USA/KSA: How are Babies Received

Considering that I became a Grandmother (again) a few days ago, I thought this made for an ideal opportunity to discuss how babies are received between both the United States and Saudi Arabia.

First of all, my new Grandbaby, Joshua, is perfect, beautiful and doing great – as are Mama and Papa!  American Bedu absolutely ADORES being a Grandmother!!

The process of giving birth has been relatively unchanged ever since women were pregnant but the process and methods in the cultural sense can vary greatly and especially between the United States and Saudi Arabia.  Both countries will have women who opt for natural childbirth or having a cesarean birth.  Both places will also have women who choose to have their child at home rather than at a hospital.  However in Saudi Arabia few places yet will consider having the father play an active role in the birth of the child.  The father will typically wait stoically in a waiting area near the delivery room but in an area where he would not be able to readily view or hear other women.  Unlike the American dad, he does not receive the option of whether he wishes to be in the delivery room with his wife or not.

For example my son was with his wife from the moment her labor began.  He looked after her, wiped a cloth across her brow, held her hand throughout the labor process and was an active player during delivery.  He was able to coach and encourage her and along with the doctor, see his son begin to emerge to the world!  He was the one who cut the umbilical cord rather than a doctor or a nurse.  He also gets to remain in the room with his wife and new son so they all bond together as a family unit.  There are no restrictions on visiting hours for fathers.  He stays in the room as he wishes and gets the opportunity to hold, caress, bathe and even change the diapers immediately!

In the American hospitals the new mother and child will likely be discharged from the hospital one to two days following birth as long as both are healthy.  The wife will generally return back to her own home.  Usually one of her family members (mom) will come and stay with her for a short bit while the new family settles in to a routine.  Even though a family member may be present it does not mean the father is then uninvolved.  He continues to play a very active and ongoing role.

By comparison, a Saudi woman will see her husband much less than the American woman.  If there are women who come to visit the new Saudi mom at the hospital to whom the father is not related by immediate blood, then he will usually make himself scarce so the women can visit comfortably without having to remain covered.  The Saudi mother and her new child will typically go home to her mother’s for a 30 day period where she will be loved and coddled by her mother.  The dad may stay too or will more likely come daily to visit.

Just because the traditions are different it does not by any way mean or implies that the Saudi man is less caring or joyous on becoming a father.  He will proudly tell his extended family and friends.  The new mother and baby will receive many gifts and the new baby will be welcomed with much love and joy.



33 Responses

  1. Congratulations on your new grandbaby!

  2. The custom of women returning to their family home after birth is the same as the Chinese custom with I think different time frames. There was some Chinese folk wisdom (which is odd since in Chinese culture the woman now belongs to the man’s family) that dictated that if I recall correctly. While I am sure you did not mean to imply this but I could not help but think the Saudi male is less of a “hands on” type parent (perhaps content to let the womenfolk handle the young ones?) and the child is not so much a beloved human being but a possession. I apologize if that’s not the case but I couldn’t help feel like reading between the lines it wasn’t such a “happy family picture” in Saudi. Perhaps it is because for the most I believe Saudis do not marry for love as we do in the West so children are an extension of the love couples have for each other. I have always had the distinct impression that children were more a change in status for women if a boy at least (the umms) and of course a status symbol for Muslims. As in “see how Allah has blessed me” said nose in air haughty (only if it’s a boy though). I also get the impression that but for the conjugal visits men expect of their wives there were little more than walking atms. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  3. And congrats on being a grand-mama another time over!

  4. There are exceptions in all societies of course. Children are very cherished and loved in Saudi Arabia. It is disconcerting to see how much emphasis is placed on having a boy and how an Umm or an Abu who may have had a girl first will change their “status” to reflect that of the male child.

    Given the culture men are not always as hands on in the care and upbringing as in many other places. Additionally this is where nannies come in as well for both the mom and dad in many times in regards to changing diapers and all. However in my observation the mother and other female relatives take a very active role in a baby’s/child’s life in Saudi Arabia.

  5. Indeed a very interesting post, but it raises some questions to me: is it true that baby boys are more praised in saudi cultures? And if yes why is it? I believe in Islam parents should experience the same joy.

    On the other hand: is it common in saudi arabia for parents to find out (or at least try) the sex of the baby? Or do they prefer to see what happens on the final day?

    And finally: do saudi women organize baby showers for her pregnant friend before the baby is born? Or do they bring presents only after the baby is around?

    I know i made many questions but im really curious and i hope someone can give me some info 😀

  6. my mother [american] and her mother cherished the boys more than girls in the family and it did not effect us,i hope lol… we kids joke about it. on my fathers side same ol thing…go figure, and this is the good ol US of A. and i’m too vain to have my husband in the labor room…it worked out just fine. he didn’t want to watch and i did not want him watching.. gia in jed
    p.s my husband sent me home to my moms after birth for a month and half and i found out years later why…go figure that on too..

  7. Firstly, congratulations on your new grandchild..I became a grandma this year-it’s great,isn’t it..
    Secondly,I smiled as I read this..I have two children with my first husband,a Brit like me…he was at the birth, hands on dad etc etc.
    I have a third child with my Algerian husband…when told I was pregnant he said ‘that’s nice’ and then carried was all women’s business to him..then,as we lived in the UK he came to the birth,watched football on the TV in the labour room and then saw the crucial moment from where he sat on a stool at the ‘business end’…No hand holding,brow mopping or words of encouragement..
    I did forgive him when I witnessed him whisper the adhan into our beautiful daughters ear..I was incredibly moved by it..
    He never mentioned wanting a son and has been a very good dad in the traditional way of protecting us rather than practical things-he didn’t know babies had to be fed at night !
    As for going home to my mum-she would’ve been far too busy getting on with her own life !

  8. Congratulation on becoming a grandmother a second time !

  9. Asalam Alaikum and alf mabrook on the birth of the baby!

    Just to clarify, many private hospitals in Saudi do allow men in the delivery room, so that is a sign that men are indeed going in and being with the wife through it all.

    I also teach childbirth classess where the theme is HUSBAND-COACHED childbirth and I have Arabs as well as Westerners. It’s a matter of what’s available to them. I find all men are intimidated by the birth process (Western and Arab) and they feel much better after a class like mine where they are educated on what to expect and how to help. They just don’t like being ignorant or feeling useless. Education and preparation are the key!

    Best regards,

    -Aisha, Natural Mom

  10. Congratulations on your grandson!!!!

    Yeah, i think cherishing male offspring more than female is prevalent in MANY cultures and countries besides KSA. Even my mother always cherished my brother more than me LOL! Luckly my paternal grandma had only sons, so she showered me with love and care that my mother didnt give me.

    As for labor and birth, I loved it when my husband was with me all the way, and i’d much rather be at home recuperating than with my mother :-/ many cultures are evolving to make fathers more hands on. My culture is like old Saudi culture, where you will almost NEVER catch a man changing diaper or feeding the baby a bottle. So for me it was an amazing experience to see my husband wanting to change our kids diapers, help give them bath, feed them at least once in the night time when they were tiny. He is the most hands in father I have ever met, and that amuses my family… In a good way 🙂

  11. My dad is the first of 5 brothers, his dad first of mom is the youngest and comes with a boatload of brothers, all of my dad’s and mm’s siblings have boys, for some reason we have a shortage of girls. so when i was born my moms’ stock went sky high 🙂 i have got away with many things in my lifetime all because i was a girl… but this is not the case where i come from usually but education is rooting outthe preference issue nowadays atleast in cities.

    As for labor my husband was present for the 2nd one , he insisted and was permitted since he was int he medical profession, after both my kids my mom and grandmom moved to our place for 3 months 🙂 it was heaven being pampered and all i had to do was feed, play and sleep with my baby.. but to give it to my husband, he’s changed many a cloth diaper in his time and ruined many a pant of his.

  12. I only know of one hospital that does NOT allow husbands in the delivery rooms and thats National Guard.
    We’ve been shopping around different hospitals in Riyadh to find the best place to have the baby. Although in the end we decided to go to Finland, all the places we went to allowed husbands in.
    I know of many Saudi nurses and doctors who had their husbands in with them although some of the husbands were hesitant at first because they were intimidated by it, but in the end they were glad they did it!
    I think the attitudes are changing toward the husbands role being more active.

    Btw the new mothers are sent to their mothers homes for 40 days, the time it is forbidden for the husband to be intimate with the wife due to post partum bleeding.

  13. Oh and regarding the sex of the baby. what I’ve experienced from the expecting saudi mothers they all have known the sex of their child to be.
    Boys are definately favored especially as the first born, but mothers always praise how “easy and lovely” baby girls are, so I’ve got the impression they are very happy to have girls too 🙂

  14. Laylah that’s it! 40 days… hrm maybe that’s the reason for the Chinese custom too.

    I didn’t mean to make Saudi men out to be heartless human beings. I just think the culture makes it harder for them to be full parental unit that in my experiences the men of the Western world are. Japanese men for the most part are businessmen first husband/fathers next so know what it’s like to be the walking atm not hands on father too. But that like KSA is also changing. oh little cultural note for all that Japan is sexist old school chauvinistic society the WIVES are the one with the hand on the purse strings and all the power that that entails. Husbands are often henpecked or EXPECTED to leave the home stuff to their wives. They are often expected to get their sex elsewhere too!!!!! Hence the soaplands of Japan. The geisha btw is NOT a prostitute but merely a well accomplished hostess for many Japanese high end (they cost a LOT) entertaining.

  15. I have a great book about Geiko culture, and I once saw a brilliant documentary on German television. They were allowed to film parts of the Geiko and Maiko life for the first time ever.
    It’s a very demanding job, and a real Geisha never stops learning and becoming more accomplished.

  16. Congrats on the birth of little Joshua! I wonder how Jacob likes his little brother and if he is a proud big brother! I imagine they are so cute together! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing how USA/KSA are similar and different in this matter. I wondered for those in polygamous relationships if the reason the new mother went to her mother’s house was so the man could still visit his other wife/wives. It makes sense … that way the new mom wasn’t left alone with a newborn while he was making his rounds. Maybe this was the reason for the tradition in the first place even though most Saudi marriages no longer involve polygyny. Just a thought that crossed my mind. I didn’t realize the women went to their mothers’ households until now.

    Interesting post and comments — thank you!

  17. In many cultures a woman is help by her mum for 40 days after birth. It alignes with what we tell new moms , no hanky panky for 6 weeks dear.

    Usually where i’m from there’s a ceremony int he 8th /9th month and the parents take the daughter to their home, to be pampered .. of course her husband is usally asked to accompany her, but i’m sure his office won’t give him 3 months off to leisurly anticipate the birth of his child 🙂

    I don’t think the 40 days has anything to do with polygamy i think it’s work of some wily woman who decided she needed a good cultural practice inplace so she can get her rest.

    If the mom can help then why not.i’ve had help with both my kids and i thanks god for them.

    I know nowadays women are superwomen and can start working the next hr after delivery , but i’m old fashioned, birth is natural but also a huge strain othe body and i would advise new moms to rest and take it slow, sleep,enjoy and relax be lazy and let your body and organs get aligned again…

  18. Congratulations, Carol!!! Grandchildren are so precious!!!
    What I observed in Saudi is that the mom and baby get little rest. I visited a new mom and baby in the hospital and mom’s room was full of visitors all day long – many, many visitors. She had a C-section and was exhausted. She told me as she felt I was the only one in the room who understood. The room was also packed from time to time with male relatives. At home at her mothers it was the same. Non-stop visitors and she was expected to be there. Women would wake the baby, etc. and I thought it was pretty sad.
    Yes it’s nice to have support but not invasions of people who do not let anyone rest. My Saudi relatives told me this was normal so I am going by what they said.

    In Sudan there were visitors but the grandma kept them to a minimum and if her daughter and baby were tired the visitors when given tea and sent away with an invite to come back and a better time. That was a much better option to me.

  19. @Wendy

    Was the mother young? Because it happens in the States too. It’s just that older mothers or experienced mothers TELL people who can visit xam or xpm and stay x hours ONLY. People here are considerate enough to NOT WAKE THE BABY!!!!! when visiting but unless the Mother stands up to visitors with RULES then yes people can be people anywhere.

  20. I agree with Radha if I have a baby then I’m going home (Thailand) where I will be pampered by the family AND (thank GOD) the nannies/maids. I’ll be needing it since I’m a princess. Do Saudis have any food that’s required after birth? Chinese women drink to the point of barfing ginger based soups/teas. I know my SIL had to do that.

  21. In the Netherlands new mothers have ”kraamhulp” a professional birth and care giver who comes in and helps the new mother with everything.
    On the cards which give notice of the new baby it usually states when the mother and baby are resting, and at which times visitors can come.

  22. First of all, Congrats on being a Grandma! My mother is WAITING for that day, she’s already buying baby blankets, LOL! I’m so happy for you!

    second, Yes!!! My fiance was telling me about this I was so surprised! I want him to be there! I’ll be sooooo scared if I’m all alone. At least for the first one. And he can’t I for sure want my mother there! But, yeah I was really surprised when he told me how birthing is usually done there, it makes sense, but I still want him to be there. He told me he’ll be there so I can yell at him while I’m in pain (lol) so that’s good otherwise I would have the greatest freak out ever.

    But are they even allowed in the delievery room over there? I asked him about it and he didn’t know because he never knew anyone that was with their wife during the process. Only after.

  23. I’m glad to hear that at least in some hospitals the practice is changing. I know that at the State run or government run the men are prohibited.

    It is wonderful being a grandmother again. There is something surreal and oh so precious holding your “baby’s baby” in your arms!

    Please remind me if there were queries asked that had not been answered!!

  24. Food specialties for mothers to be and after birth? Chinese drink GINGER soup/tea A LOT. Has to be ginger while Korea uses ginsing. It’s to do with ying yang food beliefs. Tea is cooling. Ginger, allums, etc are hot. Mothers giving birth need hot to help her adjust her body back to balance. Birth or actually blood loss is yang so bad. (or opposite cause i can’t remember off top head if yin=good yang=bad or flipped). Japanese have something too since they followed Chinese medicine too but I can’t remember what. Probably ginger. Thais just have bland food since breastfeeding.

  25. @ onigiriFB
    No, she wasn’t young but didn’t seem to be able to say no but apart from that don’t other women have any common sense??? Why visit in droves and why wake the baby, etc. etc. etc.

  26. @Wendy

    Cause people are stupid! And if she didn’t have the backbone to say get the h*ll outta my house then umm… she’s not that bright either. I’d expect that a young girl not a woman. I remember when my friends had babies, either I visited to HELP or I stayed outta the way and only showed up if baby was awake. AND CALL FIRST was the rule for all the mothers in my set of friends. Otherwise do NOT expect Mama (who is frazzled) to open the door!

  27. @Aafke

    “I have a great book about Geiko culture, and I once saw a brilliant documentary on German television. They were allowed to film parts of the Geiko and Maiko life for the first time ever.
    It’s a very demanding job, and a real Geisha never stops learning and becoming more accomplished.”

    Which book? The Daly one? I loved that if thats it. She is the one the calls geisha geiko since that is the Kyoto phrase/dialect for geisha. Maiko is Maiko though. Look American Geisha and you will find there are actually Westerners that are becoming geisha and working now. Rare though. Yes Maiko train a LONG time until becoming Geisha and then Geisha spend the rest of their lives perfecting their accomplishments (the shamisen, witty conversation, how to pour sake, how to handle drunk idiotic men, how to pour tea, how to choose and wear kimonos…. the list is endless. Absolutely fascinating and NOTHING like the Memoirs of a Geisha book. He totally made stuff up!!!!

  28. This is something we are just learning about as I am pregnant with our first child. We are moving in a week or so to a country very near Saudi, and have been sending inquiries to find out what our options are. My husband is very excited and wants to be involved as much as possible in the labor and delivery, to the point that anyone else (other than me, of course!) would only be there for emergencies. We have decided to have the baby at home (unless there are major complications) because no hospitals will allow him in the delivery room. Even with our midwife we have had to spend a lot of time convincing her to allow him to be present

  29. @theamerarab wife (ok that’s just too weird I’m to shorten it to aw.

    You may want to check out the thread by Aisha as she is a doula? who believes in husband coached deliver.

  30. @OnigiriFB,
    Another fact about Japan is that the condom is actually, in marriages, the most popular form of contraceptiion.

  31. Carol!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!! with the second grandchild. Much health and happiness to Mom and baby!! I hope you enjoy him!

    In the US, I believe, it is a cultural norm now for husbands to be involved in the birth process. As for us, I had to drag my Saudi husband to the first day of our birth classes, but come second day, he was totally involved and interested and acting like the teacher’s pet (“how many minutes apart should her contractions be? – Ask me!! ask me! I know!!”)

    Naturally, he was in the delivery room with me, and actually, it would not be a stretch to say that it was him and my L&D nurse who delivered me – they both held my legs up for pushing during my SIX HOUR labor (and that’s pushing only, not including contractions). He also helped with the pain during contractions – that is, before my fiftyish Asian anesthesiologist showed up with her magic epidural box.

    He remains super-involved with the baby – plays, changes diaper, talks, sings, if he could breastfeed, he would. He has the baby every Thursday afternoon when our nanny is off – I just pack him a bag with expressed milk and off they go. I have Friday and Saturday nights off where I sleep on the couch to get a full night’s rest, and he only brings me the baby for feeding (he handles putting him to sleep after the feed, changing, etc.) Basically, my only uncontested task is breastfeeding. It’s quite lovely.

    There is one downside of husband’s involvement in baby-rearing that no one tells you about. When they are THAT involved, they start to have opinions, and expect to be accommodated, and you no longer have the trump card of “well, I AM the one who’s taking care of the baby!” I come from a culture where mother’s authority over raising the child is absolute, and having to include the father now in the decision-making process does not come easy to me.

    You also have to make sure that you are on the same page re: taking care of the baby rules. I have a schedule for our 2-months old where I try to feed, play and have him sleep in set times. My husband has a lot less respect for schedules than I do, and thinks it’s OK to feed them earlier, or later, or interrupt the feed for something, or keep them up later than the sleepy time because he just came home and wants to play with the baby. Drives me nuts. I also had to put my foot down with his family to say, BABY DOES NOT GET WOKEN UP FOR ANYONE. You want to visit, visit. But if you start poking him when he’s asleep, I will throw a hissy fit.

    No one took me home for 40 days, but believe me, with equal involvement in the baby, sex is the last thing on your mind as you are both so bone-tired.

  32. *There is one downside of husband’s involvement in baby-rearing that no one tells you about. When they are THAT involved, they start to have opinions*

    Woehahahahahaaa! Every golden lining has a dark cloud! :mrgreen:
    Seems you are doing a great job though!

  33. @NN – adore hearing about you, your Saudi hubby and baby!!!!

    Yes…my son and DIL are entering the sleep deprived state! Poor things!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: