Nourished by testimonials from the other side of the world, the “Mothers of the World” section of Parents has been a great success. Childbirth is a unique moment in a woman’s life. Through these testimonies, we wanted to decipher the singularities of these mothers who all have a different vision of childbirth.
Throughout the world, although we note regional similarities, the traditions, customs and remedies associated with childbirth reflect the cultural diversity and values specific to each society. From ancestral rituals to modern methods, the experience of motherhood is marked by varied practices, beliefs and legacies. An experience always rich in emotions!
Northern Europe: strong and independent women
Western Europe, plural and diverse, offers a wide variety of portraits of mothers. In Northern Europe, Scandinavian women display a strong independence in their choices of professional or personal life. Children are often raised in great freedom. Karine, a Dutch mum, and Eva, an Icelandic mum, share this vision.
According to Karine, “In the Netherlands, the woman does everything until the last moment, pregnancy is not seen as an illness”. “I received an education that highlighted the independence of women and their strength”says Eva.
Linked to the liberation of the female body, to feminist awareness but also to European regulations, breastfeeding in public, for example, is rather supported and encouraged in European countries, as our two interlocutors underline.
“We breastfeed in the vast majority and everywhere! There is a room reserved for women in each workplace so that they can express their milk quietly, without noise.. Karine, Netherlands
“In Iceland, we breastfeed on demand, everywhere. There are even quiet corners dedicated to mothers in public places.” Eva, Iceland.
However, each country has its particularities. Among other things, in the Netherlands, mothers are accompanied at home by a Kraamzorg (midwife), who watches over them when they return home with a baby. Similarly, this country has particularly normalized home birth, so that 1 out of 3 Dutch women gives birth at home.
In Iceland, traditions are strong: there, it is said that women have a “Valkyrie’s Strength” that help them do without epidurals. On the other hand, the parents maintain a particular education which encourages their child to be independent. According to Eve, “The Icelandic child hardens and quickly becomes independent”.
In Iceland, an immunity booster for babies!
Eva: “We give ýsi, fish oil, to boost the health of babies. A spoonful a day to give strength and the vitamins we lack”.
Africa: a very surrounded baby!
Our journey continues with Judy, a Kenyan mum, and Wilhelmina, a Ghanaian mum. African countries are generally very close to traditions and customs. Pride of a community, a birth is a blessing.
In Kenya as in Ghana, the family has a particularly important place. Young mothers and newborns are constantly supported and helped, it’s cultural.
“With us, the birth of a baby is a joy for the whole family. Near and distant family, friends and colleagues came from across the country, arms laden with gifts for my daughter”explains Judy.
In Kenya, smoothies against constipation after a cesarean section
Judy: “Against constipation, which is common after a caesarean section, I drank mixed fruit and vegetable smoothies three times a day: kiwi, carrot, green apple, celery”.
According to Wilhelmina, “A new mother’s first three months are heavenly because she’s not expected to do much, just sleep and feed the baby. If a young woman is not helped, […] the community usually finds an alternative solution and no one is left alone”.
In Ghana, a recipe for the rise of milk
Wilhelmina: “After childbirth, to have milk, we eat fufu, which is a puree of boiled and pounded cassava, corn, plantain or yam”.
Nevertheless, behind this unparalleled support hides a strong pressure on the frail shoulders of a young mother. In Ghana, explains Wilhelmina, certain traditional mores remain unchanged: you must have a child as soon as you are married, the man must not cook or do domestic chores. Above all, cesarean section is frowned upon: “The popular belief is that only by giving birth naturally can you be considered a strong woman”.
Asia: the child king
Let’s continue our world tour with Asia…. Fang, a Chinese mother and Piyamapor, a Thai mother, share with us their experience of childbirth according to their local traditions.
Asia is a vast continent where a lot of different communities gather. Rich in traditions, in many of these countries, the child is king. Far from being seen as a negative upbringing as it can be in France, China and Thailand, the child is the central core of a family. Fang and Piyamapor explain to us, for example, that it is customary to let the child sleep with his parents until the age of 5-6 years on average.
According to Fang, “The one-child policy has marked my country in recent decades. The child has been, and I think will still be for several generations, the fruit of family attention”.
“Thailand is a country where we love children. We never let them cry. Never ! They are always in our arms”Piyamapor tells us.
This region of the world is also steeped in many traditions. In Thailand, an important place is kept for spirituality and religion (in a predominantly Buddhist country). “The astrologer [ou le moine bouddhiste] is the most important person to see before the baby is born. It is he who will decide if the due date is the best in relation to the lunar calendar.explains Piyamapor.
In Thailand, shallots for babies with colds
Piyamapor: “For colds, crush a shallot with a pestle. It is added to the bath or put in a small bowl filled with water next to the baby’s head or feet. It clears the nose, like eucalyptus”.
In China, education choices often go through the elders, grandparents play an important role in restoring traditions. On the baby’s 100th day, for example, a party is organized to celebrate the beginning of the child’s life, the “bai tian jiu” rite.
Middle East: the sanctification of traditions
We are now going to meet Sarah, an Algerian mother, and Niloufar, an Iranian mother. In these countries where modernity, emancipation and traditions coexist, our two interlocutors testify to their experience.
Niloufar then notes a great modesty on the part of pregnant Iranian women, the result of the country’s regulations: you do not show your belly, and until recently, a man could not attend a childbirth. Iran is still firmly rooted in patriarchy, traditions want the man to be excluded from pregnancy. “For the most traditionalists, the arrival of the baby is still a women’s affair and the husband must slip away”
For the most traditionalists, the arrival of the baby remains a women’s affair and the husband must slip away
Nevertheless, both Sarah and Niloufar emphasize the importance of female relatives. “Grandmothers are the mistresses of knowledge around the child”, said Sarah; “ mom is still there. Often she resigns from her job or takes parental leave for 2 or 3 years,” explains Niloufar.
In Iran, fresh mint for stomach aches
Niloufar: “When the baby has a stomach ache, we give him hot water with fresh mint. A small teaspoonful is enough. It’s very strong and it calms him down immediately.