DISCLAIMER – everything I write is my own personal experience and my intention is not to offend anyone.
In my last blog post I very briefly mentioned Pakistani taboos, and so I thought it’d be a good follow on and quite interesting to write as well.
I am a first generation British Pakistani; both my parents were born in Pakistan and immigrated to the UK in the 70’s-80. My father was only 10 when he came over and my mum; 13, both immigrants. I really appreciate my roots, the Pakistani culture, the food, the clothes, and the language, I mean it’s a part of who I am and not something that should be forgotten.
In Pakistan or ‘back home’ as it’s often referred to, my family come from a village in the north-east of Pakistan, where my forefathers were farmers owning their own land and a whole load of animals! Midwifery in my village consisted of a lady (untrained) who would deliver all the children of the village, she would most likely be known as the ‘dai’ and they all knew her. I was eager to find out more about midwifery practices back home and so I asked momma bear!
My mum recalls the events leading up to the birth of her younger sister, my aunt.
“I was very young and remember I went with Jia (live in maid, common in Pakistan) to this ladies house, I was told to wait whilst Jia whispered to this lady, this lady then followed us home, everything was really secretive. Jia then went and brought back castor oil, I remember one of the rooms of the house was set up, the coal fire was burning, and the bed was covered in a number of sheets and cotton wool, I had no idea what was going on! I was told to go stand outside, in the veranda where I saw the lady whisper to my grandma. It was really annoying not knowing what was going on. I was then told, that I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone anything about what I had seen, I was so confused. I was then told I was going to stay the night at my dadi’s house (paternal grandmother). When leaving the house, I remember seeing a fire lit outside and the lady stood with what looked like a pair of scissors. I honestly thought someone was going to be killed. The next morning, I went home and the lady was there, holding a baby, she told me she’d brought me a baby sister, I had no idea that my mum had had a baby.”
Personally, I found that all a tad mad! Its way different to what I’m used to here in the UK. My mum went on to tell me how the actual profession of midwifery holds very little importance to those back home. This baffled me and I did not believe her at all.
I do now believe her as I have experienced a great deal of negative vibes towards my choice of degree/career. There’s been occasions my mum has rung me up and told me how so-and-so were basically ridiculing midwifery, claiming I will be, wait for it, just a ‘dai’, and that my parents are pretty much foolish for letting me choose it. I have even had people telling me its rubbish and that I should have studied medicine, LOL.
This struck a few nerves, well more than a few, firstly I was not appreciating the narrow minded thinking that being a ‘dai’ or a midwife is dirty, untrained, and not even a profession. Nor were my parents, I mean come on, it’s not cool. Also, it is me studying and doing the graft and quite frankly, despite being open to different opinions and takes on things, I really can’t deal with this constant ridiculing.
What I don’t understand, help me out here if any of you guys do, but for decades now, in Pakistan, dai’s have been delivering babies, and yes I can understand, it isn’t something everyone will be willing to do, but quite frankly, the dai’s have supported women through childbirth, and personally, biased as I may be, think that it is amazing to have the opportunity to be a part of something so special.
18 months into my training now, and I am no longer phased by negative attitudes towards my choice of career, largely because my parents and family have stuck by my side and pretty much, in the nicest way possible, shut down the negative vibes on more than a handful of times!
BIG UP MOMMA AND POPSI KHALID!
Once I have qualified, I would love to travel to Pakistan and spend time there working as a midwife, and finding out whether the practice of midwifery has changed since my momma’s time. Midwifery itself has been an eye opener but if I want to understand the cultural practices back home, the best way would be to go and experience it myself (any excuse for a bit of sunshine).
The taboo around childbirth in Pakistan is one that will most probably take an age and a half to diminish, the idea of midwifery being seen as a profession will take just as long. There are currently a few organisations that are working to change perceptions, that aim to provide safe skilled care to women during pregnancy and childbirth; this is what I believe is the way forward in changing perceptions.
Just re-reading this post and I understand it may sound like a bit of negative, but I am all for changing perceptions and this particular experience for me has encouraged me to do just that in any way possible. And in my own opinion, I think this is something that needs to be spoken about, some of these taboos are a pain and I cannae deal!
P.S. Once again, thank you for reading, I really appreciate it and would love any feedback, the good, the bad, the ugly, all welcome!
P.S.S. I would love to know any of my readers cultural/traditional/family practices around pregnancy and childbirth, so ask your families, friends, neighbours and let me know, either in the comments section, or the contact me page! I would love to do a post on different practices.