I was lucky that my Gynae gave my husband and I clear understanding that a new mother doesn't have to go through strict traditional confinement practices that she is not comfortable practising. She emphasized that it is paramount important to stay mentally and physically well after labour by eating healthily as per normal, maintaining a hygienic lifestyle as usual and having enough rest. In addition, my Gynae explained that not practising strict traditional confinement rules, in medical logic, would not result in mother's health problems when she gets older nor issues in conceiving another baby. However, in order to avoid clashes with the confinement nanny, which in this case is usually the Mother-in-Law, the husband has to take more active role in bridging any differences between his wife and Mom so both ladies are happy during the confinement period. In principle, the new mother has to enjoy her confinement period while recuperating from childbirth.
The next day after I gave birth to my baby, my parents from Indonesia came to see us. My mother acted as my main confinement nanny for 10 days until she left Malaysia. When she was around, I ate home cooked Indonesian food that my Mom prepared. She did not allow me eating shrimps and anchovies as she worried that my episiotomy wound would be itchy if I ate those food. This theory is not scientifically proven but I did it anyway.
During my early confinement days, my Mother-in-Law tried to cook some gingery confinement dish for me but every time I had to eat it, it took me almost one hour to eat the food and I had to ask my husband to help me finish it. In the end, I could not finish the food and my Mother-in-Law was not so happy with it. Moving forward, I politely told her that perhaps it's best if I could just eat normal food so I can eat more. I try to plant the idea in her mind that if I eat more, I'd recover from post-natal pains faster and the more food I eat may give me more breast milk. She understood and quit forcing me to eat confinement food.
Can't imagine eating this plain gingery dish for breakfast for a month!
After my Mom went back to Indonesia, I ate the usual home-cooked food that were also enjoyed by other family members at home for the rest of my confinement period. I barely consumed any 'heaty' traditional Chinese confinement diet which usually is heavy in ginger, Chinese herbs and alcohol simply because I didn't like the taste plus this food may affect my breast milk's content, thus cause jaundice on my baby.
The only thing that I continuously consumed for a month was red dates, wolfberries and longan tea that my Mother-in-Law diligently brewed every morning. Other than that, occasionally I also drank some traditional Chinese decoction and herbal chicken soup that my Mother-in-Law cooked for me, as long as I could bear the taste.
Strangely, after being so resistant in eating herbal chicken soup,
I found this one quite acceptable.
Also, being an Indonesian, my Mom brought post-partum abdominal cloth binder and traditional Indonesian herbal medicine for post-natal care to be put on my tummy to avoid flabby stomach. She applied the medicines and put the binder on my tummy every single day when she was in Malaysia and taught me how to continue applying the medicines and wearing the binder on my tummy myself. However, after she went home, I only managed to continue wearing the binder for few days as I got too tired and busy looking after my newborn during the day.
The traditional Indonesian herbal medicine for my tummy skin
before diluted with hot water.
During confinement period, pyjamas were my daily uniform
to wear day and night.
to wear day and night.
Next, when it comes to other old-fashioned Chinese confinement taboos and restrictions such as no shower, no washing hair, no going out, no air-conditioner or fan in the room and bathing only with water specially infused herbs for a whole month - I gave them all resounding pass. For obvious hygiene reasons, I showered every day and washed my hair once every two days. In fact, the moment I arrived home from hospital, I immediately gave myself a good shower and hair wash. However, when my Mother-in-Law found out, she scolded me while my parents were all cool with what I just did. I also turned the air-conditioner in my room on because Seremban's hot climate was just too unbearable for me. The temperature here is not as hot as in the Gobi desert but it's hot enough to make me sweat like a pig without room air conditioner. Bored being cooped up in the house for way too long, I sneaked out to supermarket and McDonald's with my husband around 3 weeks after I gave birth while my Mother-in-Law looked after my baby for a couple hours. As a matter of choice, since I had my baby, I think I am naturally and automatically confined at home because it's simply hard to leave my newborn at home and not possible to frequently take her out of the house. Thus, lately I mostly stay at home, even on weekends.
New life as a parent: Saturday night at home watching over my baby.
On the bright side, the good thing about confinement period is the feeling of being spoilt by some family members. My husband and Mother-in-Law were so kind in preparing and delivering my meals to my room upstairs every day. On top of that, they took over some of the household chores like washing and drying my clothes, cleaning dirty dishes in the kitchen, and so on for almost a month.
In summary, the way I did my confinement period here may be a bit unorthodox for the Chinese community in Asia and may not work for some people. I did what I personally think best for me because I didn't want to give myself extra 'emotional' burden when I was trying to cope with my new life, especially when I was physically drained recovering from childbirth and taking care of a newborn. For me, adhering to some traditional confinement rules that I didn't entirely believe would make me upset and give me unnecessary stress. My main goal after my labour was preventing post-natal depression so I tried my best to enjoy my new bundle of joy's presence and keep my sanity intact during the first month after I had my baby by not going through too strict confinement period.