As most people wonder when I begin to speak about mother roasting, I imagine you are also wondering, what could mother roasting be? Is it publicly roasting mothers with our words or could it be cooking them in a human sized roasting pan? Fortunately, I can reassure you it is neither, well no quite! Mother Roasting is an ancient form of caring for a mother after birth. As SacredPregnancy.com so beautifully puts it “Mother Roasters are CAREGIVERS that nurture new mothers after BIRTH while supporting their RECOVERY + JOURNEY into motherhood; as EVERY woman deserves to be welcomed into MOTHERHOOD through GENTLE + LOVING + CARE*.
The history of Mother Roasting can be drawn back to nearly every culture around the world and today it is still practiced in many Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin and Indigenous Cultures. All of these cultures recognize the great care a mother needs after birth in order for her to be able to give back to her family. By sealing up the gateways of birth, returning the organs and bones to their normal places, protecting and supporting her back, keeping wind and cold from entering her body, nourishing her with rich, healing, milk-enhancing foods and teas and giving her permission to take care of herself, a mother is able to take the time to heal, integrate motherhood, bond with her baby and seal her story of birth. The different practices vary from culture to culture from sleeping on warm furs beside the hearth to having moxa sticks heat your womb and back, having your belly bound with a bengkung (Malaysia), Haramaki (Japan) or a Faja (latin America) to having your pelvis and womb massaged by a skilled practitioner, but all of these practices are meant to allow the mother to heal, transition and bond with her baby.
Here are two examples of how a mother may be supported if she lives in Malaysia or Thailand:
In Malaysia, The Pantang/exclusion period lasts for 40 days during which the mother’s belly is massaged and bound every day for a minimum of 3 days up to 40. This is done to allow the organs and bones to return to their original places. A week after the birth a stone or metal ball is heated in the fire and then wrapped in a cloth and rolled along the mother’s body. In Malaysian culture, the mother is thought to enter a cold phase after birth, thus she eats only foods that will heat her up and her body is warmed with massage and wrapped to restore her to her normal temperature.
In Thailand, during the pregnancy, the father will collect special smokeless firewood. After the birth the father will create a fire for his wife to sit near or he may place a special bed over the fire. The fire keeps her body warm while the smoke purifies her and keeps evil spirits away. The Thai recognize that after birth the mother is weak and exhausted and her uterus is still filled with harmful fluids, therefore they warm up her body to help recover her energy and to push out the fluids. Her body is not only warmed by the fire but also with hot water that she bathes in and drinks and basic warm foods and traditional medicines that she eats.
In the West, I often see mothers who feel the pressure to be continuously productive and bounce right back from birth like nothing ever happened. I have heard many say that it is their jobs as mothers to serve and there is no time for self-care. I think this is one of the greatest misfortunes of our Western perspective, how are we to raise our children to our greatest ability and their greatest success if we are not giving back to ourselves. One of my wishes for all mothers is the opportunity to honour the babymoon and the transition they have gone through, to ask for and receive the support they need from family, friends and community and to take time for themselves. I know 40 days may sound like a long time but even a week or a few hours a day to enter into a sanctuary with your baby and take time to relax, nurture, heal and honour can make the greatest difference in a mother’s life, her baby’s and her whole family’s.
Priya, Jacqueline Vincent. Birth Traditions and Modern Pregnancy Care. 1992. Element books ltd. Longmead, Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK. Pg. 108-116.
Johnson, Deborah. With Child: Wisdom and Traditions for pregnancy, birth and motherhood. 1999. Chronicle Books. USA. Pg. 70-73.
Body Shop Team, Mamatoto. 1991. Virago Press ltd. London, UK. Pg. 120-129.
Originally published in Birthing Magazine Spring 2015
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