The unspoken custom: If the mother dies, so must the baby

This is from earlier this month but it’s a disturbing story about practical survival that we find difficult to imagine in modern society.
Bad practices: Burying infant alive with their dead mothers – News VietNamNet.

Infants are not only buried alive if their mothers unfortunately die during the labor process. Under the “dọ-tơm-amí” unsound customs, many infants who are still breast-fed are difficult to get rid of “death” if their mothers die. This backward practice still exists in the Central Highlands.

Ms. Y Pla, 45, who has 5 children, nodded confirmation that this customs is real, not rumors. Ms. Y M’ Lang, 78, in Kon Klor Village said firmly: “If the mother dies, the child is taken to the ghost forest with the mother. If the mother dies, the child must die with her.”

Asking many of the elderly of Jrai and Bana ethnic groups about this customs, they only gently smiled and shook their head, saying that they did not know when the customs began. They only knew that this customs has been transmitted from generation to generation.

Elderly people who perhaps witnessed or involved in this customs simply explained that by living in deep forest where the life is inherently poor and harsh, if the mother dies, a baby without being breastfed will die of hunger so people believe that the “dọ-tơm-amí” customs will help the child goes to the world of ghost where he/she will be better care by his/her mother.

True or not? Hard to tell.

The locals say the father will not protest. It is custom, it is what must be done. It is difficult to reconcile with the great value they place on children but only in terms of helping the parents and taking care of them in their old age. Children are thought of very differently across cultures.

  1 comment for “The unspoken custom: If the mother dies, so must the baby

  1. Chris
    November 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    I remember when I read the first (or second) Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency that the two orphans come from a past that includes that kind of thinking. The boy, Puso, was an infant and was left with his dead mother, and rescued by his sister. That is my fuzzy memory since I checked the book out of the library almost a decade ago.

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