When a child is born in Kuwai the extended family traditionally hosts a party called an Istiqbal. I must assume Istiqbals vary with income, health of child, and other factors. I can only speak definitively to those celebrations I attended.
Often an Istiqbal is held within two days of the baby’s birth in the hospital and it’s a BDD (Big Damn Deal). This is a catered event held in open-house style over a three to four hour time period. The mother is dressed up in a fancy peignoir (something Lana Turner, Doris Day, or Anette Funicello might wear in a movie) with full makeup and hair, tucked into a great big fancy hospital bed with a lacey coverlet. Servers pass fancy chocolates, finger sandwiches, and beverages among the dozens of guests wandering around the room, cooing at the baby, congratulating the extended family, and catching up with one another. The father and immediate family members form sort of a reception line to greet folks and receive congratulations. How is this achieved in a hospital room you may ask?
This particular hospital had maternity suites that resemble something you’d find at an MGM Grand, but bigger and fancier. If the family needs more room for an Istiqbal, or wants a more formal venue, this hospital has a grand hall which I wandered into by mistake when it was not in use. It’s a reception hall with the fancy bed at one end, chairs lining the walls, crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and all other manner of ritzy stuff. I was relieved to hear the actual birth is still a private affair.
When this tradition was first described to me I was horrified. It sounded cruel to put a new mother through such a fuss shortly after giving birth. But the new moms I met explained that it’s actually really nice for a number of reasons. In most cases, everything is done for you by your family members or the hospital staff. All you have to do is lie in bed, look nice, and take compliments on your beautiful new baby. If you need to excuse yourself for the myriad reasons a new mom might, there is an adjoining room in which to do so. It is understood that well-wishers will visit the new baby only during the Istqbal and not at other times during the hospital stay or when mother and baby come home. This relieves the new mom of “pop in visits” and having to entertain multiple times over a period of weeks or months. Once I looked at it this way, it made more sense.
I was fortunate to attend two of these celebrations during my visit. One was at the hospital and one was at a private home. I must say, the hospital party seemed like a lot less work for the new mom and her family.
In general, the birth of a child in Kuwait seemed more like an occasion for multi-generational celebration and less like a medical procedure than it does in the States. I liked that. But I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with all those people pawing my newborn and giving me unsolicited advice. If there is unsolicited advice to be given, I refer to be the giver not the receiver. Also I would look ridiculous in a fluffy peignoir.
This is my last post about my trip to Kuwait and I thank my hosts and hostess, all three generations, from the bottom of my heart.
Thank you for taking the journey with me,
Photo credit http://www.royalehayat.com/en_Jasmine.cms