Meeting the baby in Chile

“…and then I have to stop by the hospital to see Felipe and Vale’s new baby,” Rodolfo said almost as an afterthought on his way out the door the other day. Time out: you mean the baby that is scheduled to be born this morning? That might not even have arrived yet? You are going to go and see a woman approximately 5 seconds after she’s given birth?

Dog in bed

Well of course! Because that, friends, is how we roll in Chile. While I no longer even notice most differences between US and Chilean culture, having long ago lost track of what was once foreign, this particular way of doing things has only come across my radar recently. It’s what happens when your friends start popping out bebés.

To me, having guests that soon after baby sounds like an intrusion, the kind of thing only well-meaning yet socially awkward friends would try and against which my husband will be put on alert when it’s our turn. Send flowers, call, Facebook (only after the parents announce the birth!), but stay far away from the maternity ward, please.

I am, obviously, not a mother. I can’t know how I’ll feel when I have a baby. But I’ve heard stories and seen pictures, and giving birth looks pretty damn exhausting. I can’t imagine wanting to put on a happy face and entertain in my hospital room after all that, and I would feel that need, however strange, to be a good hostess to my visitors. Plus, the vain part of me would like to avoid having everyone I know seeing me look like total crap, which I understand is sort of inevitable after hours of physical struggle, possibly some drugs, and almost certainly a few bouts of crying.

Dog with tennis ball

Here, however, new mothers would feel unloved if no one stopped by to visit. It’s normal for family, friends, even coworkers to stop by for a few minutes to wish you well. And rationally I understand that if you were expecting an outpouring of love, you’d feel sad if everyone respected your privacy. But personally, I still don’t quite get it.

That’s fair enough, since my Chilena friends don’t get me. I am probably just cementing the stereotype of the “cold gringa.” And that’s ok. I’m happy to go intrude upon visit friends as long as they remember when the time comes (because this is not an announcement, the time is not here nor is it on the foreseeable horizon!) to leave me alone.

Mothers, did you have visitors hours after giving birth? Would you have wanted to? What’s the norm where you live?

27 Responses to “Meeting the baby in Chile”

  1. janelle says:

    I had our baby in Brazil and loved having visitors less than 8 hours after he was born. I felt like we had to convince our American friends that we more than OK with it though. :o )

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I am intrigued! Are you from the US originally? Did you always think you’d want visitors, or was it an idea you decided you liked after seeing it happen in Brazil? I’m not surprised you had to convince your friends, but if it’s what you really wanted then I hope they went to see you.

      • janelle says:

        I am American, born and bred in the south if that has something to do with it maybe? I never really thought about whether I wanted visitors or not, figured that was just a given. lol Plus, the only family that was able to come down to Brazil for the birth was my husband’s mother. So, having our friends around was kind of like our surrogate family I guess. They came, cooed over the baby, gave us their love, and then left. Having tons of people hang around in the room all day wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but I loved sharing the love with our ‘family’.

  2. b*schus says:

    I would have totally agreed with you, until I gave birth. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted my parents to drive in, honestly. However, once she was born I instantly wanted to share her with everyone. I didn’t mind guests at all and loved having people (even co-workers!) to witness her first hours. Never did I think I would have those feelings, but I think you just don’t know until you are in the moment. (worth noting: I did have a very uncomplicated birth in the early morning so I did have plenty of time to relax before guests!)

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I am certainly open to the possibility that I may eat my words when the time comes. It sounds like you had a great experience even if it wasn’t what you anticipated, and that’s really all that matters.

  3. Caitlin says:

    Not only that, the entire family (like 50 people) from both sides sit in the waiting room waiting for you to pop out the baby. I’m a very private person as well, so I feel like I will want to be left alone after giving birth too. Whenever that time comes, I feel like it will definitely be a battle with my husband’s family. That’s what I get for marrying a Chilean! :)

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I’m all for cultural compromise, but I think this is one time when the woman just gets to win. Tell your husband to keep his family away from the clínica until you give the ok!

  4. Mariana says:

    This is so funny, as a chilean living in NZ, having my first baby and having no visitors felt just as you said, terrible sad, disappointing! Didn’t they know? I told them he had born! Does nobody care to stop and see us? Oh noooo!!!!! For the second one I had educated everyone and enjoyed lots of visits. Giving birth was really hard, but what a beautiful outcome! Who cares how I looked or how tired I was, we had a new baby!
    And yes, I do go and visit my gringa friends in the hospital, i keep it brief and take a meal for the family. Everybody does like that!
    : )
    Mariana

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Pobre! I can imagine how sad you were with baby number 1 while everyone was being polite and giving you your privacy.

      Bringing a meal is always appreciated, but for now I think I will just ask people to drop it off with my conserje for the first couple of days rather than actually coming to the hospital. I know, I know, gringa fria!

  5. Cata says:

    I used to think the same way you did until I was in the hospital. I couldn’t move so having an extra pair of hands was very useful. Plus we had no idea what to do with Emma when she cried, I didn’t know how to feed her, I couldn’t even get up from the bed by myself. Andre was a great nurse but after 3 days he needed to go home for real naps. I enjoyed (short) visits! And after all that you go through, looking good is not even on your mind! :) it does make you feel loved when someone stops by to bring flowers or just stop by to share your happiness. PS: you will NOT have privacy, nurses come non stop.

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Nurses are allowed to come in, just not people who will want to chit-chat with me! Although I can see how the help or just a break from holding the baby could be nice.

  6. Erica says:

    I think that I would want my family there as well – maybe being Latina gives me a different perspective? I know my entire family was there with my sister. They spent like 12 hours at the hospital waiting. :)

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Haha, I think the 12 hours of waiting is definitely a Latino thing! Well, I am used to the idea that the future grandparents show up and settle in for the long wait in many cases, but I’m picturing all your cousins spread out over the waiting room :)

  7. Andrea says:

    Oh goodness – I am so with you on this! I would want the time right after birth to be shared only with my closest family. I seriously wouldn’t even want the aunties and uncles coming to the actual hospital. It’s just too intrusive and I imagine the mothers are still sorting things out with breastfeeding and all the tests the baby has to have. Ugh – stay away until I’ve had a couple of weeks to get used to being a parent, please. I am also a total germaphobe and would not want a lot of people coming in wanting to hold my newborn right away. I’m getting nervous just thinking about all this, haha. Cultural differences like this are fascinating to me!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      No, don’t get nervous! Just don’t divorce John and then marry a Chilean who insists on his family being there, and you should be ok :)

  8. Shannon says:

    Interesting. I am actually from the USA and gave birth to two beautiful babies there. We had tons of visitors in the hospital and I loved it. I assumed that was the way we did it there. Whenever there was a new baby, everyone just headed to the hospital as soon as they could. I even had friends and family who came before I gave birth, visited with me and then waited in the lobby while I gave birth. I could actually hear them cheer when my husband went out to announce the good news. :)

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Hey, every family and group of friends does things differently! And I am certainly no expert, but from the people I know who’ve had kids in the US, it seems to be more common to only tell the absolute closest family and friends when the birth is happening – if that, some people keep it just the couple and new baby. And I don’t think I’d like hearing people cheer, since that means they heard all my yelling beforehand!

  9. Abby says:

    WOWOW!!! No, I cannot imagine having guests so soon after giving birth, not that I ever want to do that.

  10. Alex says:

    Whoa, fascinating cultural difference! I would NOT be into that — I don’t even know if I want kids, but I don’t think I’d even want my parents there until I’d had a nap! Yet I do think its sweet and very warm :)

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Yes, totally sweet and caring…just not for me, I don’t think. But we shall see, I am definitely open to the possibility of changing my mind once I’m actually put in that situation.

  11. Sarah says:

    Soooo with you on this Emily! I can barely bring my self to visit my chilena friends even if they want me to because the whole thing just feels incredibly awkward to me.

    Very interesting cultural difference for sure!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I actually haven’t even gone to visit a friend yet, but I’m sure I’ll feel awkward when I do! One friend who I would have gone to see had her baby while I was out of town, and the friend I mention in this post is more a friend of Rodolfo’s through her husband. I’m sure the time will come though.

  12. Carine says:

    We were down in Chile for the past 2 weeks to visit family and friends and my husband’s niece just had a baby a few days after we arrived. We were 2 hours away from the hospital and my husband wanted to go see her right away. I told him to give her time to rest and heal a bit (she had a ceasarian) and we would then go. Well, I was able to convince him for 2 days and went on the 3rd day and drove to Santiago. She was happy to see us and ‘upset’ we hadn’t gone the same day she had the baby. I just could not imagine her wanting to see anyone right after surgery, I know I would not have wanted to, but she so wanted us to share their joy with them and put little Tomas in our arms. :)

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I love it. So typical that you were pushing your husband to wait and respect the couple’s privacy, and it turned out that the new mom wanted you to have been there .5 seconds after giving birth.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Wow! And I thought the US was really a kid-centric country. It is for sure but Chile seems to take it to another level–at least with the birth of a child. Do you feel the pressure of taking the kid plunge living in Chile?

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I don’t think the US is kid-centric compared to a lot of other countries. I do see that the “default” setting is to assume that most people are straight and want to get married and have kids some day, but I also feel like there is more of an understanding of different choices and keeping grown up time even after having kids.

      There are definitely people here who don’t quite understand how/why we’ve been married for 3 years and don’t have kids yet, but luckily our close friends and family get it.

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