Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pregnancy 101 – Where East Does Not Meet West As Yet

Wife: “I need to setup an appointment with the lactation expert”
Me: “For what?”
Wife: “The OB/Gyn recommended I do, since they give you tips about breast feeding the baby”
Me: “I have seen a lot of babies being born in India and every kid was being breastfed. None of their mothers went to the lactation expert”
Wife: “Things here are different. The doctor asked me to go and see   a lactation expert.”
When we narrated this incident to her parents, her mother commented, “All moms in India are lactation experts!”
This was a conversation I had with my wife when she was into her eight month of pregnancy. There were so many instances of conversation between us that started or ended with “things are different here”. Here are few of them
My wife was in the 7th month of her pregnancy and it was time to attend the “child birth class”. The one class our doctor suggested was for a total of nine hours spanning 3 hours every week. Knowing me, my wife researched and found out another consolidated child birth class that was for 4 hours and will be over in a day. We signed up for that class. I walked into that class with lot of pessimism but walked out of the class after 4 hours with lot of knowledge. Most of the doubts we may possibly have during the time of delivery were well explained in that class. It also helps the expectant mother to be better prepared for the D day.
Now by the ninth month we signed up for the “hospital tour” where they have a 30 minute class and tour where they take you to all the facilities you may come across when a pregnant lady gets admitted for delivery. They tell you what parameters they check before they decide to admit you and which door to come in and all that stuff – completely spoon fed. My wife’s mother also attended the tour and she was astonished to see such classes.
The child birth class and hospital tour has taught us that any number of people can be present in the labor room at the time of delivery and we are free to take photos and videos – stuff unheard in India. I don’t think any relative is allowed into the labor room in India at the time of delivery. I was inside the labor room and the operation theatre all the time when my wife was there and thanks to attending the child birth class, could understand most of the conversation happening between the doctor and the nurse. Since the classes taught us a lot of stuff about the delivery I was able to ask right questions to the doctor at the right time.
I am out of India for the last eight years but before that I have seen lot of new born babies. I have never seen fathers changing diapers of the new born babies. It is usually the mother or the grandmother or some other family member who does the diaper change. Now after my wife and baby were taken to the postpartum room, the first time the baby pooped, the nurse called me to change the diaper
Nurse: “Dad, it is diaper time. Do you know how to change?”
Me: “No I have never done it”
Nurse: “Let me show you how. Before I do that let me ask you a question – Does your culture allow male members to change the diapers?”
Me: “There is nothing like that in our culture”
The nurse showed me how to change the diaper which was so easy. I assume the reason why the nurse asked me if my culture allows male members to change diapers – someone who came there to deliver may have told her that their culture does not allow male members to change the wet diaper of their new born.
Now you go back to work after your baby is born. Here is a typical conversation you will have with your coworker.
Coworker “Congratulations, Brijesh, how are the baby and mother doing?”
Me “Thanks, Both are doing just fine”
Coworker “Are you getting any sleep?”
Almost everyone whom I talked to here in US, the first or the second question they asked was if I am getting time to sleep after the baby was born. I don’t think if I was in India anyone was going to ask me that question.
Now why all these differences? Answer is very simple. Here in US a child is born to two individuals who are supposed to take care of the kid all by themselves. In India, a baby is born into two families where everyone in the family will be there to take care of the baby and the responsibilities of taking care of the baby get shared between the family members. In US, the grandparents of the new born may visit the baby for few hours while in India the baby will be with grandparents for most of the time till at least the kid is a few months old.
Now with the concept of nuclear family fast catching up, things are also changing in India. But I prefer the present Indian way of having the entire family take care of the new born kid especially when your first kid is born and is a big learning curve for the new parents to learn how to look after the new addition to the family.

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Blogger Shankz said...

Love that Brijesh!!! I completely agree.. Infact yesterday I was explaining to american classmate about how in India we live with our parents until we are grown up and then parents live with us after we are grown ups.. He could not first understand why do you have to stay together :)!!.
My friend's mom could not digest the fact that her daughter had hired a baby sitter because both were working. She asked her husband to take care of himself and she went to her daughter's place :)
- Vidhyashankar

October 25, 2009 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... the moral of the story was - I don't want to change my baby's diapers, I rather have my extended family from India come down and do that job for me.

October 26, 2009 12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with 5:31. Where are you saying how you are fortunate to have a greater role in the raising of your child? Too much emphasis is placed on how in India other family members do everything, what about how happy you are to be involved in changing diapers, and being there for the delivery for your kid? Those are incredible, unique experiences that you have that those in India dont' have a chance at getting.

October 26, 2009 2:07 AM  
Blogger sameer said...


Bangalore, circa 2000AD
* Attended Lamaze Classes and the whole shebang
* Daughter born @ Manipal Hospital, I assisted in the delivery (as best as I could given my low visual tolerance of blood). Lives at the hospital for a couple of days, changed nappies, bathed her.
* No maid, mom/inlaw for a brief while. Both of us work.

Later kid followed a different pattern given different town, different rules. I'd say both modes have their own advantages, but, as a father, I'd prefer the former where I'm more involved.

- Sameer

October 26, 2009 4:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you mean you prefer the Indian way where female extended family members take care of everything so that you don't have to change diapers here or attend any class longer than 4 hours? Be proud of the opportunity you got and please don't complain.

October 26, 2009 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Here in US a child is born to two individuals who are supposed to take care of the kid all by themselves. In India, a baby is born into two families where everyone in the family will be there to take care of the baby and the responsibilities of taking care of the baby get shared between the family members."
Your statement is shows your prejudice towards the American culture.
I can state not one but many Americans (black and white) whose grand parents moved closer to their kids just to be with their grand kids.
Even in India when a child is born its still your responsibility to take care of the baby and i dont think its a culturally bad thing or an un-masculine(lack of better word) thing to change the diaper or bathe the child or dress him/her up...

take care Nair...
A baby is precious thing so enjoy every moment of it...

October 26, 2009 3:49 PM  
Blogger Kuttyedathi said...


Let me share my thoughts about this.

It is not true that US grand parents are not taking care of their grand kids. At my daughter's school, more than 50 % of kids are dropped and picked to and from school by their grand parents. Obviously, at 3 PM both parents will be at work and afterschool care is lil too expensive to afford. And I know many american kids who stay at their grand parent's place till their parents come back from work. So the difference is unlike India, grand parents have a helping role, but parents are the responsible parties.

The actual difference in US is that both the parties dont live in the same household. Grand parents live by themselves in their own house, which is different from Indian culture. To be frank, I 100 % like the US culture and style in that matter. Here is why.

How many daughter in laws in India who are living in the same house along with her Husband's parents can honestly claim that they are truly happy about the way they are. I am sure there wont be many (or any ). Deep in heart any girl will be longing for a home of just she , her spouse and her lil ones. But she is adjusting or rather compromising with her plight as she dont have a choice. If she speaks out, if she demands for a seperate living.. The whole society will condemn her. So everyone live under the same roof, just pretending to be happy.

I would prefer the US style where everyone have their own space and freedom to lead their own life, but both parties available each other for any help any time.

Another factor - In India pregnancy is considered more like a disability, but that is not the case in US. Pregnancy and bedrest are two terms we often hear together in India. After delivery also, mother is supposed to rest for almost 90 days, get lots of special treatments, special food. Many are not even allowed to take bath by themselves - a lady in the neighborhood will come and bathe her everyday. I dont think a single mother in US is getting all those luxuries.

I guess India is also changing gradually. For eg, Lot many people from Kerala are working at Bangalore or other metros. Atleast a couple of them deliver their kids at Bangalore itself or many come back to the city after 1 or 2 months with the newborn. Thereafter they take care of the kids by themselves, without both parents at their service. Not sure whether their husbands change the baby's nappy though.. :)

-Kuttyedathi (An Indian mom who delivered both her kids in US and survived so far without either parents support :) -

October 26, 2009 5:46 PM  
Anonymous lathan said...

Oh God, they ask men to change diapers in the US.. holy guilt. tomorrow they will ask men to get pregnant. mm, i'm going back

October 26, 2009 10:39 PM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

The purpose of this post was not about diaper or diaper change. It was to point out some differences. Also to point out a fact there is greater family support available in India and Indian culture than in US.


Nice thoughts. Comments like this make my blog post complete.

October 28, 2009 2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear brijesh..

i dont think everyone will agree with u that the baby will be taken care of by the family in india. This'll only happen if they live with the family if parents r working itz difficult.. me and my husband brought up our kid the same way taking turns at night and so on and lots of our cousins r doin the same.. now grandparents have changed too. thtz one of the reason y most couples now opt or settle for one child..

October 28, 2009 3:11 AM  
Anonymous Maya said...

You are thinking so different that you are not able to realize that you are talking non-sense. And when you blow your trumpet, it feels so ridiculous. :)

The comments above mine reiterate that. :)

October 28, 2009 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Answer is very simple. Here in US a child is born to two individuals who are supposed to take care of the kid all by themselves. In India, a baby is born into two families where everyone in the family will be there to take care of the baby and the responsibilities of taking care of the baby get shared between the family members."

In India too the child is born to two individuals, only thing in majority of cases, one individual out of these two (no prizes for guessing which one of the two) does not want to share responsibility but is happy to let extended family do the work!!

October 30, 2009 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" In India, a baby is born into two families where everyone in the family will be there to take care of the baby and the responsibilities of taking care of the baby get shared between the family members."

what are you ?


then u might as well go to the sperm bank and get that so called sperm deposited there.

Expecting "families " to share " your" responsibility is ridiculous

you see thats the problem with a class of indian MEN .They feel they are sperm donors.Its shameful that the nurse even clarified that with you abt " changing diapers " being a part of your culture

Get your ideas right !

"family support " differs from "sharing responsibility between family members "

October 30, 2009 9:13 AM  
Blogger Gyanban said...

Here's another one -

"We never did so many tests and all..and we had perfect kids - you guys are paranoid."

Great post.Loved it.

October 31, 2009 2:47 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I am more intrigued by this post. Thanks for reminding us of it in 2009 recap, Brijesh.

I read all the comments too. What I can say is that all this feedback, and your insights also are based on each person's individual experiences. Though generalizations are easy to make, sometimes we are not aware of situations in other parts of the countries we are native to. I had some of these issues when I lived in India and came back. I think different parts of India, as America have different access to different kinds of information and resources. I would think on whole men in both India and America are becoming more participatory fathers. But that nurse asking you that had her own prejudices. I know plenty of American men (and women) who would not like to change diapers-and don't. It's a stereotype women do all this work. There are househusbands now a days who do all this. Househusbands are a growing minority in US and India. I know Indian-born househusbands in US because of the recession....they are the new H4 spouses!

I am an American and my sister is lucky to have caring grandparents who care for her kids when she's at work. Also, there are a segment of African Americans where grandparents are the main caregivers for their grandkids because of certain cultural factors.

But I agree the classes given at the hospital are unique. These things are a big change even for typical Americans over the past few decades. When people our age were born in US, fathers were not allowed in the delivery room- even if they wanted to be. At least this was true in the small town hospital I was born in.

There are still a lot of gender stereotypes that are being challenged worldwide! Thanks for taking up this topic and yourself challenging these stereotypes! Actions speak louder than words!

December 31, 2009 11:59 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Kumar, Cross-Cultural Coach said...'s amazing to blog as we can look back at our thoughts and see how they may have evolved or remained stagnant. Have any of your thoughts about this subject changed?

In regards to the comments above, I'd like to point out your quote
"The purpose of this post was not about diaper or diaper change. It was to point out some differences. Also to point out a fact there is greater family support available in India and Indian culture than in US. "

I have given this a lot of thought about why this is.

Here are some of my thoughts.

1. Yes, USA is an individualistic country, but there is family support. It just depends on the family, and the expectant parents. Some expectant parents prefer NOT to have support and want to be self-sufficient and do it on their own. They do not want anyone in the hospital with them. Some parents-in-laws respectfully stay away though they desperately want to be there. Others force their way in anyway, feeling it's their obligation and duty!

2. Just because family is there to support is it always helpful to the expectant parents?
This is hard to say. When people do everything out of duty surely picking up any errands or tasks that needs to be done does relieve burden from the expectant parents. Some parents force their way in to show their superiority and rank in the family structure (I am not talking about Indian families, though it could happen in India, I am talking about American families.) There are many reasons why people have or don't have family support in the hospital. It's not so cut and dry and easy to say why it does or doesn't happen.

3. Why is America an individualistic country?
You can answer this better than me!! Ironic, huh and you're not even in the US now!
Why am I saying this? You came to the US as an expat /immigrant. You were alone. You had to rely on yourself. Yes, there was the Indian community and yes you could bring your family and yes you had your wife, but it's not like being in India where family is ever-present. You had no choice but to find a way to get things done- which meant you had to be individualistic and independent to some extent. Many may feel being individualistic and independent is selfish- but what did early immigrants have to do in the US to survive? They had to do this- not to be selfish per se- but to survive. And in the heart of it survival is a bit selfish anyhow! (That's a spiritual quandary, isn't it?!) People who came to the US in the past and in the present tore themselves away from their families. We can not say it was easier for Westerners to do this than Easterners. If many Westerners never came to the US and stayed back in their European countries, the family obligations surely would be much more simply because the people are more easily accessible. But when we move away from home, be it Westerners moving away from home or Easterners, this accessibility is limited. Now a days it's easier and Indians are generally a class of immigrants who have it 'easier' than others. I mean most Indian immigrants have the resources (money) to bring over their parents for delivery. Do all immigrants have this luxury? Back even 50 years ago plus, this luxury did not exist as plane tickets were out of the reach of cost of a typical immigrant and the only way to travel was by boat. You needed a lot of time to do that. So naturally, the mindset would be adjusted to learn how to live independently. And the thought to return home just wasn't in their minds. American was their new home, lock stock and barrel (and what about those who came from war torn countries? why would they want to return?).

Some of this may seem irrelevant, but it's all relevant. By studying this we learn how Americans came into their thought patterns and beliefs they have now. Some was out of pure necessity and a willingness to survive in a new environment without the social and family structure they were used to back home. I know you can relate to that!

March 30, 2012 7:48 AM  

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