controls the financial rights. When wives do not agree with each other, the final judgment rests on their husband. Other polygamous families may be represented by a different pattern of relationships. In another case, a man at the age of 58, has two wives. Because the husband loves the second wife very much, the second wife has a privileged position over the first wife. Polygyny for Hmong women remains a viable social institution despite varying relationships in marriage.
Birth Cultural Practices
Significance of reproduction
Motherhood is seen by the Hmong as a positive part of being a women. Giving birth shifts a woman’s social status in society. A woman cannot gain respect and status until she has given birth to a son, because she has fulfilled the most important role of providing continuity for the patri-line. The gender roles for Hmong women are deeply embedded in the agricultural economic foundation of the culture. Fecundity is integral to the women’s role, because having many children is important for one’s well-being in this life and in the afterlife. Therefore, having children is highly desirable. A woman who cannot bear children, or who has children who do not survive, is regarded as unfortunate. She is not highly respected. Male infertility is rarely acknowledged in many societies, particularly in patrilineal societies, and the Hmong are no exception. Infertility is assumed as the woman’s problem in Hmong society.
The Hmong society descent is traced through the male side only. The Hmong hope to have more boys than girls. From field research findings, an increase in fertility for Hmong is associated with the gender of their children. If their earlier children are daughters, they will not stop child-bearing until they have one or several sons. Therefore, the rate of population increase among the Hmong remains high. According to field interviews of 44 married women in the villages, Hmong women bore children in the following averages: 10 women aged 20-30 had 2.3 children; 15 women aged 31-40 had 4.5 children; 6 women aged 41-50 had of 4.2 children; 8 women aged 51-60 had 5.8 children; 5 women over age 60 had an average of 10 children. In the past, the mortality for children in Hmong villages was high because of lack of medical treatment, so women bore many children to secure the surviving children.
The Hmong women perceive pregnancy and giving birth as natural phenomena and part of a healthy state of life. Many pregnant women still work in the field and at home. However, the pregnant women in a few households only do house chores. Pregnant women protect themselves from accidents that might cause miscarriage and take special care not to lift heavy loads, reach up, or fall over. They still have strong beliefs that these acts could cause miscarriage.