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Imagine being under house arrest for an entire month. That is basically what happens to Chinese women after they have had a baby. They are not allowed to go outside, have a shower or drink cold water for an entire month! In strict households, even the husband has to stay away. This is the traditional Chinese practice of confinement during the month (exactly 30 days) after childbirth. It is referring to as “sitting the month” (zoo yuezi) because women are expected to just sit around in PJs for a month to recover from giving birth to their child.
It sounds “simple” enough but the reality is that there are a lot of rules, and Chinese women have to just grit their teeth and bare them! I’m no expert, and I’m only going on info that I have been told by Chinese friends who have had to “sit the month”. In fact, many of the women I have spoken to have asked “who will help you after the baby comes?”. It blows their mind that we have no family coming to China to help us. To them, the first month is a vital recovery time for the mother so they can’t fathom that Justin and I would be doing this all alone.
Here is an idea of some of the rules involved in “sitting the month”:
[These rules are aimed at ‘restoring the balance’ to the new mother’s body after childbirth.]
You cannot wash your body (yup, that’s right – no showering or washing of your hair).
Food must be very bland, and snacking is not allowed
No raw fruit or vegetables may be consumed.
No coffee, cold drinks or even cold water (water must be tepid or hot).
New mothers must guard against chill by wearing thick socks and padded slippers.
They are also to avoid cold at all costs as it is believed to slow the shrinking process of the uterus.
To protect the new mother from getting “wind” into their delicate joints, they must keep the house warm – that means air conditioning must be off and windows closed, even in summer!
Watching television and reading are not permitted as they strain the eyes.
They should not walk around, and cannot engage in sexual intercourse.
China’s richest go straight from the hospital to a super-luxurious confinement centre that can costs as much $500 a day, instead of “sitting the month” at home. This exorbitant prices buys 24-hour-a-day supervision from trained nurses, a nutritionist, doctors on call, and someone to ensure that the rules are followed at all times. Family are not allowed to visit and cuddle the baby — it is believed that it is not good for newborns’ bone development to be cuddled too much. It is said that if you hold a new baby too much, it will become too dependent so mother’s are only supposed to hold their babies when they nurse them. At these centres, six meals are served a day, including a host of special soups (for instance, soup of pig’s feet and peanuts) designed to increase the new mother’s milk supply. New mother’s are hand-washed by nurses, who wipe them down with washcloths steeped in Chinese medicine, once a week. Even though they’re not supposed to bathe for 30 days following childbirth, the strict rules of traditional confinement are being bent slightly to meet the needs of these wealthy modern women. Whether Chinese women can afford luxurious postpartum care or not, the one thing that these women all do is belly binding during this time. This is a practice that is also catching on over in the U.S in event years.
Needless to say, despite living in China and having our first child here, we obviously won’t be following these traditions. In fact, we need to get to Beijing on Wednesday so that we can apply for a passport for him. Unfortunately this cannot be dine here in Qingdao, so we need to make the trip to the capital in order to get this done within Eli’s first month. There are penalties, and plenty of headaches, if we fail to get this done asap. Once he has a passport, we can get him a Chinese visa. Until then, we cannot leave China as Elijah would not be allowed to re-enter the country again.
Today I need to go get Elijah’s birth certificate from an office downtown. Being a foreigner here means you almost cannot adhere to the “sitting the month” rules. Phew — that works for me. Two days ago, I was in an elevator heading to see some friends who live across the road from us. An old Chinese lady in the elevator asked, “Is that baby one month old???” We had a Chinese student with us and he said (in Chinese) back to her, “No, he’s only a few days old. The lady then looked at me with a disgusted look and shook her head.
(Of course, I chuckled)
haha, what a crazy adventure this is!!