This week we take a look at different pregnancy and childbirth traditions around the world.
Chinese women are supposed to guard their thoughts when they are pregnant. Their unborn child is said to be influenced by anything seen, heard or thought by the pregnant woman. This means that the woman is not supposed to gossip, laugh too loudly, look at bright colours, have sex or get angry! These women are encouraged to listen to beautiful music, talk about nice things, read interesting books and gaze at gorgeous pictures.
Food plays a big part in the pregnancy of a Chinese woman. It is said that a woman can influence the colour of her baby’s skin by the type of food she eatsŠif she eats light coloured food, the baby will be born with a light complexion. The woman has to be sure that her food is mashed or cut up properly otherwise her unborn child may become careless.
Pregnant women are supposed to stay away from funerals and construction work so that the baby does not suffer from a deformity. Some Chinese women sleep with a knife under their bed to scare away evil spirits.
There are no presents given before the baby is born, as this is believed to be unlucky. The pregnant woman’s mother is the one who is in charge of getting the baby’s clothes together and delivers them in a visit to her new grandchild 3 days after the birth. She would have already sent a smaller package of clothing a month before the baby is due. This package is meant to speed up the delivery of the baby and is called tsue shen.
The parents to be do not choose a name before the baby arrives as this is considered to be extremely unlucky. Unborn babies are often given false names in an attempt to confuse and ward off the evil spirits.
The actual childbirth process is considered to be a time that the woman should not fear and she will often drink a strong drink made from herbs to help with the pain. When the baby is born the woman will pray and give thanks to the goddess who helped them through the process of conceiving and delivering a healthy child.
Objects are placed in the cot of a newborn and the one that is reached for first by the tiny fist is said to determine the future of the child. It could be a pen or a toy. It could even be a piece of silver.
THE ORKNEY ISLANDS (OFF THE COAST OF SCOTLAND)
Many traditions surround the birth of a baby in these islands and a lot of them stem from fear of the supernatural.
It is said that a baby boy will soon be born if there is a rainbow in the sky and locals shout “There’s abrig fur a beuy barin!” This basically means ‘ there’s a bridge for a boy to be born’. The Islanders say that the rainbow is the bridge leading to the home where a new boy will be born.
Pregnant women sometimes sleep with a knife and a Bible under their beds to protect their unborn child from supernatural forces and evil spirits.
Old wise women were midwives in days gone by and were revered for their magical powers of protection.
When the baby is born the father of the child will share a bottle of whisky with his male friends to bring good luck to the baby. This is called the “weetin’ the heid of the bairn” or the ‘wetting of the head’.
There are many feasts held to celebrate the birth of a baby and the neighbours come to visit and pay their respects to this new life.
Japanese women are encouraged not to put on too much weight during their pregnancy and to avoid eating spicy or salty foods or raw fish (sashimi).
They should not look at fire when pregnant or the baby will be born with a birthmark.
Japanese women should not reach up or down to hang laundry or take it out of the washing machine in case the umbilical cord wraps itself around the baby’s neck.
The women are taught to be silent throughout the labour and birth of their baby to avoid embarrassment. They should also look upon childbirth as a natural process and should not take any pain relief.
Portuguese women are advised not to wear necklaces, reach up for objects or to jump because of the belief that this can cause the umbilical cord to tighten around the neck of the unborn child and could cause strangulation.
Furry animals should not be carried because the child could become hairy!
When planning to become pregnant, Portuguese women are encouraged to eat certain types of food to determine the sex of the child. It is said that round fruits and vegetables (such as apples and grapes) produce girls whilst long vegetables (such as carrots and cucumbers) produce boys.
If a baby cries or fusses a lot it is believed that it has a ‘displaced stomach’ or “bucho verado”. The baby is taken to a natural healer who would treat the baby with oil and say some prayers to stop the supposed pain in the tummy.
A Spanish mother is told to get plenty of rest because this will make for a calm baby.
Pregnant women often wear something metal attached to their clothes over their bellies to protect the unborn child.
Cucumbers or spicy food should be avoided in case they give the growing baby a gassy tummy.
Husbands or boyfriends are not allowed in the delivery room when a woman is giving birth. The doctor wants the woman to concentrate totally on the birth.
Mothers are told to stay in the house for forty days after the birth of the child and are not allowed to have a bath or to wash their hair.
It is said that loud noises can cause the soft spot on the baby’s head to collapse.
A piece of wet paper stuck to the baby’s forehead is said to cure the hiccups.
It is not just the woman who gets cravings in this culture. If another family member has sudden cravings this is a sign that a woman in the family is ‘with child’. All the women in the family go to get a pregnancy test done because one of them must be pregnant!
Food plays an important part in the pregnancies of this culture too. It is said that white fish can cause difficulties in the pregnancy. Some Pacific islanders believe that sour or bitter foods can cause miscarriages and that spicy foods can give the baby a gassy tummy. Pacific Island women are taught to remain positive during pregnancy, as this will help the baby to grow and develop properly.
They are told not to bear a grudge against anyone during pregnancy or the child could be born looking like the person the woman has been angry with. Any jealousy felt by the mother could cause the child to be born crippled.
Necklaces or floral leis should not be worn for fear of the umbilical cord wrapping itself around the neck of the unborn child.
Ancient legend states that if the woman is unattractive during pregnancy, a girl will be born because all the beauty would have been passed to the baby. However if the woman is attractive during her pregnancy, a boy will be born.
Another legend states that if the pregnant woman walks with her left foot first she will give birth to a girl. Right foot first gives the mother a boy.
The husband or boyfriend and the mother of the pregnant woman are allowed in to the delivery room whilst the woman is giving birth. Family members join together to support the woman throughout the pregnancy and birth of the child.
The girls who become pregnant in the world of the Tribe do not have access to health care and will have to rely heavily on their instincts to get them through pregnancy and childbirth.
They might take more notice of the world around them and of natures way of doing things. They will probably develop their own traditions and beliefs as time goes on. They will slowly forget their own mothers, aunts or sisters pregnancies and the way they had been looked after in a highly medical world.
They might discover by accident that certain foods help their pregnancies or that different things should be avoided to maintain a normal delivery and a healthy baby.
Different traditions will develop and stories passed down from one new mother to the next will help these girls get on in their pregnancies.
Those who have had experience giving birth will become the new ‘wise women’. Wise women who, like in the days of old, were called on as midwives.
Immunisations will not be available for the babies born in this New World and certain diseases might start to show up again. Premature labour, difficult births or miscarriages could become a real problem as there are no doctors and there is no medicine to help.
Pregnancy and childbirth will prove to be a real danger to many of these Tribal girls and there are a lot of new lessons to be learnt along the way.