Oh dear. I am only five days into postpartum confinement (zuo yuezi) and already I have broken some of the key rules.
Sometimes, circumstances make following zuo yuezi difficult. In a normal birth, a mother will stay in hospital for around three days before going home. Or, it is now becoming increasingly more common for her to move to a postpartum confinement centre after hospitalization – often near or even in the hospital itself. But what happens if the baby is sick and needs to be in hospital longer?
Baby Huang has jaundice and needs to spend an extra few days in hospital in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He is recovering well and we will be able to bring him home soon. I was able to spend a few extra days in hospital so that I could feed him at three hourly intervals, including during the night. Thus I broke one of the key confinement rules: thou shalt rest.
My first child was born premature and I spent five weeks expressing around the clock and rushing too and from hospital every day. It is just something you do when you have a sick child. But I could tell the nurses were a bit worried about me insisting on feeding my new baby during the night. Here the emphasis is on Mum recovering first so she can then look after her child. Most other new parents in the maternity ward chose to leave their baby in the nursery, wheeling him or her out at feeding times or to show off for visitors. We actually had to plead with the hospital NOT to remove baby Huang to the nursery straight after birth.
Today, exhausted by the constant background noises that are the rhythm of hospital life, I have decided to go home and get some rest. But I still plan to travel in to see baby several times before he comes home. Which leads me to the second broken confinement rule: though shalt not be exposed to wind.
Taipei is bracing for another typhoon. It hasn’t hit – yet – but already there are nearly gale force winds and constant tropical rains. Mr Taiwanxifu is chaperoning me around to ensure I am not too exposed to the elements, and I am dressed in coat and scarf like a dowry Eastern European matron. But in these weather conditions I have still suffered some wind exposure. So far I have survived.
The third violation of zuo yuezi is what I am doing now. During confinement new Mums should avoid reading or crying (bu keyi kan shu, bu keyi ku). This is because your eyes are believed to be weak after childbirth. And according to Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner Claire Shen, eyes are linked to liver energy, and liverenergy is usually weak after childbirth. Reading includes watching television and using the computer or tablet computers.
As a ‘type A’ person, I am finding myself drawn to my smartphone and iPad to connect with life outside hospital and confinement. Blogging is my lifeline. Although against zuo yuezi rules, I hope to continue.
But at least I am not crying. Now that I think of it, I have totally skipped the day four post baby blues. I cried my eyes out when I had to go home while leaving my first child in hospital. But this time around I am pragmatic and focused. Could all those special zuo yuezi foods be a factor in helping to prevent post-natal depression?
But while I have broken some taboos, I am still observing others. Such as not washing my hair. More about that later.