For columnist, it’s a boy!

Since I became a grandmother again a few weeks ago, I thought this made for an ideal opportunity to discuss how babies are received between both the United States and Saudi Arabia.

My husband and I lived in Saudi Arabia for years while he was a diplomat. During that time I learned of the different traditions surrounding childbirth, and the roles different family members play.

My new grandbaby, Joshua, is perfect, beautiful and doing great – as are his mama and papa. I absolutely adore being a grandmother.

The process of giving birth has been relatively unchanged over mankind’s history, but the process and methods cultural approach can vary greatly, between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Both countries have women who opt for natural childbirth and those who choose a cesarean birth. Both places have women who choose to have their child at home and those who deliver in a hospital.

However in Saudi Arabia few places yet will consider having or even allowing fathers to play active roles in the births of their children. The father will typically wait stoically in a waiting area near the delivery room, in an area where he is not able to readily view or hear other women. Unlike the American dad, he does not get to choose whether or not he wishes to be in the delivery room with his wife.

My son was with his wife from the moment her labor began. He looked after her, wiped her brow, held her hand throughout the labor process and was an active player during delivery. He was able to coach and encourage her along with the doctor and to see his son emerge. He was the one who cut the umbilical cord rather than a doctor or a nurse. He also got to remain in the room with his wife and new son after delivery so they all bonded together as a family.

In this country, there are no restrictions on visiting hours for fathers. They stay in the room as they wish and get to hold, caress, bathe and even change diapers immediately.

In America the new mother and child will likely be discharged from the hospital one to two days following birth, as long as both are healthy, and generally will return home. Usually a family member, like the baby’s new grandmother, will come and stay for a short bit while the new family settles in to a routine. Though an extended family member may visit, the father remains involved.

On the other head, Saudi women see their husbands much less after giving birth. If women who come to visit the new Saudi mom at the hospital are not related to the father by blood, he will leave the room so the women can visit comfortably without having to remain covered. Women in Saudi Arabia cover their faces and bodies in the presence of a man who is not a relative.

Once discharged from the hospital, the Saudi mother and her new child will typically go to her mother’s home for a 40-day period where she will be loved and coddled by her own mother. The father may stay at his mother-in-law’s, but more likely will come daily to visit.

Just because the traditions are different, it does not mean that the Saudi man is less caring or joyful to become a father. He will proudly tell his family and friends the good news, and will give the new mother and baby many gifts. But he remains removed from the actual birth. When I asked the men in my own Saudi family whether they would like to see the “birthing” traditions changed, they all looked at me in fear and horror. My late husband, who was Saudi, remarked that rather than focusing on delivering a baby, the doctor would likely have to attend to him instead, if he were to witness the birth.

Carol Fleming lives in Huntersville with her two cats, and you can read more of her thoughts at She can be reached at

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