Having baby is the main goal of husband and wife to marry in Flores. The young people who have decided to marry are mostly asked by their parents to present them many grandchildren.
Long time ago before the family planning was massively applied, the parents could have 7 children in average. The parents believed that having many children will bring many lucks for the family as the babies are given from the God and some villagers also believed that the baby is the reincarnation of the people who have died, that is why parents naming baby by duplicating the death man’s name.
Having many babies will also help parents to take care of the rice fields, coffee plantations, looking for fire woods, and so on. Because of the religions on Flores that mainly animism and catholic, Marriage people are asked to give many babies in family without calculating positive and negative impacts.
Some people who have no baby after marriage are suffering themselves to look for the solutions in order to have baby. They will go to church to pray so that God can give them baby. The family also goes to some magician to ask their help to overcome the problems by using herbal medications. E.g the family who have married for 15 years just got the baby after consulting with the magician. They could not believe it happened to them.
Mama Ria said that she and her husband got married in 1996 in West Flores. She had a dream to have baby so that the baby will remain her generation. Unfortunately, it did not work well as she was not pregnant. After, 5 years marriage, they went to check to the hospital to know what happened. The doctor said if she had problem in which she cannot give birth. It was very shocking indeed but they immediately went back to get to the church to pray so that God can give His Grace. They had never have a feeling of despair. They did this day after day, month after month, year after year until they almost despaired.
When it was almost 15 years after marriage, due to a recommendations of a neighbor who had the same issue, they tried something else by approaching the magician known as doctor of village to ask for her help. It was not incorrect decision, they were asked to drink water that has been prayed and to eat ginger and some root of the trees and at the same time Mama Ria was massaged right in her stomach and magic worked really well for them. Right after a month, Mama Ria was pregnant. It was unbelievable! God has shown His way through this magician, Mama Ria said while crying. Now their baby is 3 years old.
What do the parents on Flores do when pregnant?
For family who has planned to have baby, pregnancy is what they are waiting for. The people could be very excited and express it quiet happily. The husband might take wife to a big dinner outside, wife and husband even announce to the entire world on social media. On the other hand, what Flores people do when pregnant is bit unique and different. Pregnant is seen not something to be celebrated too much or announced to everybody, it is at the same time is something to be taken care for both husband and wife because pregnant is the period of keeping God’s creature in safe.
The followings are the unique things to be done by parents on Flores when pregnant:
- Husband and wife are not allowed to kill animals. E.g chicken, snake, pig, buffalo, etc. it is believed that the baby is linked with the nature and environment. If the wife is willing to eat chicken, she will need another people to butcher it. It is believed that if husband and wife kill the animal deliberately or accidentally it can cause to the hard sickness of the baby.
- Pregnant woman is not allowed to go outside the house in the night. As what the writer has stated in previous post that Spirits are believed to live in the night. By this case, the pregnant woman has to look after the baby from the bad spirits that can cause a bad effect to both baby and mother. When the day turns to dark, the parents usually protect the surrounding house with some salts and holy water given by Priest or magician to protect from the bad Spirits.
- Wife and husband should behave nicely with human beings, nature, and God. Parents are seen as the model of how the baby should behave when growing. In Flores, the pregnant family is asked to behave politely towards another people, husband has to fulfill what wife is craving, and respect with nature and God.
- Husband has to make sure wife is always in good mood even there is big problem as she has very sensitive period when pregnant. Therefore, both husband and wife should control emotions and only show happiness each other whatever happens. When 2 months before giving marriage, Flores people believe that the baby is coming to check the situations in the family through dream. If he or she finds good things, he or she will come out safely but reversed if the baby finds inharmonious, he or she will come out badly even death.
- Husband and wife are not allowed to touch a death body if there is member of the family passes away. Flores people believe that if the pregnant family is touching the body it can cause a badly to the baby as well.
Those are all what makes Flores is unique due to what they live from what they believe. I have ever been said by a traveler from Jakarta Grace Hesty who has been about 5 years in Flores; “you should release your rationality to irrationality to know and experience the culture of Flores”.