Imagine not having to bathe and wash your hair for an entire month of 28 days. No shopping and outdoor activities. All food must be cooked in sesame oil and ginger, and you are not allowed to drink even a glass of water. The frustration and agony on my wife was tremendous at the first thought of it.
In this first part of my many articles to come, I’m going to touch on the experience of having a confinement nanny for my wife during her confinement period and some dietary introduction during the confinement period. All these are viewed in the eyes of a third party as well as a husband.
The mandatory confinement period for Chinese mothers is termed for obvious reasons. The purpose of the month-long confinement period, a centuries-old tradition, is to nurture the mother’s health back to its pre-natal state. The purpose is on keeping the body warm and driving out the “wind” which has entered the mother’s body during childbirth. A general practitioner would call flatulence, but a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine would term it as the element which produces pain that is not localized like the natural phenomenon of wind which blows, stops or changes direction. “Wind” that is not eliminated after pregnancy is believed to bring on an onslaught of ailments such as rheumatism, headaches and backaches during old age.
Crucial to the confinement nanny a Cantonese may term it as “Pei Yuet” meaning companion for a month. The confinement nanny’s job is to cook and care for the mother, baby and other children throughout the confinement. Those who can afford it hire a confinement nanny. But sometimes a mother or mother-in-law is substituted either out of financial consideration, respect, or inability to procure a confinement nanny due to high demand.
I am fortunate to have an experienced confinement nanny to take care of my wife during her 28 days of confinement period. After understanding my wife’s dietary preference, the confinement nanny went grocery shopping with me for old ginger, a few bottles of DOM, rice wine, sesame oil, dark vinegar, packets of red and black dates, and various Chinese herbs for preparation of the confinement meal as well as the infamous must have “red date tea” drink. These ingredients are believed to be able to improve blood circulation and revitalize health of a woman who has just given birth.
I could still recall the confinement meal that my 催乳師課程 wife had during the confinement period. The aroma of the sesame and ginger from the confinement nanny’s dishes was enough to wake her from the bed to want start having early meals. And at the end of every meal, not even one grain of rice remained on her plate. Believe me, the dishes that the confinement nanny cooked, was indeed delicious. It tastes like the dishes which my granny used to prepare for us during our younger days.
During the entire month (of 28 days), my wife was only permitted to quench her thirst with tea made of red dates. Every night, the confinement nanny would put some red dates, dang shen, and dried longan (the fruit of the Chinese evergreen tree) into a slow cooker. By morning, the fragrant aroma of the tea permeated the kitchen. She kept the tea warm in a thermos flask.
Throughout the day she would drink it instead of plain water so as to prevent water retention and revitalize health. Though she yearned for plain water (which is her all time favourite drink), she would constantly remember the advise given by the confinement nanny about the consequences of drinking plain water which would purportedly make the veins swell and also resulting in water retention. After all, getting back to shape in the shortest time was her aim, she heeded the advise.