Becoming a big brother or sister is quite the event for a child, and most parents prepare their older children for the arrival of a sibling over the course of the pregnancy. But, how do you prepare an older child for your labor, birth, and time away at the hospital, if that is where you are giving birth? How do you explain that you'll be gone while you have the baby, leaving him behind in the care of others?
Lots of families decide to leave their toddlers and preschoolers in the care of grandma, aunt, a friend or a neighbor for the duration of their labor and birth. That leaves dad free to act as labor support, and to be present for the birth of his new baby. Unless you are having a scheduled induction or c-section, the start of labor is unpredictable if you go into labor in the middle of the night, you may have to wake older siblings up to transport them to their babysitter.
Or, they may wake up to notice you are gone. Discussing all these possibilities with your child or children in advance, and allowing the child to ask questions, will help them to prepare for this event emotionally. You can also talk about the typical length of a labor, and explain that you will not be gone for long and that your child will be able to visit you and the new sibling in hospital.
Needless to say, it's important to pick a caregiver whom the child is familiar with, loves and trusts. Having someone care for your child in his own home may be the best option, since everything familiar will still be around. Another option you may want to consider is asking your child if she would like to be present for your new baby's birth. Most hospitals are fine with this, as long as the child has a caregiver designated to her (not the same person who will also be acting as labor support for mom). That way, she will be part of the big event but she doesn't have to see the gory details if you are uncomfortable with that.
With a caregiver (like your sister or a friend) beside your child, she will be able to walk around the hospital, come and see mommy, and spend some time with the new baby, in accordance with her wishes and needs.