The other day I was reminiscing about when my children were newly born. I miss the milky smell of brand new baby, so pure, so innocent until one day their biggest talent is pretty much rolling their eyes at whatever their parents do or say.
That reminds me of how culture shocked I was when I gave birth to one of my children here in the UK. I mentioned a few superstitions in my culture in my previous blog titled “Very Superstitious”. Beside the ‘don’t eat jackfruit and banana’ during pregnancy, there were more to list down but today I want to share with you all how it was even harder after the big push.

Every culture, every house, will have their own custom on how a woman who has recently given birth needs to be taken care of. My former Chinese mother-in-law insisted that I didn’t shower for the first three days after giving birth because my body had just gone through a trauma, and the most important to do whilst my body is healing is to prevent getting ‘wind/cold’ inside the body. So showering or bathing was a big no! When I had my baby here, after the baby was born and taken care of, they took me to take a bath! That was shocking, but not as shocking as when I was given orange juice! For the next one month I was worrying about what will happened to my body when I’m old?

Back in Borneo we didn’t have a bath tub, we used a big plastic bucket filled with water and a plastic jug to scoop up the water and pour it over the body. But for a new mother, I must shower only using some kind of mix-dried leafy herbs that have been boiled until the water turns into a brown tea like colour, but it smells amazing. Bath water has to be properly warm. That was lovely except that no hair washing allowed for the next 30 days! I never felt so gross… so sweaty in the high humidity environment.

This is what we called ‘confinement’, and it doesn’t end with just no hair washing. There also very limited types of food allow to be consumed during the confinement. Mostly I am stuck with Chicken soup cooked in Rice Wine or, as the locals called it, Lihing. It is usually cooked with a lot of ginger and not just any chicken, it is best cooked with what we call Ayam Kampung (basically it’s a type of chicken, free range – organic – lean meat). This soup supposedly keeps the body warm, getting rid of the ‘wind’ from inside the body, and also to prevent it from entering the body because if it does so, I will get all sorts of health issue when I’m old – I guessed they forgot that is just part of being old. The soup is delicious but after the 5th day, I was definitely craving something else. No leafy vegetables, no cucumber, no tomatoes and the list goes on!
Some confinements are stricter. I know someone that during her confinement, she wasn’t even allow to leave her bedroom for 40 days!

My Indonesian friend had to wear a cloth-type bandage (called ‘Bengkung’) that was wrapped around the stomach area and served as a postpartum abdominal binding. I believe this is equivalent to a corset. It keeps everything tight and reshapes the body after pregnancy.

After one month the new parents will celebrate a ‘Full Moon’. No, not the Thailand beach Full Moon party! This is an innocent small gathering for friends and family to meet the new baby and give gifts. For the Chinese, we also served hard boiled eggs that had been dyed in red. I think it similar to the western Easter egg, as it symbolizes birth or a new start. The red colour is for prosperity and good fortune. This custom is from ancient Chinese culture when infant mortality was high.

I have been in the UK for quite few years now, but I have never heard anyone talking about what it is like after birth. Do you have any folklore customs that are passed down the generations?


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