When I was still pregnant one of the biggest cultural surprises I got was about when to call the family when you´re getting into labor. What for me was “normal” (and as far as I know common practice at home and therefore what I was planning for) is that this was something between the soon-to-be parents and that you call the rest of the family and friends with the news after the show is over. But in Spain, this tends to work a little different.
On different occasions, I had already noticed that somehow hospitals here seem to be more of a social gathering place than the functional place I consider it. If a relative or good friend is in the hospital then that´s reason for the whole family to sit together in the hospital the whole freaking day. Food is brought and everything is done to make sure that the sick person won´t be left alone for a second. Also for long operations, the waiting room seems to be the new living room of the entire family. (Something pretty different than what I was used to from at home where there are very strict visiting hours and they will call you when an operation is (almost) done so you don´t have to sit for hours and hours in the hospital). When I had some small complications during my pregnancy I experienced this don´t-leave-the-sick-person-alone-rule hardcore: schedules were made so that every part of the day was covered. On the one hand very sweet and of course a lot warmer than the strict visiting hours in the north, but on the other hand, one needs some time alone sometimes to be able to rest etc. so it ends up a bit stressful. (So yep, I have to admit I ended up making up fake visits in order to have some hours for myself: “No don´t worry to come back after lunch, my friend Carol will come in an hour so it´s all covered”)
A same sort of practice applies when someone gets into labor. The expectation is that you call your family BEFORE going to the hospital so that everybody can gather there. (I don´t know who is included in everybody since in the end my labor went way too fast for calling anyone let alone to have anyone make it to the hospital but i imagine all families having some kind of phone scheme to spread the news. You know, the ones you had before the mobile / WhatsApp era when your hockey training got cancelled due to bad weather: the trainer would call the first two persons on the list who in turn would call two other persons and so the news would spread quickly through the whole team) Although I had a very quick labor, I was expecting an hooooour long process (everybody knows the horror stories of 32hour of giving birth…) so I seriously could not understand WHY you would go to the
hospital already so soon. I mean, what are you going to do waiting for 14 / 20 / 25 / 36 / …. hours??? In my northern-European mind a complete waste of time and so not efficient! So I was very firm in that we were not going to call anybody before, but just after the whole process when the baby would be here. Obviously, this “cold” attitude of
mine was not always received well…..
Anyways, in the end, the discussion was not relevant because it all went so fast but I already imagine myself with future births in the family as the only one who stays at work or at home to do something useful whereas the rest of the family is having a 24h picnic in the hospital waiting room.
(Image from: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnvar/20120624/DC29626)