Annakate is 10 days old and I am currently being sentenced to observing the traditional Chinese postpartum confinement practices. Oh yes, maternity doesn’t end at childbirth and we call it the 4th trimester journey!
This is an Asian tradition of healing seclusion whereby new mothers are resting at home after childbirth. According to the Orientals, a woman’s body is the weakest and most vulnerable to future ailments from the ordeal of childbirth, and thus a confinement period of at least 30-40 days will ensure great recovery and to help her restore her body after 9 months of nourishing her baby in her womb.
Traditionally, your mother or mother-in-law will take care of you during the confinement period. However, I do not have the luxury of flying my mom in from Malaysia and my MIL is angmoh, therefore she is totally clueless about our traditions. Many Chinese mothers who can afford hiring a confinement nanny or confinement lady, also known as a pui yuet (Cantonese for “companion for a month”), who will see to your needs as well as your baby’s.
Well, well, well, I am in the US and it is simply impossible to seek one here. Even if there is, the charges will surely be astronomical. With that, I have my world’s best husband to help me out for the first 2 weeks.
A strict confinement diet is to be followed to help remove the “stale blood” (lochia discharge) and “wind” (intestinal gas) from the mother’s system. Confinement diet basically consists of heating ingredients: old ginger, sesame oil, wine, black vinegar, etc., which are used excessively in almost every confinement meal.
Chinese herbs such as Cordopsis root, Red Dates, Dried Longan, Wolfberries, and Dong Guai (当归) are also vital tonics to help the body heal. Plain water is a no-no as it will cause water retention, hence being replaced by Red Dates tea as a nourishing drink for the new mother. As you probably already know, Red Dates are high in iron and Vitamin C.
As for the past several days, I have guided my husband with recipes like Stir-Fry Chicken with Ginger & Sesame Oil, Stir-Fry Chicken with Ginger and DOM Benedictine Liquor, Ginger Fried Rice, Stir-Fry Pork with Ginger & Sesame Oil.
Besides that, I have pre-packed herbs (for 24 days) from Malaysia which my mom got them for me. Mike just needed to chuck them into a slow cooker every morning and the herbal soup would be prepared by lunchtime. I would say the confinement diet is extremely heaty to a normal person but I felt good after each meal. Not only that, soups are actually beneficial in boosting my milk supply for my lil’ daughter.
Being confined to such practices, I have to religiously follow the restrictions such as:-
(a) No washing of hair until Day 12 (only with herbs) as it will slow down the detoxification of the womb. (Yes! 2 more days!)
(b) No showering with usual tap water but boiled water infused with herbs as the body needs to be in the state of warmth at all times after childbirth.
(c) No exposure of joints and limbs to the cold environment as “cold air” will bring forth arthritis or rheumatism or headaches during old age. (Yup, I wrapped up myself with a single size bed sheet like a ‘sarong’ as I don’t like wearing pants at this moment.)
In fact, the postpartum confinement period is not only being observed by Orientals and East Asians. The Mexicans, Greeks, Middle Easterns, Indians and Guatemalans do observe a month of confinement and the practices are quite similar in order to nourish the body of the new mothers.
I wonder why Americans or Europeans do not have such practices but I do see the benefits of observing confinement. In fact, some people argue that these are old folks’ lore and we live in a modern society with medical advancement technology. But hey… it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I just want to be healthy and look young like my mom! Why not give it a try? 🙂