In this paper I am gong to write a report about the experience of Elizabeth a 35 year old lady who hails from a patriarchal society with very conservative attitudes human reproductive health. The tribe among other things practices female genital mutilation and harbors other dietary and behavioral restrictions towards their women.
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The society regards pregnancy as a hot condition and so there is usually a need to balance between hot and cold. Thus pregnant women are required to consume cold foods throughout their pregnancy. In the early stages of pregnancy, women are expected to avoid any strenuous work. Even sexual intercourse with their husbands is prohibited to avoid miscarriages.
Because the community lives near the ocean line consumption of shellfish is prohibited as it could lead to rashes on the baby while on the other hand consumption of crabs and squids are highly avoided as they are said to cause stickiness of the womb during pregnancies. In addition, excessive eating is thought to cause obesity in the baby and difficulty in giving birth. According to Elizabeth, during her pregnancy she was served with plenty of coconut milk to promote quality of her baby’s skin.
Abortion is unheard of in the society and is not even talked about. It is said to invite bad omen to the woman’s family besides the clan of the husband. Any culprit who procures an abortion is heavily reprimanded and the punishment for this is death administered by the village clan elders while several rites are performed by the society to avert any possible calamites resulting from anger of the gods. Such rites include fines to the family and sacrifices to the gods.
During the pregnancy, the sisters of the pregnant lady assist with the household chores while the role of the husband is mainly to provide for the family. Elizabeth’s daughters during her pregnancies took care of the family chores including cooking and milking cows as she rested. Boys are not to be found anywhere near their mother and breaking such a rule would invite heavy reprimand from their father.
Birth in Elizabeth’s society usually takes place at home although modernity is changing things as more and more people are opting for hospitals. These are however the few learned and well up in her society. The bulk of the rest of the society prefer home deliveries which are administered by traditional birth attendants. These experts are informally trained and their skills are handed down culturally from their mothers.
During the delivery process, the spouse is not supposed to be present at the site of birth as it is not considered their affair. Elizabeth informed me that during her first birth her mother was expected to be present but her presence was not necessary during her subsequent births later on. However, the father of the baby is expected to give the baby the first bath on being delivered.
Crying out during labor is considered a taboo as it is said to attract evil spirits which could damage the new child. Thus silence during birth is highly recommended by the society. Prior to giving birth, a mother in labor must eat well to regain energy. The mother is supposed to adopt a squatting position during delivery as lying back on the back is said to starve the baby of the energy to come out. On being delivered, a necklace is tied around the child’s neck which is said to help tie the baby’s life to the necklace rather than the umbilical chord of the mother. This must be administered before the umbilical chord is cut.
As opposed to pregnancy, post partum period is treated as a cold phenomenon as a result of the loss of blood during pregnancy. Hence the mother is expected to take hot foods to balance the temperatures and also to replenish her lost blood. Cold foods are said to result in headaches and arthritis in old age. The mothers are expected to stay indoors for at least a month or three. During this month mothers are prohibited from showering or exposure to cold conditions in order to maintain the balance between cold and hot conditions. A breastfeeding mother eats fish products and salty foods in order to increase her milk production. Colostrums are considered dirty by the society and are discarded. The tradition dictates that babies are supposed to sleep on their backs in order to produce flat shaped heads which are considered desirable by the society.
The birth of boys is highly regarded in the society and those who give birth to first born baby boys are highly respected in the society. Those families whose birth order is characterized by consecutive girls tend to have more children as they search for boys (East-West center, n.d.). This complicates the family planning campaign in the filed of nursing. Deformed births are seen as a sign of omen and an invitation of evil spirits to the society. Mothers of such children discard them before they are noticed as it could result to excommunication from the society. Circumcision whose practice is rampant in the society causes complications during delivery due to narrowness of the birth canal. Such deliveries often require surgical operations to save the mother and child when it occurs in hospitals (Reymond, Mohammed & Ali, n.d.). As the society discourages consumption of colostrums, this has an effect of compromising on the immunity of the child (Cornforth, 2009).
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