Let me begin by saying, “He’s here!” Also, he’s been here for two weeks now. Welcome to Mongolia, little dude!
I may write a post specifically about Z’s birth story in the future, but for now, we thought it might be neat to include some Mongolian traditions surrounding pregnancy and postpartum that we have gleaned over the last nine months. As a reminder to Western readers, cultural differences are not “weird”–they are just different. We seem weird to our Mongolian friends, but we’re just different too. 🙂
For starters, I’ve already shocked many of our Mongolian connections by leaving the apartment “too early”. New moms and babies usually stay home for 30 days or longer and visitors stay away for that amount of time as well. This is primarily for mom and baby’s health as newborns’ immune systems are still developing. When you live in a place where a wider variety of diseases is still common, it’s a pretty good idea to do what you can to prevent those from affecting your kid. Although we have gone out, we have been choosy about our destinations and the duration of time spent outside.
Something that we’ve noticed in general about Mongolians is that they by and large prefer to be warm or hot than to feel cool. This translates over to new moms who prefer to wear several layers–more than I’m comfortable wearing as my hormones have been triggering what I can only describe as hot flashes–and babies are kept warmly swaddled as well. If you’ve ever watched the documentary Babies, you will have seen the heavy-duty traditional swaddling on the Mongolian subject. (see image) Z was well-swaddled in the hospital (although not to the same extent as the kid in the picture) and has preferred swaddling at home.
There are Mongolian food preferences following childbirth that I discovered while in the hospital. New moms typically eat mutton soup following birth to regain their strength, and this soup kept popping up at hospital meals and between meal times for snacks. Seeing as mutton disagreed with my stomach throughout pregnancy, I was concerned that I would still have a negative reaction to it, but it was some of the most delicious soup that I’ve ever eaten. One of my Mongolian friends who attended the birth, stayed with us the first night, and helped the baby and me get a good breastfeeding latch made sure that I kept eating throughout the day and night, emphasizing foods with higher fat contents–yogurt (~3.2%) and cream pastries, for example–to help boost my milk supply. I’ve kept up a decent snacking schedule since coming home from the hospital, and it’s definitely helped Z keep on track with weight gain.
Our first evening in the hospital, several of our colleagues visited us to see the baby and congratulate us, and this is where we learned about the fox (hence the post title). Apparently, hanging a felt fox or the image of a fox over a baby’s crib is very common in Mongolia. The idea is that the fox keeps the baby company while the baby sleeps and helps prevent bad dreams. Some of my 12th grade students gifted us a felted mobile of a ger with a string of animals below it. The animals are all typical livestock, except for the last animal which is a fox. We didn’t really think much of its inclusion when we received the gift, but now we understand!
There are more things that I could probably include in this post, but a) it’s getting long and b) this is all that stuck out in my sleep-deprived mind for now. So here we are in Mongolia, new parents, and about to set out on the next season of experiences!
More to come,