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    A Child is Born- Germaine Greer Sept
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    This essay provides information about differences in matters of pregnancy and child birth, parent-child relationship, child rearing and the use of modern technology in traditional, agricultural societies and in affluent Western societies. Written in 1984, this essay begins by talking about pregnancy.

    A traditional woman has accepted certain practices that have come from the past. These practices are different but are accepted by all, and they also free the pregnant women from t he mental burden of finding out new ways. Practices like taboos and prohibitions, which are often superstitious, help woman to lower her anxiety although there is a possible danger in child birth. She knows of the various child-birth related problems that have happened in her society, but she goes about her life observing the taboos and prohibitions, which will help her with the unseen problems of the future. Some of these practices are magical but some are unusual and insensible, but they play a role in a woman's pregnancy. She also has her husband, family and members of the community who provide vital support as and when required. She is emboldened to get through with childbirth. A western woman, on the other hand, may also have her own set of communal practices but their uses are less. Their uses could come in controversy with modern practices as it happened with one of the students of the writer who had taken training for unmedicated childbirth which resulted in the hospital's nurses non-cooperation with breastfeeding, and this ultimately resulted in the woman's leaving the hospital with her daughter two days after the delivery. Also, the birth of her delivery was unattended, which is just the opposite in non-technocratic societies, where births are always attended except during remarkable accidents.

    Greer agrees that child mortality as well as mother mortality rate are higher in agricultural communities but she thinks the use of obstetric care in the West doesn't allow woman true freedom which are often regarded as being more important than their own survival.

    The role of a child is crucial in traditional society. A married woman would not be truly accepted by her husband's family until she begets a child. This child will provide her the same intimacy as was hers with her mother. This is considered backward, wrong and cruel in the Western society. Also it is felt that traditional mother-in-laws are unjust and disposed to seek revenge (vindictive) with their daughter-in-laws and husbands too are exploitative and perfunctory (as a formality only).

    Similarly, women in traditional society have no identity because when she is married she is called the daughter of someone. After marriage she becomes the wife of someone and when she gives birth to a child she is the mother of someone. Moreover, the woman is given her husband's surname. Everywhere she would lose her name and identity. This is considered outrageous in the West.

    Commenting on the parent-child relationship, Greer claims that in the traditional society mother-child relationship is more important than the relationship between husband and wife. However, child's relationship with the family is considered equal or even more important than either. In traditional families child's relationship with the rest of t he kin-group even can come at the expense of the biological parents as is the case in Africa and India. The child's aunts and uncles are permitted more physical intimacy with the child in public than its parents. A child is born not because of the wants of the married couple but in response to a broader pressure from the whole group. A Rajput bridegroom suckling at his mother's breast is suggestive of the child's relationship with his kins group.

    A woman giving birth to a child is praised and congratulated in many ways in non-technocratic societies. Greer provides a first-person account of the practices in Sylheti Community of West Bengal. A Sylheti girl can go her mother's house for the last few months of her pregnancy, and she is very well looked after. When she gives birth to a child she is given gifts like sari while her child gets new dresses. There is a wild celebration at home. Garlands of garlic and turmeric are worn to ward off evil spirits. During the naming ceremony, unmarried girls and elderly women sit together and eat pan and sing. There are jokes and much laughter. They look funny eating pan and singing, and their songs are almost always oral and celebrate their day-to-day lives. This kind of fun-filled activities is absent in Western society. It is a dry occasion. The women there don't get opportunity to go to their mothers' houses to visit their mothers and their family members.

    Child rearing in traditional societies is a whole group activity. Because they live in joint and/or extended joint-family system bringing up baby is the business of the entire family. In Bangladesh, for example, one daughter-in-law may bathe the children in the pond, another could feed them, and still another perhaps cooks the meal. And then, in the afternoon, the children are told fairy tales (Rupthoka) perhaps by their favorite aunt. However, when it gets dark or they feel sleepy they return to their mothers and sleep in their embraces.

    Greer also voices her opinion on the intervention of Western medicine in the traditional societies in an effort to make them modern. Drugs are expensive; medical technological tools are not easily operational. The establishments of hospitals in these societies have created horrific conditions as Greer mentions Sheila Kitzinger account in one of her visits in an enormous modern hospital for "Bantu patients" in South Africa. The hospital was a representation of the meeting place of the old Africa and the new technology of the West. Majority of women were laboring and there was a pool of blood there but nurses busied here and there carrying sophisticated machines but ignored the cries of the laboring women as far as possible because these nurses wanted these women to witness "the blessings of the earth". Greer is against the idea of making personal experience of giving birth to a child a personal disaster as it happens in the West where more and more women are subjected to several cases of brutalities. There are no one at home to give the mother and the child an enthusiastic welcome, is not praised for their courage to give birth to a baby, and is not given a hand in raising a child. All of these happen in the traditional societies. She thinks that people in the traditional societies are more levelheaded than the people in western societies. They maintain their lives irrespective of medicine and doctors.

    Greer considers that the practices of the traditional societies have more advantages than those of the Western attitudes.

    Posted On : December 10, 2017
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