Childbirth ceremony

Palau, Micronesia

Two or three months after giving birth to her first child every Palauan woman goes through the ngasech ceremony. For five to ten day she is given hot, cleansing baths by a medicine woman, and on the last day she is dressed up in traditional clothes and then comes out to show herself to the family of her husband.

A mother nurses her baby daughter during a break from one of the many hot baths required for her ngasech.

The young mother receives a steaming hot bath from the medicine woman, who scoops up the water with a coconut shell and throws it at her body. Oil and turmeric have been applied to the skin to protect the woman from scalding. The purpose of the baths is to restore the young mother’s body, remove stretch marks and ”clean out the womb”.

Before the woman is presented to her husband’s family, the medicine woman rubs her with coconut oil and turmeric.

Female relatives of the husband show their appreciation for the mother by dancing up to her with dollar bills in their hands. The banknotes, ”payment” for the strains on the woman’s body, are collected in a plastic bag by a younger relative acting as assistant.

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