I was one of the invited guests during the Majlis Bersiram Ceremony at Istana Nurul Iman for HRH Pengiran Isteri Azrinaz for giving birth to HRH Pengiran Muda Abdul Wakeel (click on the links for photos). It was quite painful to go through the ceremony because we had to sit for about two hours on the floor cross legged and not move about. One can only fidget and do nothing else, but those two hours gave us plenty of time to think. One is how great it would be if there was a broadband connection in the palace and secondly what topic I should be writing today (what else, about pregnancy lah).
So today's topic is about pregnancy, and don't get me wrong - I am not going to blog about the birds and the bees or the whole process of it but rather the 'pantang larang' or 'don'ts' or what can be termed as superstitions that abound whenever Bruneian Malay ladies get in the family way. I have talked to a few people and managed to get a fairly long list of pantangs or rather the 'don'ts' that ladies are advised. I have analysed the list of 'don'ts' and came up with about two major categories of pantangs to be followed during pregnancy and another set for post natal.
The first category of ante-natal pantangs or 'don'ts' are basically about not doing something to avoid difficulties in the actual deliveries during birth. The 'don'ts' include - don't sit at the doorway, don't sit on the ground, don't sit too long and don't sit at the steps or stairs and a related one - don't give out things through the window. The first four suggest that by doing all those, ladies will have problem giving birth and the last one, you can guess, small opening and hence difficult delivery. Another 'don't' related to this is for ladies, after taking a bath or a shower, is not to wound the towel round the head or hair. This may cause the umbilical cord to wound round the baby as well.
The second category of 'don'ts'are basically about not doing anything to avoid harming the baby inside the womb. The 'don'ts' include don't cut crabs legs when cleaning them, don't laugh at monkeys or anything or anybody, don't clean fish, don't kill insects etc. All these supposedly are to help maintain your baby's appearance. Another 'don't' is don't drink from chipped glass or cups. A more recent 'don't' include don't do any sewing during pregnancy. Some babies are born with birthmarks on their hands and it is said that was because during pregnancy the mother took food directly from the pots into her plate. Some babies tended to drool a lot and this has been attributed to the mother not fulfilling some of her cravings (mengidam) during pregnancy.
Say you have managed to deliver and avoid any of the above - there are still one pantangs or things that you must follow during the post natal. The first is my favourite - you must tie a ribbon at your big toe. I guess this is so that you can avoid hitting anything but I have been told that this is to help the afterbirth blood to stop faster. The second is not to eat 'cold' food and this include not eating things like cucumber which are considered cold food. Another is to avoid eating sour food as this might make you conceive another baby faster.
The more I asked people, the more pantangs I get. Some of them to me does not make sense, some are based on practicalities but somehow or rather the 'don'ts' get passed down but the reasons behind it did not survive the intergenerational trip. But I am sure the ladies out there can share more of these 'pantangs' with us.