Announcements: Phone calls (Africa), emails (U.S.), Facebook (everyone)
It was amazing to see the different ways of breaking the news of our baby daughter’s birth. Less than an hour had passed in the hospital delivery room before my husband was calling his mother, father, sister, etc.
Just to be clear – this was in the wee morning hours! If the people he was calling weren’t around, he left voice messages. But because many of them were around the world, the time zones worked out perfectly. We could hear the jubilee coming from Africa, crackling over the airwaves, and he wasn’t even on speakerphone! Even one of the nurses mentioned how loud the ululations and cries of joy were.
On the other hand, my parents turned to the virtual world: an official announcement email, complete with birth weight, height, etc., to our extended relatives and friends. Much quieter, but maybe not so hilarious. 🙂
Finally, once we had posted the announcement to Facebook, everyone from around the world joined in. We had hundreds of likes and a stream of comments from all our multicultural friends, some even in different languages!
Visits to see the baby
Our daughter’s birth also reinforced for me how different “seeing the baby” can be. I grew up with the assumption that people typically celebrated a new baby’s birth by bringing home-cooked meals to the family’s home, staying perhaps a few minutes to see the baby, then discreetly bowing out.
Now let me describe the way my husband’s family traditionally acted after a birth. Your mother, or mother-in-law, comes to stay with you for a month at least. During that time, she takes over the household management, doubles as babysitter, and welcomes guests. And there are a lot of guests! Neighbors, family, friends – everyone swarms around the baby and new parents for hours.
The pros of this approach is that, in the words of one African who came to visit us: “You never hear of postpartum depression in our country!” The guests will entertain the newborn for hours on end, while household servants are in charge of changing diapers, washing the baby and any messes, etc. All the mother has to do (if she’s breastfeeding) is feed the baby, who will be brought to her arms for that!
The obvious con of this approach is that, if you value your privacy, well – just expect to have none of it for the next month. 😉
Friends, family support: Registries vs. gifts
Many of our Western friends wanted to know, “Have you registered anywhere? If so, which stores?” They would then buy items off our registry and bring them to the baby shower, or mail gift cards to us after our daughter was born. It was all very thoughtful, methodical and pre-selected. Even if they brought us items off our registry, it was usually with a “gift receipt” so we could return them if we didn’t like or need them.
Concerning all the gifts coming from Africa, though, absolutely none of them came from a registry – and none of them came with a gift receipt!
And the results, my friends, were stunning. At one point my husband joked that our baby daughter had made more money and was better dressed than either of us in less than a month!
Some friends gave sumptuous dresses, each a tiny fashion statement in itself, to adorn our baby’s wardrobe. Others who visited in person handed us an envelope with checks or cash inside, with a generous and eloquent blessing spoken over the baby at the same time.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my mother’s wonderfully practical gift of bringing meals for us every week – almost every day, if we would have let her. She also ran grocery errands and shopped for me during the days when I felt like just getting out of bed took Herculean effort! I never knew until now just how much having a baby consumes all your time, hehe.
How does your family celebrate the arrival of a baby? Which cultural method does it resemble? Let us know in the comments!