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Babies made-in-India - 5. Versus French ways

india,birth,water birth,pregnancy,baby,infant,newborn,delivery,midwife,swaddling,swaddle,diaper,breastfeeding,hospital,fertility,contraception,sterilizationSince there is nothing wrong in getting pampered, these customs of returning to the maternal fold, staying at home and keeping bed rest persist through the ages and social classes. Several times I have asked colleagues, newly elevated to the rank of fathers, if they were not too tired. And got the reply “no no, you know, my wife and baby are at my in-laws, they’ll come back only after three months!".


New French mothers don’t have this luxury of a ‘safety period’ (although apparently (according to Tracy Hogg) British ones do, for 40 days as well) and they soon have to do everything alone: cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc, in addition to taking care of the newborn. That is what I tried to explain to my Indian circle: being an independent businesswoman and daughter of an independent businesswoman, I was genetically programmed (except for medical complication) to get on my feet very fast. And on top of that, with the 'services' we avail in India, i.e. maids, home delivery from shops and restaurants, it is even more manageable than in the West…


As for childbirth, fathers traditionally don't attend, as it was the case till the fifties in the West, where the necessity and benefits of the man's presence are still debated (but at least the choice is open). So in India, you usually have your mother or mother-in-law in the labor room...

After the delivery, help is generally required as some hospitals don't even serve food. So, my mother-in-law kindly offered to stay with us at night in the hospital (4)... As tradition has it, it was her role to get up at night when the baby would cry; not mine, nor her son’s or the nurses’. To pass me the child for me to feed him. Well, to be precise, it was the role of my mother, who was with us but obviously not keen to sacrifice her sleep! My mother must have seemed quite irresponsible by spending more time dragging her counterpart to shopping sprees every day rather than squatting our hospital room! In fact she was doing her job as the mother of the Samurai, meaning she ensured that the three of us would get some privacy all three of us… (And ‘Privacy’, ‘Intimacy’ are definitely not Indian concepts, even though they were the key words of our birth plan!!).


The hospital that we had chosen was topnotch. Which means that not only did they serve food, but they also had a nutritionist and a lactation expert to help us in the transition. Also, by imposing strict visit timings they were 'pro-intimacy' (which is very innovative in India because normally, once the baby lands in the world, the whole family comes visit. Imagine the chaos!). And a plethora of nurses was there to ensure we would not lack help and that our intimacy would not be too complete...


(4) In India, each patient has the right to have a relative sleeping over; hospital staff even looks at you like you are some kind of alien (a lonely alien (like most of the expats)) if you don't have anyone staying in your room. And I am convinced that this type of moral support helps healing.


(To be continued...)


Babies made-in-India - 4. Naming

india,birth,water birth,pregnancy,baby,infant,newborn,delivery,midwife,swaddling,swaddle,diaper,breastfeeding,hospital,fertility,contraception,sterilization

I was frequently asked, till the baby turned two months if we had already chosen his name!

Indeed, in India, the baby is named at the end of the safety period, generally 40 days. It gives time for the astrologer to find the name, or at least its first letter. Meanwhile, the baby is called baby, and evil spirits are kept at bay!


And if everything goes well, the family organizes at the end of the 40 days, a 'naming ceremony' during which the baby is introduced to the world and sweets are distributed to everybody they know (especially if it's a boy). It is usually on this occasion that hijras (cf my posts on the topic) come to claim their due, ‘guarantee’ that the evil eye will be kept at bay.

I was not too happy when the watchman let them, by the way better informed than the municipality, come up.


Some Indian local customs go even further by having the new mother observe complete bed rest (for example during the first 10 days in Kerala). During this period the new mums have nothing to do but get to know her baby and recover from this undeniably physical hardship. The idea seems good but hyperactive women might fear boredom...


(To be continued...)


Babies made-in-India - 3. Confinement

india,birth,water birth,pregnancy,baby,infant,newborn,delivery,midwife,swaddling,swaddle,diaper,breastfeeding,hospital,fertility,contraception,sterilization

Let us go further with my doctor’s assumptions (cf Babies made-in-India - 2) and consider the following scenario: an Indian girl is married by her parents and go live with her in-laws, to the delight of her mother-in-law who delegates  (more or less kindly) the hardest chores to her (as her mother-in-law had done with her). At the age of 15, the young bride gets pregnant. Then she usually returns to her mother for the birth, where she would remain for several weeks, or even several months. Double advantage: 1. It is reassuring to have your mum not too far during this scary experience and 2. It saves the girl from her mother-in-law who could kill her by not relieving her from chores like breaking stones (or grinding grain, or looking for wood).


india,birth,water birth,pregnancy,baby,infant,newborn,delivery,midwife,swaddling,swaddle,diaper,breastfeeding,hospital,fertility,contraception,sterilizationThen, according tradition (but it varies depending on regions, religions, castes, customs) the new mother remains confined for 40 days. What makes sense when we know that more than 3% of Indian babies do not survive the first 28 days (3).

Disease, pollution, wild insects and beasts, evil spirits (not cool, evil spirits), it is recommended to keep the newborn inside instead of exposing him to such dangers... And like this, the relatives are also protected from the pollution of the mother and the infant, the process of birth being considered as extremely impure.


(3) According to a study by Unicef, 3.1% of Indian infants die before the 28th day (i.e., 15 times more than in France) and 4.4% before the first year – this rate was 8.8% in 1990, so imagine what it was hundreds of years when traditions emerged...


Sources: - prof.pdf .


(To be continued...)