25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

The Ritual of Having a Baby


Y
ou would think having a baby is having a baby and that wouldn't change. Today you have your doctor checking on the progress of the baby's development and when the birth pains strike, you are taken to the clinic or hospital. If there are complications, surgery is performed and two days later, the mother and child are allowed to return home. And that was it.

Twenty five years ago the pregnant woman visited a "sobandera" (a woman who would massage the mom always trying to have the baby in the proper place and position. At the time of childbirth, it was the same "sobandera" who came over to one's house to assist her in having the baby. Once the baby was born, the navel would be cured with special ointments prepared by the "sobandera."

The mother would then receive very special attention. Her head would be wrapped with a cloth and she would look like a Hindu woman with a turban. The windows in her room would be all locked so that no breeze or wind would touch the mother because that was bad for her health. In other words, for 9 days the new mother would be locked in a room, her head tied and only caring for her baby- no working, no laundry, no visiting and accepting few visitors only.

Why accept few visitors? People with a strong eye could cause a serious infection to the child, whose healing navel would swell and he/she would start vomiting and having terrible diarrhea. Similarly, a woman who was menstruating could cause the newborn to have similar reactions, so visiting was restricted to a few relatives and very close friends. If a female friend was menstruating, she would not visit until the end, of that period.

Now while mom was locked up for 9 days, she was receiving special food and beverages. The most special beverage was called "atole", a mixture of water, ground cooked corn, sugar and milk.

This beverage was thought of as stimulating the mammary glands and help the mother to produce a lot of breast milk for her breast-feeding program, which extended anything from 6 months to one year. Fish, yes plenty of fish in her diet. Beans, no, very little beans as this produces gases or air that would be passed to the-body.

At the end of 9 days, the mother could then leave the room or the house. But before this she required a special bath consisting of some fresh water placed into the sun and several lime leaves added to the water for a special scent. After that she would leave the confines of her house to resume normal life- meaning normal work. But even during those first few days, she would probably add a little extra covering with a sweater and the baby would be well wrapped for any visits on the street, thus making the end of a ritual 25 years ago.

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