Giving birth in Riyadh is… Something. I have done it 4 times and by the 4th time I was finally prepared for the saga that is giving birth in Riyadh, it’s not so much the giving birth actually, it’s what happens after thats the ordeal.
If you are a westerner then generally preparing to go to the hospital includes packing a bag with things you will need and the baby will need. Maybe packing a pillow as well. Simple. Giving birth here is a whole other story. Below is the to do list I wrote before I gave birth:
1) prepare serving plates for chocolates (to offer guests when they come visit)
2) choose chocolates to fill plates.
3) choose and prepare tea and coffee cups (to use for visiting guests in hospital)
4) arrange for sandwiches to come from relatives houses (again for guests when it gets late and they get hungry. Other people have full on dinner parties in the hospital but we keep it simple with a sandwich tray)
5) prepare linens for the hospital bed. (when staying in hospital after giving birth we never use the hospital linen instead I like to use my own. Some people take this to an extreme level and actually bring in their own furniture, carpets, have themes, dinner tables etc. it’s so much fun to peek into other peoples rooms when I’m in the maternity ward!)
6) buy keepsakes to hand out to people when they are leaving (as a little “thank you for visiting”. I like to steer away from overly personalised gifts because not everyone wants to display something with my childs name on it. I like to go for practical things like pill boxes, prayer beads etc)
7) organise people from my relatives houses to serve tea and coffee to guests (usually don’t use anyone from my house because they have the kids to help with and are up really early)
8) organise the tea and coffee to be delivered in thermoses (who’s house are we getting it from, who’s responsible for bringing it, who will take it back at night?)
1- comfy pyjamas to sleep in.
2- nice pyjamas and robes for when the guests visit (last couple of deliveries I kept the comfy pj’s on and wore a fancy robe over them.)
5- baby clothes
6- fancier baby clothes for when people visit (last couple of deliveries I didn’t bother with this,just made sure I had a nice blanket and left baby in regular pyjamas.)
8- chargers and electronics
9- my pillows (hospital pillows suck! And are always plasticky and make my head sweat.)
So, while I’m giving birth the dedicated person (usually the same one person who I am so grateful to for helping me withe every aspect of these preparations every time and I am thankful and grateful to her for it and will inshallah one day return the favour!) is rushing around getting all these things to the hospital and setting it all up.
Now if I’m really lucky I can get a room and an adjoining living room, meaning I get a break from the guests to feed the baby or go to the bathroom or just get out of bed! If I’m unlucky (and I was once and it was hell) there isn’t an adjoining room so from around 7pm till midnight I am stuck in bed receiving visitors without having the chance to move or go to the bathroom or feed. Although I feed the baby regardless of who’s there honestly. If they’re uncomfortable they are more than welcome to leave.
As I said the guests start to come around 7pm usually, except my grandmothers side of the family are daytime people, so sometimes I am receiving visitors from the afternoon onwards. Around 5 pm it’s shower time and changing time. I try to stay out of bed as much as possible during the day because of the confinement that comes later on. Although this doesn’t sit well with the older generation. When I has my first born my husbands grandfather came to visit during the day and I happened to be in the restroom when he arrived. When I finished I walked back into the room and walked to where he was sitting and kissed him the felt like a total idiot walking back to the bed and climbing in so I sat next to him. He kept asking me to get back into bed and looked at me like I was insane!
When the guests first start coming its quite nice. They sit and chat and you see people you may not have seen for ages. Extended family, distant relatives, friends I may not have seen for ages, everyone I know and anyone who cares about me or my mother or my grandparents or my husband or his family, they all come and it’s lovely.
But a little later on, around 9-9.30 when most of the guests come is when it gets mind numbing. The room fills up and people start chatting and they generally tend to forget to chat to the poor woman sitting in bed (me). Then soon the ladies serving the chocolates and the drinks forget to serve the poor woman in the bed (me). Then, if it gets late and the noise level rises, it becomes an effort to keep my eyes open! And I wonder, of I do sleep how long till they notice?
Finally, around 11.30 – 12 only the closest people remain and I can move my stiff legs and get out of bed. Now in order to understand why the restriction on movement you have to know that in my mothers days, when a woman gave birth, she would be expected not to move out of bed for the first 40 days. The fear was that her insides are too fragile and that if she moves too much she may have permanent damage. So even when a woman would leave hospital she would receive guests at home in her bed. Thank God this is no longer the case. I agree that a woman needs to take it easy but bed rest for 40 days is overkill.
After everyone has left and I have eaten and changed and spent at least a hour moving around out of bed it’s time to get back in! This process is repeated 3-5 days then I get to go home! The reason some people stay longer in the hospital is to avoid any visitors coming to the house. If they come to the hospital they tend to not stay so long, but at the house there’s no time limit to how long they stay so we try and avoid that at all cost,
During this whole time a new mother is fed many different things that range for absolutely yummy and fattening to absolutely sickening! The yummy things are usually the ones to help with breast feeding and the yucky are the ones to help with what comes after giving birth.
Recently I have heard the term “pushing gift” referring to a gift the mother gets after giving birth. This has been a custom here for ever as far as I know and a good one in my personal opinion! The husband get the wife a gift after each birth. A well deserved gift! One that will never compare to the gift of a child that she has given him of course but it doesn’t mean he can’t try!
Now what I described is solely based on what happens in my family and usually most of my friends. But I know, I have heard stories, of others who give birth, are left to rest without visitors and about 3 days after,or sometimes on a day of the mothers choosing, people one by at her house for A short time to congratulate her.
How is it after you have given birth? Do people visit in the hospital? At home? Do you give any keepsakes?