Cultural Differences Among Birthing Women
Growing up as a kid with the background of being Vietnamese, I have a lot of knowledge about the superstitions and beliefs of what to do or not to do due to my cultural beliefs during certain occasions especially pregnancy. First, I want to say that Vietnamese cultural beliefs are very similar to Chinese because it has a strong impact toward our country. Even though the languages are different but very similar pronunciation same as for cultural beliefs, medical beliefs, customs, rituals, and superstitions. Therefore, I would like to discuss about the birthing process of the women in the Vietnamese perspective. From our Asian perspective, unmarried women should never get pregnant because it would bring shame and disgrace ness toward her family.
Even though, this is the 21st century but every culture still have their own belief system same as for this type of typical “rule” for the women. Most likely, Asian girls growing up under very strict parental supervision. They can only engage into a relationship with an opposite sex unless it is considered as an official and serious relationship that has the potential of leading to marriage. Even nowaday, arranged marriage is still existing but not too much. Parents overruled their own children therefore children always follow their parent’s orders under no circumstances. When girls reach to the age of adulthood, they are consider as a pure women therefore they have to be careful with every activities they engage themselves into with an opposite sex. Asian are still very old fashion about believing in women should only engage into sex after marriage.
Prenatal care is still quite lacking in Vietnam even during the 21st century due to the custom beliefs. Pregnant women tend not to take prenatal vitamins or extra supplements because it can harm the fetus from the cultural belief in “lus naturale”. Therefore, most of the women don’t take any special vitamins or supplements before pregnancy. Chinese medicines belief based on Yin and Yang energy forces same as for the Vietnamese culture. The Yin and Yang energy must be balance for a pregnant woman due to imbalance forces can disturb the health for the mother and fetus. There are many restrictions a woman must follow during pregnancy such as types of food and behaviors. Food is selected based on Yin and Yang. Hot foods are not allow or should be restricted because it can cause imbalance which resulting in fetus to not be healthy. Some of examples of hot foods are spicy food, unripe fruits, caffeinated drink, alcohol and more etc.
Same as for cold foods in a variety of ice cream, cold drinks and etc. Acceptable foods should be poultry, fish, pork, vegetables, rice, eggs and ginseng. Most likely those foods need to rich in proteins because it would beneficial for the fetus and the mother healths. During pregnancy, many Asian women consume a variety of herbal soups (tonic soups) because it is very nutritious. These tonic soups take many long hours to cook under a strict supervision. For example such as Silkie (black) chicken soup. Silkie chicken contains many proteins including amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It is not the same breed as the original chicken. The tonic soup always include many ingredients that believe to nourish the body (lungs and blood systems), prevent fatigue, and enhance bone density. Therefore, it is the most recommended for women in their pregnancy or just in general. List of ingredients include Silkie chicken, ginger, red dates, mushrooms, and some certain Chinese herbs.
The soup, itself, will be cook until the chicken is tender enough which take couple hours. The process can be tiresome sometimes but it is very good for the body. Same as for medicine soup in general which is a plain watery soup with a black brown color such as black coffee color. Many varieties of Chinese herbs are being boil in water for hours and hours until the medicine is concentrated in the soup. The instructions will always being provided by the herbal medicine sellers. Asian believes in pregnant women should not be engage into any physical activities because there might be a mishap that can cause miscarriage including moving certain body parts. Pregnant women should not lift their hands above the head level, it might cause premature delivery. Also, sexual activities should not be performing because it might cause deformation in fetus or respiratory troubles even mental illness.
In Asian culture, men aren’t allowed to be present during labor including husband or men relatives. They can only be outside to wait. The belief changed over time. Nowaday, husband can be present during the birthing process. Baby first cry is important because it dedicate as the child has a soul. According to National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) stated the exact time and day of the child is being born need to be noted for later on astrological predictions of future. From my knowledge, we use Chinese or Lunar calendar for the year and day of being born. Including, the child from any age is consider one year older than their actual age. It is a different system to calculate age than the Americans.
According to belief in Yin and Yang harmony, the women should not take bath, shower, drink cold fluids, wash their hair, go outside to windy places and etc. These would last for three months because it can cause the women’s bodies to be weak and prevent any side effect afterward. The process is also called the sitting month. After the baby is being born, they will receive their first bath either with scented water or beer because it would get rid of the blood or those fluid and material that cover the baby. For women, they should always keep their bodies warm such as wear long sleeves clothes, cotton ball cover ear, or body covers in order to prevent air to get into the body. Especially, disruption to the body health state that resulting in weakness or chills. Same as for food consuming, also. Various of warm foods and fluids are acceptable.
Ceremony, Practices, Beliefs
Most of Vietnamese do not have a baby shower but this so called “One Month Ceremony”. It is a family, relatives and friend gathering after the exact one month of the day which the baby is being borned. At the gathering, the child will be given various objects (comb, pen, mirror) on a tray to be pick. The object being pick dedicated the potential meaning of the child’s future. From EthnoMed also stated the same information about this specific ceremony. They also included about the amulets which it is very familiar with every Asian kids. When the kids are young, they always wear a type of strings necklace, bracelet and ect. that consider as an amulet. It prevents spirits, ghost or harms for the child.
Family should never take the baby to anywhere until they are about 6 months old at least. Parents always cover their babies when go outside. Also compliments should not be used but rather than using the opposite meaning of it because Asian believes in the positive compliments attract the negative spirits or ghost toward the newborn. Babies should never be taken outside during specific hours such as noon and after dark hours because it is not good for them. Everyone can be different but has their restrictions with the similar meaning of it.
Courtney from Study Moose
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