Friday, June 28, 2013

postpartum confinement

Although my family has been living in the United States for over thirty years, there are some age old traditions that are still observed. Postpartum confinement is one of them.

"In Chinese culture, the moon month, also translated as “sitting out the month,” “lying in” or “confinement in childbirth,” is a month-long sojourn in the home for postpartum women. It means that following childbirth, the mother and child are to remain indoors, mostly horizontal on the bed, well insulated and fully catered to by extended family. All cooking and cleaning is provided while the new mother’s exclusive job is to bond with the infant, breastfeed and recover from the trauma of childbirth.

Part of this tradition requires that women not bathe during the moon month... This is due to the fear of illness or disease, especially back in the days when there was fear regarding water-borne pathogens..."

My mother claims there is evidence that if a woman does not honor the full moon month, she will be more susceptible to disease and illness later in life. When I question my mother about the scientific evidence behind this tradition she questions me back by stating “How can you argue with five thousand years of history?... Why would you put yourself at risk now that a child will depend on you? 

My parents were scheduled to arrive the day before O's due date. Because he arrived a week early, A and I were able to enjoy some alone time with O before their arrival.

I didn't want to be confined to bed or go a month without showering or washing my hair, so I took a few walks with O around our neighborhood and washed up before my parent's arrival. Immediately after their arrival, I was confined to my house. If my mother had the power to make me stay in bed, she would have. Ever other sentence out of my mother's mouth was the rules regarding what I was NOT allowed to do, eat, or drink during the moon month. After a day, I need some respite from my parents already.

Don't get my wrong, it's nice that my parents are here to help out but at the same time it's hard living under the same roof as them again, even if it's just for a month. The benefits of having my parents here is that there is always, and I mean always, food available. My mother also watches O when A is not here and I need a small break. 

The downside to my parents being here is that they, mostly my mother, does not have a sense of what privacy means to a married couple. Any time she hears O cry, she'll burst right into our bedroom. No warning. No knocking. Even if our door is closed. Another downside is that my mother has turned my clean and organized kitchen to resemble her kitchen at home. There are Chinese herbs and spices piled on my counter tops. My refrigerator has a pungent smell to it and the smell of Chinese food is leaking through my air vents. I could go on about all the things I'm not allowed to do according to this ancient tradition but I won't.

I know I complain a lot but the truth is that I'm grateful my mother is here to help us. I just wish I understood the rationale behind these traditions more. Thankfully it's the 28th already... I only have 13 more days of confinement and I'll be a free woman again.

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