1. To carry, bear, lift, elevate, raise, hoist, holdup. 2. Pregnant; to conceive.
Ironic, isn’t it, that the word for carry is also the word for pregnancy or to be pregnant – hāpai.
If a wahine says she is hāpai, she is pregnant.
What an exciting time for the entire ʻohana. E ola ka inoa! The name will live on! And this child will be raised by everyone, from older siblings to parents and, of courese, grandparents. Everyone is tasked with making sure that all goes well during this time. It is important that the mother to be stays away from all forms of negativity, gets good exercise, particularly in the ocean, gets lomilomi (Hawaiian massage) regularly, and receives care from those skilled in obstetrics.
Prenatal care was practiced in Hawaiʻi long before the introduction of Western medicine. A hāpai woman would be visited by a pale keiki (midwife) or a kahuna pale keiki (similar to an OB doctor). This person would assess the overall health of the wahine hāpai (expectant female) was good and that the baby was in a good position and growing as expected.
As with most expressions, there are several ways to say someone is hāpai without coming right out and saying it: Ua laulau (Is a wrapper)– Have you eaten a laulau? It is a steamed meal consisting of meat and fish wrapped with several lūʻau/taro leaves and then ti leaves wrapped around the lūʻau. If someone says “ua laulau” that means the woman who is hāpai is the wrapper of the new life within.! She is hāpai. Another way not so kind is “Ua puʻu” – lumpy. Puʻu also refers to any protuberance like a pimple or wart.
Did you know that there are phallic rocks in Hawaiʻi? Wahine who had a difficult time conceiving would take offerings to these rocks and even sleep near them overnight. Hopefully she will be hāpai in the near future. Here is an image of the most well known of the phallic rocks, Ka Ule o Nānāhoa, located in Molokaʻi. Take a visit and you will see that some still leave offerings at this well known site.