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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Giving Away A Daughter

One of my mother's cousins told me this story years ago. This is actually one of the many stories I know about Foochows giving their daughters away when they were born. There were many reasons to give girls away :poverty, lack of amenities,ill health,disabilities,etc. But this story has a unique twist.

"I was extremely sad knowing that I have given birth to my 8th daughter. And as I was still warm and tired from the difficult child birth, sitting under my mosquito net and waiting for the first flow of my breast milk, I looked at my beautiful daughter, newly born but soon to be taken away by the Malay family down the road."

When she related this story to me so touchingly at that time, I could smell my own breast milk flowing unceasingly to feed my own hungry daughter, my first born child. I could still feel the warmth of the confinement bed, without air conditioning and even a fan. When she shed her tears, I could feel every muscle of my body twitching with pain.

It can never be easy, giving away a child you have carried for nine months.

The story continued as she told me that the Malay couple came to the house with all the clothes ready to take the new born child away. She and my uncle had already discussed that the 8th daughter would have a better life with the new family who loved and appreciated girls because of their culture and religion.

It was not because my aunt and uncle did not love girls. It was because they had too many children. The new born was the 8th daughter, but the 10th child. There was no family planning at that time and my uncle had just lost his job as a sailor. He had to go further away perhaps Simmanggang to work and send money back and my aunt had to take care of the children who were only a year apart.

As the child was taken away lovingly, the other children stood by, close to each other, some hidden behind the door. My uncle passed some old clothes as a token of love and comfort for the baby to take away. And the Malay couple indicated to the chickens they had brought for my aunt's confinement food, as was the agreement.

Everyone was upset and emotions were high in the wooden house. But not much was said. In fact a mutiny was brewing without the knowledge of my uncle and aunt.

Two weeks later, my cousins , all nine of them, approached their parents and told them very sternly , that they would fetch their baby sister back. They would start earning "spare money" and "small change" every day by chopping wood,glueing paper bags, washing coffee cups in the coffee shops and anything else. My uncle and aunt were amazed and touched by this unity amongst their children. They too had been having qualms about giving their child away.

So the nine children,ranging from age 10 to 2, carrying a small basket, marched to the kampong house and took back their baby sister from the surprised Malay couple who turned out to be very understanding and humourous.

My cousins , in one single act, reunited the whole family.

Today they are very successful and determined parents themselves and my aunt and uncle are as happy as can be. They are still very united and strong as a family. They have kept their promises.

2 memories:

James TC Wong said...

What a beautiful story ...

sarawakiana said...

Thank you.

Children can be so beautiful and a blessing to us.

And we should be a blessing to our parents too.

 

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