Yesterday I went to the park with our baby and my mother-in-law who was taking care of my nephew, her grandson. We had a lovely walk around the small pond, but then we got to the play ground where my nephew likes to look at other kids playing. He’s not even 6 months yet, so he can’t really join yet.
Lot of the mother’s and grandparents there know my mother-in-law and quickly came to talk with us. When they saw me and my two-week old baby girl in the sling, they asked were almost terrified on how I could take her out before she is one month old!
In China there is a tradition of zuo yuezi aka sitting the month, where the new mom stays at home for one month with the baby, and doesn’t go out at all. The rules and special diet to follow during this month varies from province to province. What the other mothers were the most shocked about were how I could take my baby out when she is too little and how I wasn’t wearing enough clothes.
The Chinese believe that everything you do during the first month affects your health for the rest of your life. Go to bed without drying your hair gets you headache when you’re old. Wearing too little hurts your bones in the old age. Drinking anything cold is of course out of the picture too. In more traditional families even taking a shower might still be prohibited and you need to be covered in thick clothing from head to toes. Eating a lot of chicken and drinking special soups is a must as well.
I briefly explained to the mothers that we don’t do “sitting the month” in the West and in Finland we can take our newborns out the very first day we get out from the hospital if it’s Summer. During the Winter it’s advised to wait a bit and perhaps stay at home if it’s colder than -10 Celsius. But this is Guangzhou and the weather has been around 28 Celsius degrees the whole two weeks I’ve been at home with the baby.
So am I doing the “zuo yuezi”? No, I wouldn’t say so and I don’t have the need to label this time either. I’m just simply doing what I think is best. At first I needed a lot of help from my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law because I had a C-section and the scar kept me from moving freely. My husband also only had seven days total off from work.
But now that I’m pretty much back to normal, of course still being careful, I can handle my self and the baby on my own. It feels good to be able to do things my self again! My mother-in-law keeps helping us with cooking, cleaning and giving a bath to our baby girl, while also helping out with her daughter and grandson!
Now that the first half of my first month after giving birth is over, I have to admit that I would go a bit nuts if I needed to follow the Chinese postpartum traditions to the letter. I’m feeling much better when I can go outside for a walk and do other things than laying in bed or on the sofa. Luckily my mother-in-law isn’t too strict with these and understands that I do things my own way.
Have you followed the “zuo yuezi” traditions or what kind of special traditions women have in your country? I’d love to hear in the comments!