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I let my kids watch me give birth at home, like Hilary Duff

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Gone are the days when nervous husbands would pace the hospital waiting room with a cigar while their wives went into labor.

Now, the whole family is invited.

When Courtney Hart was going into labor for a February home birth, she had everything she needed at her side: her husband, Paul, two midwives, a doula — and her 3 1/2-year-old son, Shea, stroking her head and whispering encouraging mantras to mom.

“He was part of the birth team,” said Hart, a 35-year-old nursing student from Carroll Gardens, who knew she wanted her little guy to be a part of the experience early on.

“I was pretty clear that I wanted my son to be part of it, within the bounds of what I thought he could handle.”

The idea of birth being a family affair was thrust into the spotlight last month, when “Younger” actress Hilary Duff revealed that her 9-year-old son, Luca, was on hand to witness the birth of her daughter, Mae, alongside her 2-year-old daughter Banks.

“It was kind of important for me, because I’m really big on being open and honest with him about how strong women are and what childbirth looks like,” 33-year-old Duff said on the “Informed Pregnancy” podcast.

While other kids his age occupy their time with “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” Hart’s son watched home-birth videos on YouTube, read birthing books and consulted with the midwife to prepare for his role.

When the process kicked into high gear at 1:30 a.m., Shea sprung into action like a pro.

Mom of two Courtney Hart bonds with her three-year-old son, Shea, and newborn daughter, Rhiannon, after her February delivery, where Shea, watched.
Mom of two Courtney Hart bonds with her three-year-old son, Shea, and newborn daughter, Rhiannon, after her February delivery, where Shea, watched.
Courtesy of Courtney Hart

“As soon as he woke up and realized what was going on, he was into it,” said Hart.

His loving gestures included telling her: “Good job, Mommy — you’re working really hard. The baby’s coming.”

He even “started making grunting noises with me,” Hart said with a laugh.

Midwife Tanya Wills says it’s an increasingly common practice to make birthing a family affair.


“I’ve been to many of these. Parents are so jazzed about their kiddos being at the birth,” said Wills, the founder of Manhattan Birth. She says about half of the 60-odd home births she presides over annually now have older siblings present.

And the moms aren’t all crunchy-granola types.

“While you’d think it’s just yoga teachers and vegetarians, it’s also lawyers, bankers, teachers, journalists — anything you can imagine,” she said.

While some people question why parents would “terrorize” their older children by having them there, Wills insisted, “90% of the time, they can handle it. They’ve been preparing for it.”

Hart also admitted, it’s “definitely not for everyone.”

Tricia Philips is surrounded by her husband and four kids, who were around for baby Willow's recent home birth.
Tricia Philips is surrounded by her husband and four kids, who were around for baby Willow’s recent home birth.
Courtesy of

When Staten Island mom of four, Tricia Philips, 41, gave birth to baby boy Willow in February, only her 9-year-old daughter was game to watch the whole process.

“You leave it up to the child, what they’re comfortable with,” said Philips, whose 10-year-old and 5-year-old sons joined when the baby came out.

Similarly, when she gave birth to her third daughter in December, Harlem mom Hannah’s oldest, Leiba, 7, was her only child eager to participate.

“We have videos of her since she was 2, pretending to give birth,” said the 33-year-old mother of three, who declined to give her last name for privacy reasons. “It was really important for her to be there — she’s very maternal.”

The unflinching Leiba, who helped cut the umbilical cord, told The Post, “I just feel like I really, really, really like birth, and it’s interesting. And meeting my sister the second she was born felt important.”

Her other sister, however, was not so eager to join the delivery squad, according to mom.

“Our 5-year-old said she’d rather get pizza and ice cream with a friend than be there.”



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