A: Baby sinh ra là không có gì– một ngày hai ngày–roi tới một tháng là– giống như là ở Việt Nam, đẻ sinh xong là không được đi đâu hết. Rồi stay inside the house. Until one month. That’s why the mothers– when the baby is one month, it’s like, “oh, he can go out everywhere now.” You know? Like a 21 year-old. Everyone can hold you [when you are one month old].
- “When the baby is born, there isn’t– by one day then two days– then when it reaches one month– it’s like in Vietnam, when you’re done giving birth you can’t go anywhere. You stay inside the house. Until one month. That’s why the mothers– when the baby is one month, it’s like, “oh, he can go out everywhere now.” You know? Like a 21-year-old. Everyone can hold you [when you are one month old].”
Me: Why do you think people do that?
A: Because, giống như con chưa có được 1 tháng, còn con nhỏ. Nhiều khi người ta hay người kia ôm, người ta binh, rồi, uh, này kia. Dài tháng là– một tháng là– trong một tháng đó là không có ai dừng tới, thăm, hết cả mẹ– mom and baby– là chỉ inside thôi– inside the house.
- “Because, it’s like you’re not one month yet, you’re still too young. Often one person or the other person holds you, and they’re sick, and, uh, this and that. Reaching one month is– one month is– in that one month no one can touch the baby, visit, both mother– mom and baby– they can only be inside– inside the house.”
Me: What would happen if someone visited the baby?
A: Some people worry that– if they go to visit you– then they go home and something [bad] happens, then that’s not lucky… And it’s the same for me– I don’t want you to visit me and my baby– if you go home and do something bad, then some bad like the baby’s sick can happen.
My mother is the one telling me this story. She was born and raised in Vietnam until immigrating to the United States in the 1990s. Being the oldest of three other children, she became familiar with this folk practice when her siblings were born. She explains to me that when she gave birth to me, she held the same beliefs, and thus did not want anyone to visit her or me at least for a month after I was born. My mother tends to take superstitions about luck seriously and accordingly felt strongly about protecting the luck and life of a growing baby.
This is a transcript of our live conversation. We were in the process of eating dinner when I asked my mom if birthdays are celebrated in Vietnam. She responded no. Instead, certain milestones of a baby’s life are celebrated.
This is the first I’ve heard of this Vietnamese folk belief. I realize I cannot remember if other members of my extended family also share this belief and practice, as none of my relatives had children around a time I was old enough to notice or understand. However, considering my mothers’ age when her siblings were born, the state of Vietnam was in the midst of war, and afterward, was in the process of rebuilding the country. As my mothers’ and most other Vietnamese families faced food insecurity and lack of access to health services, protecting a baby’s life when it is most vulnerable is an understandable practice. In folk practices pertaining to the life cycle, this particular practice illustrates how a baby does not achieve “personhood” until one month when the baby’s life is more secure. Furthermore, this belief is wrapped in contagious magic. My mother explains this in how it is believed that if a visitor commits bad or unlucky behavior after seeing the baby before one month, then that bad luck will be brought upon the mother and baby, who came in contact with the visitor.