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Friday 7 November 2008

A new addition

The girls were given a surprise holiday this week – because the King came out to the mountains to go shooting. So, as soon as they heard the news (and once it had been translated for me) they packed their things, I packed my things and we all set sail for a place to spend the weekend. For Latifa and I, the choice was easy! Because… there is a new baby in the ‘family’.

At 7am on Monday morning, two hours after giving birth to her baby, Mouna’s (a girl who lives in the house) mother came by to show off her new bundle of joy. We had the iron gates closed, so we didn’t get to see her, so she just took her home. That’s right – two hours after popping out a baby. Naturally, I couldn’t fathom the idea of staying with a woman with a new baby, but the blankets were rolled out, the food was prepared in mass proportions and we were encouraged to stay for the whole weekend!

In Morocco, when a woman has her baby, all of the women from the family either move in or spend all day in the house, whilst the mother lays exhausted with her new bundle on the floor mattress in a room. What does the new baby need? One swaddling outfit, a few clothes (enough to fit in a small bag) and a blanket. The swaddling clothes have a ring that Saida (Mum) usually wears attached.

The little baby is SO cute. She has kohl painted around her eyes and because she was born with no eyebrows (unsightly) she has a kohl pair painted on each day. This is not superstition, it’s just to make her look nice. She is a neat little parcel that is kept bundled up at all times. Whenever she is unbound, she is quickly re-wrapped and then some type of herb is thrown into the fire (yes, the room is a little smoky – it’s just a pot of fire) and the baby is waved over the top.

So, what does the mother do? Admits she is tired, exhausted and in agony. Forget the brave face that Western women put on when faced with a new baby and usually being left to their own devices – this is real!

Now, how do they name a baby here in Morocco? Considering we have 18 girls, 4 named Fatima and 4 named Khadija, the choices are usually restricted to family and village names. This family already has a Fatima and a Khadija so the scope was widened for this new addition. Everyone (including me! I think my choice caused the mother more pain than the birth) was asked to put their chosen name on a piece of paper. All placed safely in a bowl, the random selection began. A few redraws later and a name was decided – Maraya – but Mum wasn’t happy. I encouraged the non-random reselection of names, but it seems the name she wanted must not have been in the bowl. The next morning, the baby had spontaneously switched names to Huda. So, Huda it is. Still. Seems this name survived the weekend, so it stuck.