Thursday, September 11, 2014

Old wive's tales (or what not to do during pregnancy).

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rousculp
I just had a baby. I just had my third child - all of whom were gestated and birthed in the Dominican Republic. You might think that I'd be used to everything that pregnancy entails. I'm not.

I worried about my blood pressure. Okay, I obsessed about my blood pressure. Some of that was physiological - I am overweight, a little over-stressed and (was) pregnant; but, mostly, I worried that there would be one comment, one sly little remark about how I was doing it all wrong that would throw me into a pre-eclamptic fit and I'd have to be rushed to the emergency room.

My doctor is amazing, though, and he assured me that my blood pressure was fine, that no, I was not diabetic and no, I was not going to be rushed to the ER because of someone's snark. (If you're in Santiago, I highly recommend Dr. Enrique Herrera for all of your gynecological needs. He's kind of dry and more than a bit weird, but he's dedicated and knowledgeable and just a good doctor. He also speaks enough English to consult, but not enough to fall into the "well, he's a good doctor because he speaks English category. He has an office in HOMS and one in Corominas). 

Pregnancy is a funny thing here in the DR. It is a rite of passage - a woman who does not want children is viewed as strange, and woman who cannot have children is pitied. It is an illness - pregnant women are supposed to adhere to a list of rules and regulations to guarantee a healthy baby that are archaic and often cruel. It is also empowering.

I did not know that I was pregnant until I was pretty far along - 12 weeks - and because of that, I was able to avoid some of the taboos. It was also because of that that some of my female friends were angry with me - they thought that I had purposely kept the information to myself for my first trimester to keep them out of the happiness loop. See, babies are a blessing and from day one of a missed period, people share their good news. The fact that I hadn't shared meant I was being stingy with the good stuff.

I was a *little* insane at the end of my pregnancy. I convinced
my brother to DRIVE with me and the kids from Chicago to
Philadelphia. That's 14 hours, folks. At seven.point.five
months pregnant. Here is a picture of me, the belly and
my amazing brother at the Bean. I broke *all* of the rules
on that trip - we must have walked one million miles.
I did, in fact, hold off a few weeks to tell people that I was pregnant because I was in shock. I also really wanted to go to the beach without the commentary. Like I said, there is a list of rules and regulations for pregnant women, and going to the beach is off-limits. The waves and the water and movement of the ocean will apparently cause miscarriage almost all of the time. All of those crazy gringoes at the beach on their baby moons are in for a terrible shock when they return to their homes.

Some of these rules and regulations are based on actual good advice, but they've been so that there is no real meaning left to them. Eating plantains is on the list of no-nos which is strange since plantains are a staple in the Dominican diet; however, plantains can cause constipation which is not something that you want to exacerbate during pregnancy. The rule makes sense, but when someone is yelling at you to stop eating plantains because OMG YOU'RE GOING TO HURT THE FETUS is just obnoxious and makes me want to eat more plantains.

I also teach (have taught?) pre-natal education classes - and while I really love doing that, sometimes I get so frustrated that I think my head might explode. There are DOCTORS telling (healthy, pregnant) women to refrain from normal, everyday activity because... well, I don't really know why.
I also went to the beach at about six months pregnant. I even
went in the water. No pictures of me in a bathing suit, but
these two cuties can make up for that.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of some of things I was told during my pregnancy.
*I'm marking with a star the things that are also old wive's tales that I've heard from North Americans as well. 
** A double star for things are based in fact

- You cannot swim in the ocean because the movement of the ocean can cause miscarriage.
- You cannot squat down (aplastarse in good Dominican-spanish) because the baby might fall out.
- You also should not bend over.
- You cannot exercise (aerobics or lifting) because it can harm baby

- You must not go out on "chilly" nights
- You must not carry anything over 2 pounds. **
- Foods to avoid: bananas and guanabana (soursop), will give (in-utero) baby "mucous" in lungs; plantains (cause constipation); fruits in general (will give mom  gestational diabetes); soda (will cause kidney problems** but coffee is okay)
- You need to give a pregnant woman all of her cravings or baby will be born with birthmark resembling said craving *
- Baby bellies are shaped differently depending on the sex of the baby *

It is interesting to note that in the United States, one of the beliefs for inducing labor is to go for a bumpy car ride. Here, it is not abnormal to see pregnant women on the backs of motorbikes until the very end of pregnancy (and motorbike rides are almost always bumpy!).

There are many, many benefits to being pregnant in the Dominican Republic (another post), but it's not for the faint of heart or the fast-tongued. It took me three pregnancies to learn to ignore snide comments on the street - and now, with a newborn I have to listen to a whole different stream of consciousness-baby-raising-advice.

What old wive's tales have you heard for pregnancy?


Miss Lifesaver said...

This is fascinating to me. I haven't heard the one about bellies or bumpy car rides. Bumpy sex, perhaps, but not car rides! ;)

Miss Lifesaver said...

Also? Your blog FINALLY let me comment! Wahoo!

Anonymous said...

Ha---Being 3 months out of having #5 I find joy in this post not because of people being snarky but in the fact that no matter where you are advise is often unsolicited and expected to be followed. Here....Your super sick its a girl...Your carrying low its a boy....You gained more its a boy...Caster oil will induce labor as well as pizza hut, spicy food, and some others....I think the big thing that gets me is people (if you know them or not) feel a need to touch your belly. ACK! It annoys me. Also its tabo to announce your pregnant before 10 weeks (I say the earlier the better, for prayer coverage and to understand sickness). Anyway I can rant with you. I love this post!

Emily Sutton said...

I've had a much different pregnancy experience in the US than I had in the DR. I was fortunate that my husband's family had a level of American cultural competence that they pretty much kept their comments between them (although I'm certain many were shared amongst them about their crazy and irresponsible gringa sister-in-law). The hardest part for me was post partum when my in laws insisted my baby was starving within a couple hours of birth and couldn't believe I'd refuse my baby a bottle to encourage her latching. It was hard to be the only one in the room who wanted to be dedicated to breast feeding. Thank God for breast pumps because when my milk finally dropped they chilled out and supported my breast feeding much more!