“…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?
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.
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?