Bringing a child into the world is a very special thing, yet also the most challenging. Adam reveals how to deal with cultural differences regarding such a life-changing milestone.
Sometimes, silence can be the loudest noise. Sitting on the edge of a hospital bed, in the early hours of the morning, all I can do is listen to the roaring silence coming from the hallway behind the door. It’s been hours since the doctors called my wife’s name to take her down the hall. I was told strictly to wait where I was, but I had to find out how things were going.
The elderly security guard sitting at his desk is friendly, and talkative, too talkative. My British friend both delights and distracts him with her mastery of Mandarin, and when he is not looking, I slip through the double doors and try to tread as softly as possible along the plain white corridor, the scent of hand sanitizer leaches onto me like a Japanese ghost. I arrive at a large room—the only one with the lights on—albeit a very dim light. Six beds sit before me, and in each, a lady in the throes of labor; I can here faint clattering in a nearby office, that’s where the doctors must be. I scan the beds, no one seems to notice I am here. I see Faith in the first bed, I walk over carefully, whisper her name, she turns to face me, bewilderment written all over her face like a gang signature graffitied on a subway wall—she’s not Faith—I apologize and move on quickly before she can respond. Bed number two is a similar story. Finally, in the third bed I find Faith, about to go into the labor room to give birhto our first son.
I kneel down by her bedside so the doctor doesn’t see me. I stay there a short time with her, pray with her, before slipping out of the room, back down the plain white corridor, past the chattering elderly security guard and back onto the hospital bed I had been perching on. “You should be a ninja,” suggested a voice in my head.
For many Chinese couples, before the chairs have been packed away from the wedding dinner, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers have begun to discuss the nearing arrival of a new child into the family. It is common for grandparents to take care of a newborn child, especially during the first few years before they begin kindergarten. For some, it’s almost expected that you hand over your child to be under their expert care, after all, “you’ve never had a child and have no idea what to do” is usually the argument.
On the contrary, this is almost unheard of in England, where the responsibility of raising a child is placed squarely on the shoulders of those bringing a new life into the world, despite their inexperience. I understood the economic value of grandparents bearing most of the childcare tasks as both parents work full time jobs, but I also felt there were many disadvantages to this. I had worked in education for many years, I always noticed a startling difference in the ability of a child who was raised by their parents, as opposed to grandparents; generally, they seemed intellectually more developed, often had better manners, and exhibited far more confidence. At the time both Faith and I had full time jobs, but we worked out our schedules so that one of us would always be there to take care of Daniel, except for a few hours a week during which we hired a nanny to watch him.
We were well aware that being parents was not going to be easy, but grandparents and relatives were all just supporters, at times helpers, but every decision regarding our new child would be ours to make.
Before Daniel came into the world, I had read many books on parenting, we had bought everything we believed we needed for him and I asked for advice from all the people I knew who already had children. We were well aware that being parents was not going to be easy, but grandparents and relatives were all just supporters, at times helpers, but every decision regarding our new child would be ours to make.
I was bleary eyed, sitting on the hospital floor near the door, with three close friends sitting alongside of me. We were all exhausted as streams of sunlight began to break through, lighting up the halls, a new day, and as the distant cry that echoed down the hall revealed, for one special little boy, it was not only a new day, but the first day. Welcome to the world little Daniel.