I have to admit that in this stage of my life when someone mentions childbirth…I want to run away!! How ironic is it that I have to study the details to the max?! I have never experienced childbirth myself, nor can I remember what went down when I was born. All I know is that my mother never lost the weight after she had me =)
I did, however, experience when my sister gave birth to her firstborn. At that time she was actually pretty calm, and I was very nervous for her sake. After a whole day being in labor, the doctor decided that it’s time for a caesar. Since my parents couldn’t come to the city, I was there with my brother-in-law. As soon as my nephew was out and on his way to the childcare room I got a glimpse of him. His head shape was off an oval!! This upset me a lot. What went wrong?, Why does he look like that? Does he have an oversize brain? Would he need surgery? He’s so young??
It was then that I learned my first “baby thing” – It is very common for a newborn’s head to be elongated or have an odd shape. A baby’s skull bones are soft and easily moulded to help them squeeze through the birth canal. The cone shape will naturally even out after a few days. It was so strange seeing this gorgeous little boy….with his alien head. Very soon his head turned normal, and I did not think of him as an alien anymore.
I used to not think that the way you are born has any impact on the person you would become, but the more research we do throughout our courses, I realize just how wrong I have been. Not only does the birthing process affect child development, but even what happens inside of you BEFORE you give birth.
There is this adorable video I always see popping up on Facebook that I would like to share: (I am at the stage where most or all of my friends are having kids, so my daily life is consumed talking about who pooped, who walked and who can say the most words!!)
Scandinavian countries are often hailed for their family-friendly policies, and childbirth is no different. For most Finnish women, birth takes place in a hospital with an accompanying midwife—home births are currently discouraged by the government. If a woman’s pregnancy is complicated for any reason, she’ll be seen by a doctor rather than a midwife.
Birth by Cesarean section is only encouraged in the event of a complication, such as breech positioning or stalled labor. According to the medical publication STAT, about 16 percent of births are performed via C-section in Finland, which is nearly on par with the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 10-15 percent.
After the birth is when things really get interesting. Every new mother receives a government-gifted maternity box shortly after the birth of her baby. Finland’s maternity boxes are known the world over and are great for mothers and babies. A tradition since the 1930s, they include diapers, clothes, a mattress, toys, outdoor gear and little hats for baby, and bra pads, breastfeeding guides and condoms for mom.
What about maternity leave? Finland has new moms covered. New moms are allowed to begin their leave up to 50 days before their delivery, and they can take leave for up to four months post-birth. Kela, Finland’s social security equivalent, will pay them a percentage of their taxable income for the entirety of their leave.
All of these policies seem to generate great results. Finland’s maternal mortality rate is quite low, with just 5 deaths occurring per 100,000 births. The infant mortality rate is even lower, at 2 out of 100,000. Most women in Finland start their families in their late 20s, with the average age of first-time moms hovering around age 28 according to the CIA (McCracken, 2016).
South-Africa (My country)
I was really looking for some written down facts about childbirth in South Africa, but I could only find those about “African” cultures… which is not the same as South-Africa. We have so many cultures in our beautiful culture that it’s difficult to explain what is custom. The stories I did find was heart-wrenching, and I would not want to share with the world what is happening in some of our hospitals and to our laboring mothers.
Instead, I looked up some facts about South-Korea, where I currently live.
Traditionally, when a woman realized she was pregnant, she would tell her mother-in-law first, then her husband and lastly her mother. After that, the whole family would assist tending to her needs, as opposed to her tending to theirs.
During labor, the mother-to-be would be given a cloth to bite into, and she would hang onto ropes hung from the ceiling to help her with pushing. She was expected to be silent so as to focus all her body energy into ‘chi’ – natural energy.
Men would await the news of the delivery together in another location, while the woman was tended by the mother-in-law, her own mother, sisters-in-law who already had children and elder women from the village or the district.
AFTER THE BIRTH
A straw rope would be tied at the doorframe of the house to announce the birth with chili peppers laced within for a boy, and for a girl, charcoal. Once people saw the ‘announcement’ they would stay away for a period of time – usually 21 to 100 days.
The placenta would be kept, then burned. The ashes would be saved to be used as a powder mixed in liquid for a healing potion whenever the child fell ill. (This is more an old tradition, most of the new parents are too modern).
The mother would drink seaweed soup (myuk–guk) as her first meal following the birth – this is still common. And because of its healthful properties, might have it three times a day over the next 2-3 months. It is not uncommon to hear mothers say “To think I ate seaweed soup for you” when they are disappointed in their child’s behavior.
Following childbirth, women were not supposed to eat any hot or cold food (and no ice chips during labor).
For about 30 to 40 days after birth, the mother would be excused from work to give her body time to recuperate. During that period, she was allowed to go outside and could not put her hands or feet into cold water.
McCracken, M. (May, 2016). What it’s like to give birth in different countries. Publishers: Care two. Retrieved from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-its-like-to-give-birth-in-3-different-countries.html
Korea 4 expats. (2017). Childbirth Customs. Retrieved from http://www.korea4expats.com/article-childbirth-customs-korea.html