What Giving Birth Abroad Taught Me About Hospital Visitors

Do you remember that moment?

That one terrifying moment when you don’t hear a cry, when you don’t know if you new baby is breathing or not. Then the new baby shrieks the first of many. You tear up as they lay the naked child, still wet and goopy, on your skin.

One of the best moments in life.

Reality slowly sets in. You’re still in a daze, but you can feel the effect of giving birth on, you know, down there. You are crushed, maybe torn, and exhausted.

Do you stink? Maybe.

Is your hair such a mess that is a nest fit for birds. Probably.

And this is the time that family and friends come rushing in, cameras at the ready.

Say cheese!

European Birth

I gave birth to my son, my first born in Ukraine.

New mothers and fathers know as much as they can from the internet, babysitting, siblings, but until you have your own sweet baby, parents know about as much as their newborn.

Nothing.

It is a learning experience, and the best one. But I have the advantage and disadvantage of adding culture to the mix. Not only did I not know on an experienced level what to expect with birth and parenting, but I didn’t know the language or what to expect from the Ukrainian’s around me. Even after having lived there for three years already. It was always new.

A Few Ways

For example, each culture has different superstitions. There was a nurse/janitor/receptionist who I’d never seen before. Even that day. Mind you, I was walking around because I was in labor. In pain. And this middle-aged woman walked past me and yanked out my ponytail.

If you’ve ever had long hair, you know this hurts.

This was too much for even Ukrainians to do. It wasn’t okay. But she had her reasons for pulling that ponytail out. She thought she was helping me because Ukrainian’s, at least from what I experienced, believe that you should have nothing wrapped around or on you while you’re in labor, lest the baby get the cord around its neck.

Unexpected

Another thing I didn’t expect but didn’t think much of at the time was after my son was born. We went to our private room and were alone. No one hospital visitors. There weren’t allowed for safety and sanitary reasons. Maybe it should have been sad not to see family after the miracle of birth.

But it was amazing.

We went to our private room and were alone. No one hospital visitors. There weren’t allowed for safety and sanitary reasons. Maybe it should have been sad not to see family after the miracle of birth. But it was amazing. Click To Tweet

My husband and I stared at our perfect son in awe, the way his nose was button shaped and kissable. How his eyes were almond shaped and the subtle rose-pink birthmark on his nose. That first diaper change. We got to know our son together. And alone.

And I slept.

When my Ukrainian family met my kiddo for the first time, I was ready. I had showered, my make-up was on as best as I could, and I had decent clothes on. No, I didn’t look like the lovely Duchess of Cambridge, but holding my son and showing him off for the first time when we were ready, made me feel like royalty.

American

And then came baby number two.

We had moved back to the US and decided we wanted our son to have a sibling. I had baby fever. At one point I took out my son’s old newborn nighty and showed my husband how tiny it was. How cute.

We were ready.

Yet, everything was different than before.

I was an experienced mom. I had been pregnant before, but I had to re-learn my own culture and the way American’s handle pregnancy’s. I had to wait until almost 12 weeks before I could see my doctor this time and there seemed to be more tests. Still, I loved how I could talk to my doctor and how modern, clean and, homey, the hospital felt.

I was happy to have my daughter back home in the US.

But there was one thing I wanted to keep the same as in Ukraine. I didn’t want visitors in the hospital afterward.

I was happy to have my daughter back home in the US. But there was one thing I wanted to keep the same as in Ukraine. I didn’t want visitors in the hospital afterward. Click To Tweet

It may not have been a big deal if I hadn’t seen and felt first-hand how precious that first day or two with your child and spouse is. It may not be right for everyone, but it was right for us.

Though, it didn’t go over well with all of my family, understandably. Though, once we had many conversations and explanations, my family realized this is the way it would be. My husband’s Ukrainian family, of course, was used to it.

And I’m glad we chose it this way.

We got to know our newborn daughter, the way her eyes squished, how many birthmarks she had (three) and to peek under her grandmother-knit hat to see her full head of dark hair. It was our time.

Our golden days.

Yes, I did miss my mother, brother and best friend. I had the strong, fantastic pride a mother feels for her child and couldn’t wait to show her off to them. But I was tired. I was gross. And my body felt terrible. When each person I love saw her, we were all comfortable. Relaxed. Each person was able to spend one on one time with the baby and me.

I felt better and hope they did as well.

It’s Your Choice

You may be different than me. You may be that mom that looks and feels like royalty after giving birth and are ready for the cameras.

But maybe not.

Maybe you’re thinking it might be nice not to have the hospital doors swinging open with nurses and an audience of well-meaning, excited family and friends.

This is a time you will never get back with your baby and spouse. If you choose to have it be just for you three, then that’s okay.

Smile and say cheese for your ready-to-share selfies.

Giving birth in Ukrain and America gave me this unique insight into hospital visitors.

  Jewel Eliese is a fiction writer, developmental editor, co-creator of the Medium publication Writer Mom and founder of writeawaymommy.com. Jewel runs on lukewarm coffee and baby kisses. She believes every mom can write well. Get the free checklist to find time to write with kids around here writeawaymommy.com/checklist/

7 Replies to “What Giving Birth Abroad Taught Me About Hospital Visitors

  1. It is interesting to know the differences in culture when it comes to birth. My friend had her first child in Japan and the other two here and they were very different.

  2. Jewel,
    I can relate! My babies have all been Canadian born, but the second came so fast – think bungy jumping – that they decided they’d better monitor her more closely and do extra tests. I was delighted to announce there was nothing to see and no need to visit! I had her with me often, to nurse and stay awhile but not all the time. I read a novel and slept so much more than after my first!

    I do relate to other cultures having opinions about my babies as we’ve lived abroad with babies, but never given birth abroad. Some make you smile, other notions seem eye-roll-worthy but they all have an interesting back story.

  3. Wow what an experience. It is interesting to know the differences in culture when it comes to birth. My cousin had her first child in Australia and the other two here and they were very different.

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