Culture Notes: Postpartum Expectations

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East meets West on Postpartum Day #1. 

Ok, so it was almost two weeks ago, but the memory lingers and I am just starting to get caught up on life and blogging again. 

The day after our daughter was born, I had a nice visit from a new Chinese friend and her mother at the hospital. 

They brought a very typical gift of food–a steaming hot chicken soup with some vegetables and chestnuts, intended for the new mum. 

We poured some into paper cups and enjoyed it as I learned more about all the foods that Chinese mothers and grandmothers prepare for the recently delivered.  My friend’s mother also went into great detail of all the other customs surrounding this rite of passage.   They asked a lot of questions about how we do things in the United States, and we had a lovely discussion. 

Many of the guidelines are based on traditional Chinese concepts of heat and cold, and after delivering a baby a woman is considered to be “cold.”  Her blood is cold, and so she must eat hot foods only for the first 30 days after giving birth–that would include steaming hot foods, no cold drinks, no dairy…you get the idea. 

In addition, she is not supposed to leave the house for the first 30 days, or wear short sleeves, go without socks or slippers, or really even leave the bed except for trips to the restroom and a long list of other prohibitions.

As we are talking, my friend’s mother notices, and comments with some surprise on my short-sleeved hospital gown and my bare feet (in slippers) as I head for the restroom.  I sheepishly shrug into the thick robe provided in my room. 

Then my lunch tray arrives. 

She gets up to inspect it, and lifts up the lid to see what the foreigners eat for lunch the first day after having a baby. 

Uh oh. 

Cold salad.  

Fruit tray with watermelon (a “cold” fruit), pineapple and dragon fruit. 

Chicken panini sandwich–cooling as we speak.

And…a can of Sprite. 

Some slow shaking of the head and muttering as she gave her opinion of this obviously inappropriate meal. 
A slightly apologetic smile from me….

I was really grateful that her daughter had spent several years in the US studying, and was well versed in the wayward ways of the west and could reassure her mom that a lot of foreigners eat like this after having a baby. 

My friend’s mom poured another cup of soup for me, then told me I’d better hurry up and eat the stuff on my tray before it gets any colder than it was already! 

So I did.  And enjoyed every bite of it. 

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