite this, the neighbors seemed genuinely thrilled to be able to help.”
Put yourself in the position of the person being asked. Wouldn’t you be honored to participate in that aspect of a family’s life? Even though you may feel uncomfortable asking for help from people you barely know, they may be delighted to be of use. Who knows, it could be the start of a long friendship.
While it may seem at first that you have no options, a closer look at your community and the people surrounding you will reveal a variety of acceptable childcare choices. By asking for help in a time of need, you may end up turning a casual acquaintance into a lifelong friend.