Pregnant Thai ladies: Truth Stranger Than Fiction
My wife is expecting. Wonderful news of course and I am delighted. However, all good things come at a price and this being Thailand that price is unusual and unexpected.
In the film Layer Cake the character Jimmy Price tells the character played by Daniel Craig (a character whose name is never given in the film) that his approach to life is summed up by the saying “Details, details. Things to do. Things to get done. Don’t bother me with details, just tell me when they’re done“. Unfortunately, Jimmy Price would not have fared much better in Thailand than he did in Layer Cake (he gets shot) and my own inattention to detail is proving to be my undoing as well.
Old Fashioned Ideas
Depending on which part of Thailand they come from, and how modern or traditional their family is, Thai women follow an elaborate set of beliefs and rituals associated with birth. My wife considers herself modern and educated; she attended university and has a professional job. Nonetheless, there is no getting away from some very unusual and old fashioned ideas about pregnancy and what happens after birth.
When in Rome
What you the reader may be thinking at this stage is why I should indulge all these beliefs. “When in Rome” as the saying goes, and after all it is not me who is giving birth and it is her right to choose. Etcetera etcetera.
No Problem With Monks and Fortune Telling
To an extent I of course agree with all this. The fortune telling by monk at the temple I have no problem with. The strange food choices and food prohibitions relating to traditional Thai medicine I can deal with as well. After all strange food cravings are normally associated with pregnancy and indulging them is probably helpful for the baby. I am even ‘down with’ the Yu Fai ritual where a lady lies near a fire with herbs for 11 days after the birth of their first child. I am building a bamboo bed for my wife to lie on and get barbecued to her heart’s content. What I have a difficulty with though is the intended involvement of her mother following the birth.
Mother-in-law Will Stay For 1 Month After the Birth
As part of the normal child birth planning process I have found a doctor to do the scans and tests and the such like, and a hospital for the birth itself. I also agreed to bring her mother down for the birth and to supervise the Yu Fai treatment and assist when the baby comes. What I didn’t realise until recently is that my wife wants her mother to come and stay with us for a month in our small one and a half room bungalow. This I object to.
Our House is Too Small
I have offered to rent mother-in-law a bungalow next door. But this is not good enough for my wife. Mama has to stay in our tiny cramped bungalow for a month for things to be done properly. This is one of those real clashes of culture in Thai/Western relationships.
In Northern European/Northern American culture there is a separation into ‘nuclear families’. When you get married you cut the apron strings and by virtue of marriage you earn the the personal freedom to enjoy family life and raise your children without interference from other generations. An attack on this is seen as a real affront to your personal liberty and the sanctity of the nuclear family is something we respect in law and by convention. This point is enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
People Think Differently in Thailand
Not so in Thailand. By the Thai way of thinking this separation of nuclear family from the extended family is itself an affront to the concept of the family. According to my wife, and most likely the majority of other Thai women, of course her mother should stay in our tiny cramped bungalow for as along as she likes and my objections are entirely unreasonable.
I can see that I am fighting a losing battle on this point. Like Jimmy Price, I should in fact have been been attentive to details so that we could have discussed this before we got married and reached some kind of compromise agreement in advance of the event. Looks like I will be the one staying in that seconded rented bungalow and visiting while the two ladies scowl at me: generations united by their hatred of the unreasonable and uncaring foreigner, and the baby will probably subconsciously join in as well bridging the gap between three generation in one go.
If You Marry A Thai Lady At Some Point You End Up Living With Her Mother
For all my readers considering a Thai marriage take this as a cautionary tale. If you plan to live in Thailand with your wife, at times this will also mean living with her mother. You have been warned!