The arrival of a baby is a big deal in any culture. That magical combination of expanding a family, cementing a bond between parents, and good ol’ biological survival of the species. As expected, we found some cultural differences when The Girl shelled out her progeny abroad!
Two hours after the baby was extracted, The Girl, her husband, Metin, baby Ada and i were getting settled into the hospital room. The Girl was mostly naked, with the new baby laying across her chest.
The first visitors arrived – two close friends who are also expecting a baby in the summer. Just a quick “hi”, hugs, and they were about to leave when the next wave of visitors arrived. Metin’s mother and father stopped by, followed by his oldest brother, his two teen children, his younger brother and his wife, and their 3 year old daughter. It became a party!
Meanwhile, another friend (American ex-pat) showed up with a bag of snacks – cheddar cheese may seem like a strange thing to bring to a hospital room, but it’s hard to find good sharp cheddar here! It was a thoughtful gift…
i was a bit boggled at the number of people now crammed into a fairly small hospital room. In addition to the three of us and half-pint, another 11 people were in the room, some spilling into the hallway. It was at this moment a nurse told us the larger room they’d requested was ready – time to pack up mom, baby and gear and move to a different room – on another floor of the hospital!
During this transition, i expected some people to leave – silly me! Two more friends showed up! As we tried to get settled into the new room, the baby was crying, and a first time mother was attempting to nurse a brand new, fairly confused newborn.
The Girl and i exchanged a few glances – “This is bullshit!” she said (knowing that most people in the room wouldn’t understand it). The baby continued to cry. People were still gathered while she attempted to put the baby to her breast – most of the menfolk staying in the hallway. i told Metin that a little privacy would be fucking awesome!
Turns out, in Turkish culture, this is expected. If friends and family do not immediately stop by the hospital for a brief “Welcome Baby” visit, it means that they don’t care. We explained that in the US, groups of people visiting people in the hospital after the birth of a baby would be quite inconsiderate.
Lesson acknowledged, and compromises proposed. After returning home the following day, The Girl asked if the family and friend visits could be done in smaller groups – maybe 5 – 6 people at a time. Metin agreed, and visits over the next few days were done in smaller doses. It worked out pretty well…
Attack of the Random Grandmother: During the first hour in the hospital, trying to change a tiny diaper on a squawking baby, there was a knock at the door. It was a woman visiting her own family, who had heard the baby crying, and stopped by to make sure the baby wasn’t in danger. “What’s wrong with your baby? Why is it crying?” When The Girl and Metin took Ada to her first pediatrician appointment, there were plenty of other helpful grandmas telling them that the baby was too cold. The Girl is perfecting the smile that says “Thanks. Fuck off.”
Thermal Management: Layers upon layers upon more layers of clothing are required to keep an infant alive in a fairly temperate climate. While The Girl was in labor, a nurse came in to the room to inspect clothing brought to get the baby home. She looked at the three outfits, shook her head and said “That’s it?” If a baby sneezes, it’s not because she’s clearing her nose after a feed. She must be freezing. Their pediatrician laughed – he said it is always easy to spot babies of non-Turkish mothers! He said it’s perfectly fine to not bury the baby in too much clothing and blankets. i suggested they get this in writing to ward off overly helpful street grannies…
Three weeks into the new family venture, and Ada is thriving. Parents are gaining confidence and comfort, and we are all starting to get more sleep. The days have a battle rhythm. Metin returned to work this week, i’ve been focused on meals, cleaning, laundry and making sure The Girl gets showers, plenty of fluids, and sleep.
i’m sure there will be more culture clashes in the future. But for now, they’ve got this…