Activity Week 3 – Birthing Culture in Egypt – Sara Burnosky

The Egyptian’s incorporated their God’s in many steps of a woman giving birth. When researching about the process of a woman giving birth in Egypt and what it might entail I found a very elaborate process with many steps all with their own significance. To start a woman can go to a “special surrounding” which is described as a “cool roof of the house, or in an arbor or confinement pavilion, a structure of papyrus-stalk columns decorated with vines.” (Parsons) Many different chairs and mattress like pillows would be present. Only women would be present during this event they were not physicians but equivalent to midwives, obstetrician or gynecologist since there are no known words in the ancient text I use the English terms. While reading Susan Orpett Long’s work I realized that the woman in her story giving birth was not allowed to push until the male doctor who was also accompanied by a said male medical student was present and announced she was ready, completely discrediting the fact that any of the nurses who are female and the woman giving birth herself would not be as competent as the man who will never know what it feels like to give birth or carry a child.

Childbirth was a time of gathering for the women; peasant women would call on other women in the community be it a neighbor or servant who was head of running their household. The authoritative knowledge for birth seems to be more a community of women coming together to assist but that is the key, assist. The woman in labor I believe provides the authoritative knowledge on her experience as it happens.

Chants were a large part of the birthing process to God’s like Amun and the creator-god Khnum. This ensured the health of the newborn after birth. Here is where I believe there is a level even above the woman’s own authoritative knowledge but an understanding that there is a larger power than themselves who understands what they do not. It is described that signs from the God’s could be felt so the woman must be able to receive the signs, like a cool breeze from Amun from a window (Parsons) reassuring the woman maybe she was not alone spiritually. But again I believe they were more open to the fact that they did not know why some things happened but looked to religion as an answer.  Unlike in the Greek culture children were valued in ancient Egypt so I believe that is why while reading I see they took great care and celebration when a child was born.

In ancient Egypt and today still a child born is a confirmation of the sacred union of marriage and is to be celebrated. (Life In Modern Cairo) It is normal in Egypt for families to be tight knit and view a new birth as a good thing for the entire kin. While comparing Long’s account it is continuously proven that the American woman seems to have people who’s goal is to “keep both the mother and child alive” verses the accounts of setting a experience for the Egyptian women. Another interesting ideal I came across was concerning the celebration that is still in effect today called Sebou. It is a celebration that is typically held exactly a week after the baby is born. It is a lot like the western celebration of a baby shower but to Egyptians it seems almost like bad luck to celebrate a child’s birth before he or she has safely arrived. Does this should that western medicine has decided that failing is not our reality? The tradition of the new mother staying with her family and new child for forty days in order to recover also explains that culturally there is an importance for the mother and child to be together and to rest for the over all health of both of them. (Sawsan)

Elzayyat, Sawsan. “Baby Traditions Around the World.” Celebrating Births in Modern Day Egypt. Accessed July 22, 2015.

“Life in Modern Cairo.” Life in Modern Cairo. Accessed July 24, 2015. http://www.laits.utexas.edu/cairo/modern/life/life.html.

Parsons, Marie. “Tour Egypt :: Egypt: Childbirth and Children in Ancient Egypt, A Feature Tour Egypt Story.” Egypt: Childbirth and Children in Ancient Egypt, A Feature Tour Egypt Story. August 9, 2011. Accessed July 23, 2015. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/mothers.htm.

One thought on “Activity Week 3 – Birthing Culture in Egypt – Sara Burnosky

  1. Sara,
    Just an FYI. Brigitte Jordan wrote the article on “authoritative knowledge” on birth and Susan Long wrote the article on death in Japan and the US.

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