I am currently reading a comic book series, called "Aya de Yopougon", written by an Ivorian women, called "Aya de Yopougon". At the end of each comic, there's a few pages about Ivorian costums. In the second album, a few pages were dedicated to post natal care in Ivory Coast. The comics are in French, but I thought it would be worth the effort of translating into English for you.
There exists a famous proverb in Ivory Coast that states "When a baby is in the belly, he belongs to his mother, when he's born, he belongs to everyone."
And this "he belongs to everyone" is a real good thing. Why? I will explain to you:
First of all, when you give birth, you will stay at the hospital for one day only, except when you have had a cesarian section, then you will leave only the next day (there aren't enough beds and it's expensive). But that's not too bad, because when you arrive at home, you will be welcomed as a "queen" by the entire family.They will take care of you and your baby for a while, and this is very nice, because you won't find the time for the infamous "baby blues".
You and your baby are tended to immediately.
Your mom heats some water, then massages the entire body, especially the belly, then, she covers you in shea butter. Next you take a shower, only to be coated in shea butter again. Your belly is attached (only if you didn't have a cesarian section, of course), then you are dressed and your hair is done (You won't get better treatment in a Spa).
All this time, a crew, made up out of your grand mother (if you still have one) or grand aunts, is taking care of your baby. First, they massage his head with a lukewarm washcloth (so he has a nice round head), then the rest of his body (so he won't be too soft). He is then washed and covered in baby powder (bebe d'or brand or something else) and cream, and then fitted into beautiful garments.
At the same time, another team, made up from cousins, aunts, sisters in law, makes you delicious nibbles and it is time to eat!
You come out of the room all flashy and shiny (because of the shea butter) and enjoy your meal (the one you have ordered) under the satisfied glance of the entire family.
When you have finished your meal, you are handed your beautiful baby for some nursing (you do have to work a little bit). After he has been burped, you put him down and you take a well deserved nap, with peace of mind, because your baby is being watched over by a dozen eyes.
And the father in all this? Don't think he's being excluded. On the contrary, he has a huge list of things to do: he can hold his baby (if he's not to scared to break him), he can kiss his wife (if he's not too ashamed in front of everyone). But most of the time, he is busy offering drinks to all his friends and neighbors who came over to congratulate him. He is proud and happy to tell everyone that he is a daddy and spends his nights at the Maquis (bar where they also serve food) partying. And when he comes home late and drunk, you listen to him when he tells you how proud he is to be a father. And you tolerate this because you are well rested, but even more so, because you don't want to get frustrated.
You will be helped in this manner for a while, and a couple of days before your aunts, cousins and sister-in-laws leave (your mom and grandmother can stay a lot longer), you go and present your baby to everyone in your neighborhood (who already came to see you at your home). This ritual is very important, because you are bringing them your baby as a token of respect and consideration. In this way, your child is adopted by everyone. Subsequently, your child grows up in this community and when he plays outside, he will always be watched by someone and will be scolded by some neighbor when they misbehave.
Your child will accept that other kids from the neighborhood come over to eat, because he will in turn eat at other kids houses. He will learn to share and live in a community.
You must be asking: "What about the intimacy of mother, father and child?" Don't worry, the other will never take that away from you. It's not because you trust your child onto another for mere moments, he won't love you any more or wouldn't feel close to you.
Any way, over here, we don't worry about that kind of question, because we simply don't think about it and everything works out fine. After all, we're seeking our childs happiness. (1)
Doesn't that seem wonderful? Makes you think Western Society has everything upside dosn, no. I might not agree with everything in "the African way" but they do have a couple of core values right.
(1) Author's translation form Aya de Yopougon, Vol. 2. Abouet, M. et Oubrerie, C., Gallimard Jeunesse, 2006