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Stories of Cloth


Amina: A birth in Somalia


A birth in Somalia

I was born in an ancient town called Brava that lies on the Indian Ocean on the coast of Somalia in North Africa. I am one of seven children and my parents were farmers, living off the land. I have four children. Support for a young mother is a very important part of Somali culture.

During the eighth month of pregnancy, I returned to my maternal home to be cared for by my mother and close relatives. I stayed with them until my baby was about 40 days old. During this time I was given special food, meats, dates and ghee to make me healthy during this vulnerable time. Once my baby was born I was excused from all household chores for the first few weeks to enable me to rest and recover and to bond with my new child. Because of this period of support, post-natal depression is almost unheard of in Somalia.

Around the fortieth day I returned with my baby to my husband’s home, wearing new clothes. A party was held to welcome us both, attended by family, friends and neighbours. A lamb or goat was slaughtered and portions divided out to neighbours and the poor as a thanksgiving for the safe arrival of the new child. I didn’t make or buy any clothes for my babies before they were born, as it is considered bad luck. Sometimes our babies do not survive beyond their first month and so we wrap them in cloth and dress them in something more special for their homecoming.

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