Could this be the extinction of traditional postpartum practices?

May peace be upon you today and everyday!

Last week was interesting, my article on cultural appropriation was shared widely, lots of discussions were made and lots of amazing women signed up to my FB group :) 

This week my husband's sister (my sister in law) came to stay with us. She was living in Lebanon as a refugee from Syria and has come to join us in Dubai.

My husband and his family are Bedouin Syrians, they are 100% pure Arabs from the Al Nuaimi tribe (DNA test confirmed this). The tribe extends to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and also some neighbouring countries.

My husband tells me about the days he lived in a tent and that it was the best life he had. Peaceful, relaxing, stress-free and enjoyable.

His mother gave birth to all her 7 children in the desert. My sister in law told me that after the birth, baby is washed, mom is washed from the waist down only, belly is wrapped and she lays down to rest for about a week. Her only job is to rest and feed her baby. 

I purchased a photographic book on Syrian Bedouins where the Japanese photographer spent 17 years visiting the same family and photographing them. She mentions that she witnessed a woman called Sarah give birth, Sarah got to rest for 6 days without getting up from bed unless necessary... all she had to do was feed her baby. 

I am so privileged to get insight into the bedouin life which has been extremely different to my life.

The Bedouins live a very simple life.

Food is simple.

Clothing is simple. My sister in law came to live in the UAE and all she brought with her was a tiny carry on suitcase (not the standard size, a mini one) and that contained ALL her belongings!!!

Can you imagine that? 

Just from my return trip from the UK, I had 7 large suitcases, If I were to move abroad I would need a container...

Anyways since the Bedouins live a simple life, their postpartum food and healing is also simple. 

In Morocco, we use lots of different herbs and spices, but of course they are not available in the desert, so they use what is available to them. 

My sister in law told me that after her birth, her mother fed her cooked liver, home made Saj (Arabic) bread with samen (clarified butter)and sugar, tea and rice soup. No water, unless warm, preferably teas. However, when she gave birth to her two other children and did not have her mother with her, no one nourished and nurtured her...she had to get back to the daily life and work, carrying heavy things and manual labour, which caused her to have problems with her uterus.

Postpartum rest is very important and is not a privilege, it is a necessity.  

The sad part is that after the war in Syria everyone is displaced and they had to leave their tents, homes, country and culture.

Their postpartum traditions are also dying and disappearing.

With displacement and modernisation, traditional midwifery and healing may soon be extinct. Fewer and fewer traditional midwives are available, more women want to give birth in hospitals (as that is being taught as the safer option)and natural remedies and beauty practices are replaced with skin whitening creams and extremely blonde/yellow/orange hair dye!

Isn't it interesting?

We have women with rich traditional practices that are still alive, but they want to leave those behind to become more modern, more Western, white, blonde...

Then on the other hand we have women from the West who may not know full details of their traditional practices, which probably disappeared due to modernisation, and now on the search to learn more about other traditional practices.

Of course there is nothing wrong with the women wanting to be more Western looking if that is what they like, but my point is that the media portrays that being white and blonde is more beautiful and they are quick to jump on that bandwagon.

Yesterday my sister in law offered me a box of her whitening cream and she told me that it will make my face white!!!

I looked at her in shock and amusement because I am white, haha. I mean I am Moroccan, but from the North, so we do have a lot of people who are white and have honey-blonde colored hair. Some people also have green eyes. 

In Morocco the same is happening. 

The elder traditional midwives (Qablas) are getting older. 

The younger generation are not interested to keep this knowledge and work in this field because it brings little-to-no pay and they have to work at all hours supporting women to the detriment of themselves and their families. 

I am on a mission to reclaim, revive and restore my Moroccan postpartum culture because it is absolutely amazing. 

How can we work together to keep these traditions alive?

The Nafsa (postpartum woman) was treated like a goddess, like a new bride, with lots of nurturing, nourishment, celebrations and festivities. 

I want to keep it alive in Morocco and bring it to the world, InchaAllah (God Willing). 


Join our FB group and share: Traditional Postpartum Doulas

With much peace, love & kindness,

Layla B.