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.
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.
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.