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Cross-Cultural Issues

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See also:

Subsections on this page:

  • Hispanic Birth Culture
  • Born in Zion
  • Miscellaneous



  • NOTE - The comments here may be gross generalizations about a small segment of society encountered by a particular midwife serving a particular subculture.  The information is intended to be helpful to other midwives serving similar communities, rather than an anthropological discourse on the culture.



    Hispanic Birth Culture



    I work in a community quickly becoming known as little Mexico, because of the large number of immigrant Mexicans arriving for work here. It has been extremely interesting, challenging, and frustrating at the same time. These women often have a quiet humbleness that is intriguing and beautiful. I would like to hear from others who work in cross cultural communities. I am white and sometimes feel that, until they come to know me, I am viewed with suspicion for all that white culture represents.

    Almost all of these women use my service because it is so much cheaper than a hospital birth. They are honest about that. I will break down my request below in three categories:

    Challenging:

    Frustrating:

    I have been working hard to establish a solid relationship with a local OB and this has made my life much easier.

    This culture is totally different. Very Macho men and extremely passive women who are subject to many kinds of abuse. I am currently working on a way to bring these women together so they are not so isolated. I am going to hold a food day so we can eat Mexican food and chat.

    Intriguing:


    About not breastfeeding:

    I have tried to deal with this in lots of creative ways and lots of education but to no avail. WIC makes it too easy NOT to breastfeed. Unfortunately these kids need breastmilk more than most.
    Are these mexican women Catholic ?

    If so, it may be possible to reach them on religious/cultural level -- I.E.. the Madonna nursed Jesus.. and there are religious cards with a prayer to Madonna con Leche (I think); Haven't seen the cards but they are a specific request and assurance for plentiful milk. I can try to locate them (I'm certain I can find the prayer). I'm wondering if a gift of a prayer card sometime in pregnancy would sort of "set them up" for the expectation that they WILL have lots of milk and the baby will be happy with them....

    Might help as an adjunct to other resources encouraging breastfeeding for the sake of baby's health)

    But I'll bet what would help the most would be to visit one of the local folk-healers and see if you can get him/her on your side about breast feeding.....


    Comments about the Stereotypes Contained Above

    Re "Hispanic Birth"  With all due respect let me say that  this label is absurd and that there is no such thing as this..you have to delve into the background of the women which with you are working to understand the traditions amongst this particular group..the bio you supplied of this group of women tells me that they are indigenous from Mexico which would account for particular customs....what is their socioeconomic background....that bio that you include here about not breast feeding for more than two weeks certainly IS NOT representative of the traditions and customs of Mexico...maybe that is true for her or for this group but certainly NOT for "people from Mexico"....In Mexico that are many traces of races...there is also a white minority of Mexicans of which I am one of "those"  Your comment as to you are white need not be said..it is more like that you are not of the same as they are...your feelings re "macho" are certainly understandably but you are stereotyping all men of Mexican background which I find offensive...tell me that men here are not?  Is it that the word macho and mexican are synonyms?  I think not.  As to your religious comments re the Madonna, if you again were to delve into the Catholic Christian prayers...the Blessed Mother did as any other Middle Eastern or Judaic woman of her time and socioeconomic background would have done...breastfeed!!  Please don't stereotype...it's offensive...do research and use common sense and intelligence....Thank you for your time....

    P.S.  Do yourself a favor and research birthing practices among indigenous groups in Mexico...if you don't know there is a middle class and upper middle class and wealthy which do represent Mexico...though people might not think so.....gracias


    Colombia - Feet on Placenta

    Anyone ever heard of a mom needing to place her feet on the placenta? Had a mom last night from columbia, who said she learned this in the panamanian rain forest. That it warms you and keeps you from getting sick.  She wondered if that would be ok. I said yeah as long as I didn't have to do it as well. (which got the expected laugh).


    Asking About Religion or Cultural Values



    Usually all you have to do is ask: something like, "While giving you and your family care it is very important to me to understand your religious beliefs and values. would you be able to give me some guidelines please?"


    In my intake form, I have a question: "Do you have any special cultural traditions or values about birth, or is there anything you would like me to know about your religion or culture that would help me to provide better care for you and your family?"



    Born in Zion



    I have some sweet new clients whose previous midwife was a Born In Zion midwife.  They were surprised to find that I did not subscribe to the same beliefs.  They also seem very open-minded, and are sincerely wondering about the Born in Zion philosophy.  From a Christian perspective, what would you tell these people?  They are particularly interested in the "authority" of the father, and his ability to "control" the labor and outcome of the birth.  (Her words).  I am certainly not an expert in this subject -- have read excerpts from the book.  Any advice, words of wisdom that I can give these people?


     I would first assure them that midwives are biblical. Even Jacob, father of the Israelites didn't have a problem with  hiring a midwife and knew his limitations! Then I would agree with them that the father has authority over his family and has a crucial role as protector.  You see where I'm going with this.  The best thing he can do as provider for his wife, is to provide her with a competent midwife!  He is still maintaining his authority while he delegates the job of midwifery to a midwife.

     I consider this relevant to a secular list because all midwives need to know how best to interact with people of various faiths.


     In the words of another post here recently, balance is SO important.  Perhaps you could encourage the father that as "head of his house", he is commanded to be like Christ and His role with the church.  First is the element of laying down his life, that is, making sacrificial effort to serve his family, particularly, his wife.  Secondly, he is to cherish his wife, even as his own body.  What this means is that he must treat her with the utmost understanding and respect.  Thirdly, as head of the household, his intercession on behalf of them is the best thing he can do to deal with the outcome of labor.  But then, he must remember that God is his head.  He must yield himself AND HIS EXPECTATIONS to God's ultimate plan for this birth.  Romans 8:28 says that "all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose."

     Maybe by approaching it this way, he will see what his role is and WHAT IT IS NOT!
     These sort of folks need to understand the WHOLE context of Scripture.  God is not a male chauvinist!


    One more little tidbit which is significant regarding BiZ philosophy. I had to study the Exodus passage about midwives for school.  Exodus 1:17 says "But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded, but saved the men children alive."
     In Hebrew, the original language of the verse, the words "saved...alive" are one word, chayah. In my Hebrew Dictionary, this word means the following: to live, to cause to live, i.e., to revive; to keep alive, to preserve, to restore, to revive.
     BiZ teaches that any intervention in the process is wrong- defying God. But here in Scripture are godly midwives not only letting babies live, but restoring and reviving babies.  And the Scripture continues that God blessed the midwives, so this must not be a defiant act.


    Okay, this is going to be tough - I really don't want to offend anyone... so please bear with me if you have a different idea.  What I read in this book is that G-d has created the birth process to be good, but that Satan will wreak havoc in the process in a form of spiritual warfare.  "Problems" in labor and birth are tests of faith and demand a prayer response rather than any kind of medical response.  The husband and "midwife" are particularly responsible for being prayer warriors during labor, keeping the forces of evil at bay.  If faith is strong, labor and birth will be okay.  No equipment or medications are needed.  The author (and I apologize, I loaned out the book and can't remember her name - Cynthia??) claims that all has gone well eventually in hundreds and hundreds of births - also claims that no women giving birth this way have EVER had a perineal tear. (!!)

     So my clients read this and go "WOW - this midwife is really something.  No bad outcomes, no tears!" and wonder why I'm talking about potential problems, working out a back-up transport system, etc.  Don't I have faith? Do MY clients tear?  Why do I need to bring anything more than a strong faith in G-d and a willingness to battle the Enemy?  It's almost impossible to answer these questions without sounding like a low-class believer.  So I was wondering if anyone has ideas on how to deal with this subject with clients...

     In my practice that the couple most believing in this kind of birth and in which the husband was the most vocal, assertive pray-er I've ever come across is also the ONLY client I've ever had to transfer to the hospital for stalled labor in 2 years....


     I don't know that it is so hard to deal  with these kind of patients.  I personally discuss the fact that we all live under authority of the lord and that we are given special blessings and talents from the lord.  I tell patients that I feel that my role is to communicate gods word to them as I am their conduit in this department.  It usually does well.


     That is allot of responsibility!  I believe we are all conduits to the divine, but I would not have my couples' hanging on my every word as it be God's word.  I am only human. I can make mistakes, and I never really know exactly was He has in mind. Just try to be open.


    I have heard the author of that book speak, and she scares the ---- out of me! Her name is Carol, last name something like Balizet, or Bazilet??  She is a proponent of unattended birth:  just the mom, dad, and God.  If there is a person acting as a midwife, she is there just to help pray and to do nothing to intervene.  The process of labor is related entirely to the relationship between God and someone else.  The baby  may get stuck if the Dad isn't right with God.  The labor  may be slow if the mom is not right with God.  There can even be problems if the mother-in-law is not right with God.  The poor mom is going to suffer if any one in the family is not right with God.  The midwife must not intervene because only God can make things work out, and He will only do that if the "sinner" repents enough.  The placenta may abrupt (for example) if there is a children's book in the house with a picture of a rainbow because that is one of the secret signs of the devil.  If labor is not going well or the baby is in distress, everyone must look all over the house for the hidden devil signs, and all must repent for unknown sins so God will relent and let the baby pass.
      It is absolutely unbelievable.


     The author is Carol Balizet. I've read the book as I have many friends and clients who have also read it and have had "holy midwives" (as they call them here) come and have chosen to not use me because I bring equipment.

     I've been asked many times about what I think about this philosophy.  I tell them I disagree with the theology behind the book.  The theology comes from the "name it and claim it" doctrine.  I do not hold with that.  I also believe that if all "bad outcomes" were the cause of Satan, then the blind man that Jesus healed would not have been blind so that the glory of God could be revealed.  And Jesus would have healed Lazarus before he died (surely his sisters thought his dying was a "bad outcome!")  Often this is enough to open some people's eyes, as they also do not believe in the "name it and claim it" doctrine but were just so caught up in wanting to have this wonderful, sacred birth that they didn't see the doctrinal stance behind the book.  I state that God could have chosen to keep medical knowledge from us and just because we use equipment doesn't mean we aren't acknowledging His sovereignty.  I tell them I would never go to a birth without my faith, that it is an integral, essential part of my birth equipment.  I do pray and ask for guidance from the Father, Son and Spirit.  I believe God has answered those prayers several times and I bless His Name for it.  However, I bless His Name for hard, difficult labors, too, as we don't know what His plan is and only know He wants the best for us.  As for using the equipment I have handy to help someone out, the Bible says don't withhold good from your neighbor while it is in your power to give it.

     My midwife has listened to Carol at a seminar. According to her, (realizing this is 2nd hand)  during the seminar she was asked if she saw a child drowning and had a life preserver handy, would she throw the life preserver and pray, or only pray.  She said she didn't know for sure, but would probably just pray.  That blows my mind!  This midwife also talked to someone who used to work with Carol and says those statistics aren't accurate.


     Thank you for this...good to be enlightened on the subject of Ms. Balizet.  I haven't read the book, but from just what has been said here, this is a fear based theology....and reducing fear at birth through love, has always been the basis of my practice.  Someone told me once that fear and love cannot hold the same space...I am amazed she gets good outcomes at all.


     Yes. I listen respectfully, but I also bring out the biblical precedent of the midwives in Exodus, and the midwife who told Rachel that she was birthing a son (probably a breech baby). I also suggest that they read some other Christian books on childbirth like the Sears' books, Helen Wessel's book, etc. You might also want to contact Kathy Nesper at Apple Tree Family Ministries ( atfm@aol.com ) for more info on Zion birthing from a Christian Childbirth Education organization. I will tell you that the Zion Birthing movement and the Ezzo parenting program are the two childbirth related programs that have divided families and churches over some of these issues!


     My curiosity and recent tragic experience (at a distance)  with a couple who refused any help at a birth led me to do a web search......found the following web site

     Home in Zion Ministries, home page for Carol B http: has some interesting insight into this concept.....links to other sites easy to find on yahoo.


    We have many small sects here who reject medical care because of  their  narrow reading of scripture. There is talk of making new state  laws after a series of child deaths from easily treated illnesses  where the parents refused medicine..... One child died of a UTI!

    Yet the Bible clearly states that we ARE supposed to seek medical care and that medicine is one of God's gifts to us. Sometimes it might help to show these verses.....

    vr 1. Hold the physician in honor, for he is essential to you, and God it was who established his profession.
    2; From God the doctor has his wisdom....
    4; God makes the earth yield healing herbs which the prudent man should not neglect;..
    6; He endows men with the knowledge to glory in his mighty works,
    7; Through which the doctor eases pain and the druggist prepares his medicines.
    8: thus God's creative work continues without cease in its efficacy on the surface of the earth.
    9; My son, when you are ill, delay not but pray to God who will heal you;...
    12 then give the doctor his place lest he leave; for you need him too.
    13; there are times that give him and advantage, and he too beseeches God that his diagnosis may be correct and his treatment bring about a cure.
    15: He  who is a sinner toward his Maker will be defiant toward the doctor.

    Eccliasticus (Sirach) chapter 38.

    Those who preach that medicine is evil are preaching doctrine which  is contrary to the Bible.

    [NOTE - A reader sent me feedback that there is no such chapter in the standard Christian bible.]

    [Another reader sent me feedback that Sirach is in the Catholic bible.  The Protestants eliminated certain books of the bible during the reformation.  So it depends on whether or not someone is referring to the Catholic “Christian” bible or the Protestant “Christian” bible!]



    Miscellaneous




    The National Center for Cultural Competence offers an excellent Resources list, along with a self assessment - Cultural Competence Health Practitioner Assessment



    In Hindu culture we have a 30 day seclusion
    where mom and baby stay indoors and no one comes to visit unless they are immediate family such as mother in law or sister of the woman.  At the end of the 30 days the baby is shown the sun and then the moon.  Then people are invited over to hold the baby and shower it with gifts and blessings. I really enjoyed the seclusion although I did take her to dad's for Christmas, and to the ped's office, and for walks around the neighborhood in the sling.

    During the 30 day seclusion, incidentally, the shrine room door is closed and the images are covered with white cloth.  It is believed that the baby's soul is not yet very attached to the body and it could be tempted back to the devaloka (heavenly world) if brought into the shrine room or a temple.


    Lana Asprey, a Swedish M.D., explains the differences in how expecting, pregnancy, and delivery are viewed in Sweden versus how they're viewed in the United States.


    The Japanese wait 1 month after birth to bathe again.


    Birth In The Tradition - Within this site you will discover the herstory of midwifery and childbirth trends in the south and throughout the African Diaspora.


    BIRTH: IN WHOSE HANDS? By Ambica Gulati about homebirth in India.


    I'll hope to add more resources as birth communities throughout the world come online.

    If you have a suggestion for this web page, please send me suggestions for new links!  Thank you!

     




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