Civil confinement: for psychiatric patients
Color confinement: the physical principle explaining the non-observation of color charged particles like free quarks
Solitary confinement: a strict form of imprisonment
The confinement of an animal specimen in a zoo
The traditional postnatal confinement of a woman after childbirth that is practised by some Asian cultures.
They are almost (surprise, surprise) inter-related.
A week post delivery, I remember catching sight of myself at the full length mirror in the room and not liking what I see. I know that it's only been 7 days since BabyMoo dropped by, but I really didn't like my reflection. I looked tired, frazzled, unkempt and bloated.
Add to that image an oversized tee with shapeless long pajama bottoms. Only because the mother in law insisted that I have to be 'covered' during the 1 month confinement period. I didn't like not being able to shower as often as I like... and I couldn't understand why I can't even leave the house to take a walk for a breather.
Thankfully, I have a supportive husband who believes in what makes sense, rather than confinement practices which has no basis or is simply designed to make a new mum as uncomfortable as possible. At least that's my opinion, especially when it was sweltering hot, and I had to walk around with a bind which made me get a silhouette even better than my body had been pre-baby. Not to mention the uncomfortable nursing bra + padding + sore boobs to add to the discomfort. I was ready to kill whoever it was who portrayed nursing mums as blooming goddess-like individuals with a little smile and a bub who contentedly suckles at perfectly even-coloured veinless, stretch-marked-less breasts.
This is a posed picture. For sure.
A lot of the Chinese confinement practices probably originated from olden days China where there was a lack of proper bathing facilities and a bath ritual usually meant immersing oneself in an urn filled with heated water which quickly became cold due to the weather. I totally understand the reasoning that childbirth causes a woman to lose a lot of energy, and it is also a period of time when the body is susceptible to illnesses, of which the effects of extreme cold can cause long term side effects like joint pains and arthritis.
Surely having a warm shower (close all the windows if you have to!) and ensuring that we dry ourselves thoroughly after that wouldn't hurt? Being forbidden to wash the hair for a month... can you imagine the state of distress the head of hair as well as the individual it's on will be subjected to? ...And the smell!! The smell! After huffing and puffing to get baby out... no showers, no washing of hair. Wrap yourself up like a dumpling while you're at it.
I did compromise, though. Only because I respect my mother-in-law and I didn't want to get into any arguments with her, which would undoubtedly put the husband in a very tight spot. After all, she came by every morning for 30 days (she stays in the East and I stay in the West) and leaves in the evening so that the transition will be easier, and having a pair of experienced hands is definitely a God-send, especially for a first-time mum as myself.
I showered before she came by and after she left... quick showers, (which actually became 2nd nature once you have a child - ask any Mum and she would tell you the same), and washed my hair every two days. I ate what she prepared for me, which wasn't difficult at all because I love confinement food, even pre-baby days. Pig's liver, kidneys, lean pork, ginger, vinegar, chicken, double boiled black chicken soup, dried longan drink. I ate them all.
No vegetables allowed... but I'll sneak in a supper salad because I'll be hungry from all that breastfeeding anyway. I think the risk of getting constipation (vs. getting 'wind' in the body) is one best avoided, especially since I have a C-Sect healing wound, which fortunately didn't hurt - making me sometimes forget it's even there. I believe in doing everything in moderation. Even without the causes and effects of childbirth, too much or too little of anything is never good.
I gave birth in January, so it was days with intermittent short showers in the blazing sun which resulted in insane humidity levels. As a result of the food intake, binding and the weather, I really felt the heat. I am not one who perspires easily, in fact I hardly do - so that was also a bane in this case. I was a bundle of nerves, and a screaming baby who was always hungry (he still does that now, btw) at night didn't help matters. I know lots of mothers who hire Confinement Ladies during this period, and I suppose with a live in CL, they are actually able to get as much rest as possible and recuperate without having to worry about baby during the night. As with all live-in help, even if it was only for a month... if they're lucky, they get a superb one whom they can get along with. Then there are those who think that they know it all and refuse to respect the wishes of the parents, choosing to do what they're comfortable with for baby. I've heard more horror stories about CLs than happy ones... so I was actually relieved when my MIL offered her help as she and I understand each other.
The husband was also a great help. I think after the first week, he had it far worse than I did because he had to work during the day, and insisted on helping out during night changes and feeds. We transitioned BabyMoo to 3 hourly sessions from the first week onwards, and gradually to feeds every 4 hours during the 3rd week. This meant that I had to diligently pump every two hours even as he sleeps so as to ensure that he has enough for the next feed, because fortunately, I had more than enough milk for him - just that we decided to space out the feeds so that he will be able to sleep through the night earlier - on the PDs advice. I'm glad that we did... because BabyMoo suddenly decided that he (along with Mummy and Daddy) will be so much better off if he slept through the night from the 6th week onwards.
DaddyMoo also sneaked in Bubble Tea for me. Plus the occasional Sundae and Fries from Mc Donalds. He covered my surgery wound with plastic each and every time I wanted to shower. He blow-dried my hair as I sat there watching Korean dramas. I wondered then - and I wonder now... how BabyMoo manages to sleep through the din, but bless his heart - he did. The hubs was my partner in crime, as he walked to Central to buy me treats as soon as he sends his mum off. He 'sternly' gives me my loot, while I grinned with glee. He carries baby out of the room when he starts wailing and he sees me sprawled on the bed in exhaustion so that I can rest. He keeps his cool while I yell at him for the stupidest, smallest things. He told his Mum that she is not going to make me drink the Fish and Papaya soup ever, after the one and only spoonful he tasted, which he promptly spat out. I don't think I could have managed those 'dark' days without him.
I don't know how I did it... but I somehow survived. I have never been a person who take too well to following rules, regulations and instructions, but I suppose like many other things after BabyMoo arrived, I relented. Regardless of what many naysayers may claim, each and every culture (especially in Asia) have their own post birth practices; and this is designed primarily for the mother's well-being. Who am I to argue with that, right? Even though I didn't observe the complete ritual - yes I cheated in a lot of ways! - it didn't kill me or change me to have followed the practices. If it supposedly ensures that my health is maintained and I don't suffer with aches and pains as I age, all the better for me.
Me: "If we ever have another kid, I don't know if I can go through the confinement period again. That was the worst!" (It's getting harder to recall the incessant wails and trying to figure out what baby wants amidst high pitched screams)
He: "We can do it like last time again lah. You still ate what you wanted, showered and washed your hair. Just that you can't do it as and when. Not too bad what! The anticipation of treats at the end of the day makes it more bearable, right?"
Me: "Nope. Doe Wan."
He: "Did you actually think my Mum didn't know you bathed and washed your hair even during the first 7 days? Of course she knew... there's no way that you would still look and smell the same after the 3rd day if you didn't - even if you always insist that you fa*t flowers."
Fine. Point taken.
I guess if there ever is another time - I'm sure I'll live through it the way I did back then. It wasn't *that* bad.
My wonderful MIL!
Mummy and BabyMoo, 30 days later.