Taking a bath

Today marks twenty-eight days since I gave birth to baby.  And I celebrated by taking a bath.

Today Taiwanxifu Baby is one month old.  In Chinese, they refer to this as ‘man yue’ (滿月, i.e. full month).  It is an important ‘birthday’ that is usually celebrated instead of the birth itself.

But for the mother, man yue is also the time when she can finally take a bath.  Readers may remember that I had decided to sign up for the no bathing, no hair-washing challenge.  Although this is a core zuo yuezi ‘rule’, in these days of climate controlled housing and hair dryers not everyone choses to follow it.  Yet although I thought I would break this challenge fairly quickly, I managed to last a full twenty-eight days without immersing myself in water.

Once I committed to abstaining from bathing, it was not as hard as I thought.  My German spray-in dry hair wash kept my hair reasonably well-groomed, and I actually enjoyed my daily ginger sponge bath.  The hard part was early morning, when I was still recovering from the night sweats — the postpartum hormonal reaction that drenched my pillow and sheets most nights.  My postpartum confinement nanny, Mrs Yang, said that many of the Chinese herbs she used to make the special zuo yuezi soups she served me were also designed to help me to sweat to detoxify and lose weight.  Luckily I am confined at home rather than unleashed on people in confined spaces such as elevators.

I originally had visions of resuming bathing with a luxurious spa.  But I should have known that there is also a zuo yuezi practice for ending the no washing rule as well.  Today, we made chicken soup where I was the ‘chicken’: I was immersed into a hot ginger and rice wine infused bath to soak for over an hour.

Preparing the ginger bath

The object of the hour-long soak was to get hot.  In fact, I found it so hot that I almost thought I would pass out from heat stroke.  It wasn’t just the heat of the water alone; the combined effect of hot water plus pungent ginger and rice wine was incredibly ‘heaty’.  The first ten minutes were bliss, but after that it was hard going.  I was able to half sit out of the bath to get a bit of a breather, but after nearly an hour Mrs Yang declared that I was ‘not red enough’ so I went back into the tub to soak for another ten minutes until I was fully cooked.  I was surprised that I was not sufficiently hot as my face had already turned beetroot red.

After bathing, I was not allowed to get dressed until I stopped sweating.  I was amazed at the amount of sweet poring out of my body.  Apparently, most people who undergo this stop sweating after fifteen to twenty minutes, but after half an hour I was still sweating profusely.  Mrs Yang said this was a sign that I had too much water energy, i.e. that my body was still retaining fluid.  After over half an hour got dressed but had a towel draped around my neck for another half an hour or so.  And I needed several big gulps of water to recover.  Yes, water because today I was also allowed to drink plain, filtered water as I recovered from the ginger bath.

Mrs Yang made the ginger bath using two jin of ginger (one kilogram), which she first pureed with two liters of water in a blender.  She took the puree and simmered it over a stove for fifteen minutes until it was fragrant.  She strained it into the bath through a muslin bag; I then used the bag containing the ginger grounds to massage any areas of my body that felt uncomfortable (my neck).  She then filled up the bathtub with steaming hot water, and added a 750ml bottle of rice wine for good measure.

Adding the rice wine to the ginger bath ‘broth’

Mrs Yang said I need to repeat the ginger bath in a weeks’ time.  (Yes, baby might now be a month old but my ‘confinement’ has not yet ended.)  In the meantime, I can shower and wash my hair although I must towel myself quickly and avoid getting cold.

And as to my luscious locks, I also washed my hair for the first time in a month.  Since I had coped so well without shampoo, I experimented with cleaning my hair using bicarbonate of soda and rinsing with apple cider.  While initially skeptical, so far I have been extremely pleased with how smooth and shiny my hair is.

Feeling almost back to normal now that I have had a bath.  Next step will be venturing out and about … soon, but not quite yet.

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About taiwanxifu

‘Taiwanxifu’ (pronounced ‘shee foo’) means ‘Taiwan daughter-in-law’ in Chinese and has been my nickname ever since I married my Taiwanese husband, Sam. I love sampling Taiwanese food, even local specialties such as stinky tofu, pigs blood cake and Taipei beef noodle soup with offal. But there are many other options on the menu. Promise!
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13 Responses to Taking a bath

  1. Lin says:

    Hi, are you in Taiwan or Australia? Is Mrs Yang located in Taiwan or Oz?

    • taiwanxifu says:

      I am currently based in Taipei, and Mrs Yang is in Taipei. I’ll send you her contact details if you are interested.

  2. Olivia says:

    Wow! this is sooo crazy! WOW! I will have to do this then! LOL So you had to do it once and then again? Do you have to stay one hour?? Do you just sit in the washroom till you stop sweating and then dress up? Or you do that in your bedroom? Thanks again for posting all of this! It’s helpful!

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Yes, it is pretty crazy but it kind of worked. I did it once but was supposed to do it a second time. I was advised to stay in until you are really pink. I wasn’t hot enough when my yuepo checked on me so had to stay in a bit longer. I stayed sitting outside the bathroom until I stopped sweating, then towel dried myself and got changed. In winter, women are advised to lie in bed with blankets. I think my yuepo took pity on me because I was sweating so much that she allowed me out of the steamy bathroom.

      • Olivia says:

        That is incredible! I will definitely do this then!! Do you have to wear a hat during the Confinement? I sweat a lot :( I can feel my hair a bit damp. I just had my little man unexpectedly.. he came early ahah but i am in the hospital now, probably for another week till he is good. Any advice about damp hair.. to get rid of the wind.. ? My hips hurt too. Mom got mad at me for going to breastfeed him and sit when I am supposed to lie down. Hopefully It will hurt me down the road. I try to lie down as much as possible. :) Thanks for this awesome site! I have recommended it to people :)

      • taiwanxifu says:

        Thanks for your comments. I did not wear a hat during confinment, but usually women are advised to wear a hat, long trousers and socks. I personally think this depends a lot on the time of year and that is less necessary in summer. The essential thing is to keep warm. Some sweating, especially at night, is normal but if your hair is damp make sure you are not then sitting under a cold breeze, fan or air-conditioning.

        My first boy was over two months early, quite unexpectedly. He is totally fine now, though. It is always a bit unexpected to have early babies, but I am sure you will adjusst fine.

        The key thing with zuo yuezi is for recovery, and if you keep getting upset at yourself because you ‘shouldn’ do this or that, it won’t be a very enjoyable experience. Listen to your body, and your baby, and do what is right for you. I couldn’t breastfeed lying down at first because I was too sore from delivering the baby. And baby wouldn’t latch, either, so often sitting upright was the only way. But after a while, I found it more restful as it allowed me to feed and rest. But my neck would hurt if I fed lying down too much so I didn’t do it this way all the time.

  3. Olivia says:

    Thanks so much for your amazing response. I appreciate it! :) It’s really interesting this whole thing. My skin is all nice now haha and I am losing the weight fast. However, it’s just the sweating and no showering @__@ However, it’s all good! :) I am soo glad you did this. I definitely told my friends about your site. :) THANK YOU!

  4. Olivia says:

    i just want to tell u that.. i did my bath.. OMG @___@ it’s… hot and almost passed out i couldn’t take it after 30 min… but i will try again in a couple of days and do 1/2 hour hahaha but wow. it felt good i must say.. my husbadn was like.. i want to do one hahahahha

    • taiwanxifu says:

      Yes, it is hot, hot, hot. How did you feel afterwards, though? And did you go all pink like a pickled pig?

  5. sabrina says:

    Just got out of my ginger bath and am as red as a tomato! Thanks for posting this as I thought that it was allergic reaction! Confinement nanny said not to worry so thanks to you two I am just enjoying the warm sensation.

    • taiwanxifu says:

      I was really red, too. How do you feel? Was it a relief to have a bath at the end of zuo yuezi? Did you last a full month without bathing and washing your hair?

  6. Nicole says:

    Can you tell me what kind of dry shampoo you used?

    • taiwanxifu says:

      I can’t remember the brand … I just remember that it was German. Sometimes camping supply stores stock them for people intending to go into the great outdoors without a shower for a while. And pharmacies often sell them to people who cannot wash their hair with shampoo.

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