The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: birth
caption: child-birth
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: Sometimes the child is born in the fields, though if the pains come on there an effort is usually made to get the woman back to the village, and the child may be born in a field-house or on the way home. The majority of births, however, take place in the house, and when a woman gets near her time she keeps rice-beer always to hand there. When the pains come on a suitable old woman is summoned. The mother takes off her petticoat but keeps her breast-cloth wrapped round her body, and kneels down, sits back on her heels, and catches hold of the leg of the bed or the bench running along the side of the house. The old woman, or the husband if present, catches hold of her waist at the back and presses inward and down. At a normal birth no manual assistance seems to be given besides this last, but in cases of abnormal labour or retained or adherent placenta the old woman may try and deliver the child or remove the placenta by hand. No attempt at cleanliness is made.
text: When the child is born the old woman ties the navel-string with cotton and cuts it with a bamboo knife. She then lays the baby on some leaves and warms up zu and gives it to the mother. The afterbirth is put in a bamboo chunga, the old woman scraping it up with a stick. The mother changes her soiled cloths, and the old woman washes the baby and then cooks a fowl and gives it with rice to the mother. The old woman may also eat the fowl, but men and boys may on no account do so. When the mother has recovered a little she washes in hot water, and the old woman scrapes up the stained earth from the floor and throws it away, and generally tidies up the house.