After a wonderful flight by the Himalayan Mountains, passing by Mount Everest, we reach the “roof of the world”, Tibet. The wind was cold and biting! But we had a warm welcome from our guide. She gave us a super smile and a white scarf , called Kata, for good luck.
The Tibetan culture is rich, full of meanings, beliefs, rituals and traditions. Mantras, prayer wheels, prayer around the temples, receiving blessing from monks or lamas, butter tea. It’s a way to stay connected to spiritual life and give continuity of Tibetan culture,
The birth is part of the natural cycle of life. The belief in reincarnation is closely related to this moment. Be born as a human being is a sign of good luck. It is believed that is good that the woman purifies herself and be open to conceive, the kind of baby that the mother will attract depends on her karmic state, so the spirit will be attracted by the energies of the parents. The pregnant woman is at a special moment of her life, with access to higher dimensions, her dreams have special meanings. During labor there are rituals for the delivery is quick and easy. Sometimes the mother eats butter blessed by Lama to facilitate their delivery and provide energy.
The home delivery is common in Tibet, especially in rural areas. But in the local market in Lhasa, I spoke with several women and found that many of them had their babies at home with the help of a more experienced woman. The cost of the hospital is very high for their life standard, they also feel more comfortable at home and traditions are respected. I had the opportunity to interview the mother of our guide and meet her baby girl of four months old. They received with the famous butter tea.
They lived in the rice fields before moving to Lhasa. She had eight children, all born at home, and in seven of them she was alone. She also helped other women during childbirth. She said that more experienced women help each other, but there are no midwives. She said that after the first one she already knew how to do and also they came very fast and easy. She continued to do her chores at home and in the rice fields. When the contractions became stronger she went home and the baby was born. For all babies she was standing with knees bent and leaning way forward. Women wear long skirts. As she was alone at seven birth, she used to raise the front of the skirt and hold the rear. The baby fell on that net. She cut the umbilical cord after the delivery of the placenta, which felt off soon after birth. After delivery, women drink butter tea to soothe and warm the body. Keep the woman warm during labor, birth and postpartum is essential.
They wrap the baby in used clothes from the parents, because is more comfortable. The placenta is buried or thrown into the river. The process of burying the placenta, shows respect for that organ that has nourished the baby inside the womb. It is buried in “white” place, far away where other animals cannot eat. The cord is often kept to protect the baby from evil spirits. The whole neighborhood knows that the baby is born. But the ceremony begins on the third day of life for boy and forth day if it’s a girl.
Many parents take their baby to be blessed and receive the name of the Lama. So he will have a greater connection with the whole during his life on earth.
Unfortunately, the Tibetan culture is getting lost over the years. Tibet is part of Chinese territory. We could see clearly the Chinese repression there, especially Lhasa, where we were. All outdoors are written in Chinese and Tibetan with smaller letters. At school, the language and vocabulary taught is the Chinese. The children only speak Tibetan if parents speak at home. The temples of Lhasa are turning into museum. The new generation is much more fascinated by the temptations of the modern world than in keeping the ancient traditions.
With the birth would be no different. Many of the women in town have their babies in the Chinese hospital. The preference for vaginal delivery is almost general. Our guide had a four months old baby. She had a normal delivery at the hospital. She confessed that was not a very good experience for her. The professionals were not kind and she could not have any companion during labor and delivery. She had her baby in the gynecological position (lying down with legs up). And had her perineum cut by an episiotomy that left her unable to walk straight for a month.
In the reality I have known, Tibetans live in two extremes: cold, mechanized and often traumatic hospital birth, but that brings more security; and traditional birth at home, more cozy, that respects the nature of childbirth and the Tibetan traditions, but that brings its risks for the lack of basic safety precautions and hygiene.
“We can only conclude that there must be something seriously wrong with our progress and development, and if we do not check it in time there could be disastrous consequences for the future of humanity.”
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