I saw Mama Lao today. In case you missed hearing about her, you can see Be Nice. for reference. She saw me and immediately said (in Lao): my foreign daughter! I’m so glad to have you back! I’ve picked up the word for foreign: it’s pronounced like falong. So I always know when people are talking about me. Which seems to happen quite often around here.
I’m a little late on a Mother’s Day post. Things move a lot slower in Laos, so according to our standards, I’m probably right on time for Mother’s Day. Plus, they don’t really celebrate that holiday here, or atleast not at the same time as we do.
It just so happened, though, that my Monday lesson was about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and introducing children to new foods. Did I mention that I was teaching this lesson to a room full of Lao ladies who have almost all been through this process? Did I also mention that I have never been through any of these processes? I think that should go without saying, but still. Book knowledge vs. real life experience never compares.
And, as with everything else, they had quite a bit to teach me. Our sessions are really informal, with me introducing topics and then asking them questions about it. Then, inevitably, they’ll ask me questions about America and the way we do things. It’s a learning experience from both sides. Which I love.
They asked me about water births. That’s something that is so foreign to them, so they wanted to know how it works, if it’s beneficial, etc. I know a little about the subject, so I was able to share with them what I knew.
Then, they said: do you do mother roasting in America?
That’s the literal translation of it. Mother roasting.
I had read about it before, so I wasn’t unfamilar with the process or terminology. But, I’d read about it in the context of villagers in Cambodia. So, to be in a roomful of doctors who had experienced this surprised me.
Mother roasting starts right after child birth. They keep the new mother in a room, with coals under her bed and keep the temperature extremely hot. It’s supposed to be a cleansing process for her body. In some cases, the mother is also required to squat over hot coals as well, for cleansing purposes. And, they insist that every new mother take a scalding shower a few days after childbirth with water as hot as they can get it.
The time for mother roasting varies from woman to woman. It’s essentially a time of confinement for the woman, where she stays in the house, alternating between time on the hot bed. Relatives will come visit and the woman does not cook at all during this time. A lot of them see it as a treat. It’s almost a welcome to motherhood.
Most of the doctors said they had done it only for about two weeks after birth. Other mothers had their roast for 1 to even 3 months. It’s been 111 degrees here for a few days, so I can’t imagine being trapped in a hot room on top of the already unbearable heat. But, it’s a very culturally accepted and necessary practice.
So, I’ve decided that I’ll wear the Lao skirt, I’ll eat the Lao noodles, but I don’t think mother roasting is a practice I’ll adopt. Once a falong, always a falong.