It's 2015 and I struggle to understand why educated women would subject themselves to a month of confinement after giving birth. Not just that, they're happily paying others around $27,000 a month for concierge confinement services in China! Dress it up a bit, and it's still the same crock of BS that has no place in our modern world.
A little over two decades ago, a relative of mine, an NYU alum, also confined herself to her house for a month, didn't wash her hair, and only ate what her tiger mom and grandma cooked. Reflecting upon this, she cracked up and said, "I don't know how and why I did. Maybe it was just to please my family. My hair itched like hell then. You should have seen my pillows. I had to toss those oily things out!"
The morning after giving birth to Phil via C-section, I took a shower. I also walked around on my own, surprising the nurse who thought I would need her help, or at least use a walker. There was pain, and I took a minimal amount of painkillers for the first two weeks. After almost 28 hours of labor that resulted in a surgery anyway, I was not going to confine myself or change the way I lived and ate.
My mom and I fought so much. Because I wasn't able to climb stairs (we live in a three-story walkup), I stayed with her for the first three weeks after Phil was born. Unable to explain the science behind confinement, its benefits in the modern world, and why I must follow the traditions she valued, my mother enforced these ridiculous laws upon me:
- Don't drink cold water. It will give you "phong" (wind). What the hell is "wind" in scientific terms?
- Don't eat ice cream. Again, phong.
- Don't drink kefir because it's cold. (I needed the darn probiotics...)
- Don't eat watermelon. It's too "leung" (cold)... Uh, fruits... they're yummier when cold!
- Drink the soup I made for your or else you'll stop pumping milk. (Freak, I had E-sized boobs after giving birth and they milked just fine...)
- Eat the food I cook.
- You're craving McDonald's? That's not good for you. Don't touch those chips. No cookies for you!
- Don't eat spicy foods.
- You must be warm. (We had blasting heat at home. It was the end of October...) Wear socks when you sleep! (I hate wearing socks when sleeping!!)
- Don't touch the dog. She's dirty.
- Don't touch your face. More pimples will come. (Okay, that one I agreed with her.)
- Feed the baby formula. It's healthier than your breastmilk.
I don't mean to turn this into a rant against my wonderful mama, but that lady drove me crazy, and I think her rules and her trying to enforce confinement on me confounded my postpartum depression symptoms.
Three weeks later, I stormed out of her home, took all of my belongings and the baby, and braved the stairs. The autumn winds whipped my face and hair. The chill, however, did not seep into my bones. I am not going to develop arthritis because I did not confine myself for a month post delivery. I'll get arthritis from a diet heavy in processed crap, sure.
"Confinement my ass. Screw it," I thought.
Earlier this summer, a new mother in Shanghai died from a heatstroke "after bundling herself in blankets and refusing to turn on the air conditioning, the state media reported."-- The New York Times
Once upon a time, maternity confinement had probably saved the lives of countless new mothers in China. Back then, warm and clean water was scarce. Medicine was not advanced and infections were rampant. Proper hygiene techniques were poorly understood. In the wintertime, there was no heat, so the women kept warm by wearing multiple layers of clothing and hiding beneath thick blankets.
But that time has long since passed.
New mothers should let their natural instincts kick in, eat what they want (as long as it's healthy when passed through the breastmilk), go where they want, and do what they want if it's all good and safe and healthy for mom and baby.