Imagine not having your hair washed for a whole month. There is no shopping or outdoor activities. You are forbidden from drinking water and must cook all food in sesame oil or ginger. My wife’s frustration and anguish at this moment was overwhelming.
This is the first of many articles I will be writing. It covers the experience of my wife having a nanny during her confinement and some tips for introducing dietary changes during that time. These are all viewed through the eyes of a husband and a third party.
For obvious reasons, the mandatory confinement period for Chinese mothers has been called “confinement”. This centuries-old tradition of a month-long confinement is meant to restore the mother’s health to pre-natal levels. It is designed to keep the mother’s body warm and drive out any “wind” that has entered her body after childbirth. Flatulence is what a general practitioner would describe, while a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicines would refer to it as the element that causes pain, and not just the wind-driven phenomenon of wind blowing, stopping, or changing direction. It is believed that wind can cause rheumatism, headaches, and backaches in old age if it isn’t eliminated by pregnancy.
The confinement nanny is crucial. A Cantonese might refer to it as “Pei Yuet”, meaning companion for one month. The job of the confinement nanny is to cook for and care for the mother, baby, and any other children during confinement. A confinement nanny is hired by those who have the financial means. Sometimes, a mother-in law or mother-inlaw can be substituted for a confinement nurse because of high demand, financial considerations, respect or inability to find one.
My wife was in 28-day confinement and I have the privilege of having a competent confinement nanny. The confinement nanny was able to understand my wife’s dietary preferences and went shopping with me for old Ginger, DOM, rice wine and sesame oil. Also, I bought packets of red and dark dates and Chinese confinement nanny herbs. This combination is believed to increase blood flow and rejuvenate the health of women who have just given birth.
It was the confinement meal my wife had while I was in confinement. The smell of ginger and sesame from her confinement nanny’s meals was enough to get her out of bed and make it want to eat early. After every meal, she ate all of her rice. The dishes the confinement nanny prepared were delicious, I can assure you. It tastes just like the meals my granny made for us when we were younger.
My wife was allowed to drink tea made from red dates throughout the whole month. Each night, the confinement nurse would place some red dates, dried longan (the Chinese evergreen tree fruit) and dang shen into a slow cooker. The tea’s fragrant aroma permeated the kitchen by morning. The tea was kept warm in a thermos flask.
She would have it throughout the day, instead of plain water, to avoid water retention and rejuvenate her health. Although she loved plain water, she kept in mind the advice of her confinement nanny regarding the effects of plain water on veins and water retention. She was determined to get back in shape as soon as possible, so she followed the advice.