So I think this has been on my mind a lot lately because my sister is only 2 SHORT weeks away from becoming a mommy!! He will be my first nephew and I cant wait to actually meet him. Unfortunately, life continues even though I’m all the way out here, and I probably wont see that beautiful little baby until he is about 10 months old… isa.
The whole idea of pregnancy and babies has been brought up quite frequently around the village lately. Quite a few of the younger girls in the village are currently pregnant, we just had a baptism, and there are just generally a good number of youngsters running around (including the one whose mother for SOME reason gave her a recorder… the most vile device ever created). So I decided that this time, I’m going to talk a little bit about the superstitions and beliefs surrounding pregnancy here in Fiji and how they differ from the states.
- Fijian women believe that until you tell people you are pregnant, your stomach will stay small, hiding it. Once the baby knows he can grow, he will. There is one girl here who is 5 months pregnant, didn’t tell anybody until her 4th month… she is so small!
- It is believed that if you have anyone at the hospital or in the delivery room with you, then your labor will be painful and time consuming. If you stay alone and use that time to focus on the baby, the delivery will be speedy and less painful. Huge difference from America where typically the husband is inside and family in the waiting room etc. Maybe that’s why women in America are in labor for like 24 hours sometimes…
- If you are pregnant and don’t tell people, harm will come to others. Especially the very young and very old. The one who didn’t tell people until 4 months? Her 3 month old nephew lost a lot of his hair. If you are riding in a boat, the engine may give out, etc, etc. It is considered a very dangerous time here, so knowing early and telling everyone is important. Also, during that period that you don’t tell people, everything you try to do will fail. When I did a virgin coconut oil workshop here in the village in January with another volunteer, for some reason the VCO didn’t separate properly and we couldn’t figure out why… Kimberly and I racked our brains for hours after the session until someone came up to us and said that a woman who had been there was pregnant, knew, and didn’t tell anyone and that’s why the VCO spoiled. We were not really sold, but couldn’t figure out any other reason, so we accepted it.
- In Fiji, the umbilical cord has a unique role- it ties the baby to the land. If you have a baby boy, once the umbilical cord falls off the belly button of your boy, you go up into the plantation and plant the umbilical cord with a seed from some sort of tree. This ties the boy to the plantation and the land so that when they grow up they recognize that without their plantation and farming, they cannot succeed. For girls, the mother will take the cord to the reef and tie it to a piece of coral. This creates a connection between the woman and the sea recognizing that she cannot provide for her family or herself without depending on the sea and its bounty.
- Namesakes. This is a fairly new concept in Fiji, but members of a family will be named after someone else in that family. So like if we did that in my family and my parents decided to name me after my Grandma, my name would be Dorothy (Dorote in Fijian). This creates a bond between the child and the family member that is a life long responsibility. My namesake (Rusila), her daughter Kaca just had her 3rd baby girl on November 27. They decided to name the baby girl Rusila (after the grandmother) and took the middle name to be Samantha, from me. Its an honor and a unique aspect of Fijian culture I didn’t think I would get the chance to be a part of.
So with all that being said, its fairly easy to see Fijian pregnancy is viewed differently than in America!
I’m really sad that I won’t be around for a while when my new nephew is born. He is the first baby from our family! My sister is the first of all the cousins to have a baby, so not only is it my first nephew, its my parents first grandchild, and my grandma’s first great grandchild! So Seester, here’s hoping that everything goes smoothly during the remainder of your pregnancy, my sincere apologies I cant be there to spoil that baby boy crazy. Hopefully I’ll be there for the next one!