DISCLAIMER: The content of Dr Kristal Lau’s Postpartum Wellness Show does not replace medical advice from your health providers. Listening to this show does not establish a patient-doctor or client-provider relationship between you and Dr. Kristal Lau. Please see your health provider for any medical concerns or contact your local emergency line for any urgent matters.
Selamat Datang and Welcome to the Postpartum Wellness Show!
and I’m Dr Kristal Lau, your host and postpartum wellness consultant
In this show, I share insights and knowledge around approaching your postpartum journey through culture, traditions, and modern postpartum care using my combined experiences as a physician with scientific and public health background, an author, a foreign-born US military spouse, and a mom of 2.
Join me in this exploration of motherhood, wellness, and heritage where you will learn how to thrive in your postpartum journey and beyond.
Hey, everybody. This is part three of the mini series on the confinement practice on the postpartum wellness show. And today, I am going to be talking about making the case for a modern confinement.
Why should we adapt a traditional and cultural practice to the modern lifestyle?
To make the case for that, I'm going to talk about the challenges of a very traditional confinement practice, but also the benefits of continuing to practice something from our culture and from our heritage.
Then I'm going to read a little excerpt from my book, "Postpartum 30," where I've also made these discussions in there.
So if you do want to read more in-depth, you can always go grab my book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any other online retailer out there. The link will be in the show notes: BUY BOOK HERE
First, I want to share my story about why I decided to write this book.
Why did I choose to approach the postpartum confinement practice in a more modern sense instead of sticking to something completely traditional and to follow it strictly?
My very first confinement experience is after having my first child. We were in Alabama at the time in the United States, deep South Alabama because that's where we were stationed for my husband's work.
And it was painfully clear that I was not going to be able to carry out or to follow a very traditional confinement, 30 days, the way that a lot of women do back in Malaysia.
Why? I was alone. I didn't have my family there. I didn't have my friends there. And my husband, I think at the time. I can't remember now if he had seven days or 21 days of paternity leave, but he did have to take extra leave out of his annual holiday leave to stay home for 30 days.
So there were a lot of things working against us to help me practice a proper confinement month, which is why it made sense to adapt a lot of the practices to something that works for where we were in Alabama, where we didn't have that much access to Asian grocers that were big enough, that had ingredients that we needed for the foods that I would have liked to eat during the time, to brew the teas that I wanted to.
And even for us to access a traditional Chinese medicine pharmacy or doctor or herbalist, we had to travel away from there. And we managed to do that. We managed to tee up a trip in New York when I had to go and do some passport stuff with the Malaysian embassy. So we tied in that trip to look for herbs from a TCM doctor, and we brought that back.
So that worked for us. But I do think what if there are families and what if you and your partner are not able to access such things because of financial reasons, logistical reasons; there are many reasons why a family would not be able to access certain things for a proper traditional confinement practice in the West.
That's why I decided to write this book, "Postpartum 30," because it's for women like me and families like mine where we have moved around quite a bit.
Or if you are like me and you've migrated from the east to the west and you still wanna follow certain cultural practices, but you're finding it tough because the West is a completely different place,
or if you are a first, second or more generation Asian who has grown up knowing about cultural practices like this, but you still find it a struggle to follow through with some of them because you're in the West.
or if you are like my husband, or if your spouse is like my husband, a Westerner who is married into an Asian family and married into the culture, and they want to participate, but they don't know how, then this book is absolutely for all of you guys.
Now let's talk about the challenges of performing or practicing a fully traditional confinement experience.
I cite three challenges of performing a traditional confinement in today's era. The first is that it's outdated to the modern woman. And the second is that the traditional confinement practice excludes partners from the postpartum period.
And granted that still happens today in modern postnatal care, but that's a topic for another episode. And finally, a very traditional confinement is inconvenient in our modern world.
So let's go back to the first challenge of performing a traditional confinement. Why is it outdated to the modern woman? I'm going to read from my book here.
The modern woman has unique challenges compared to the older generation of women. We bear the burden of breaking the cycles of oppression and generational trauma and the sacrifice our maternal elders had to make through no complete fault of their own.
We also bear the burden of setting examples for our children to show them that it is possible to break cycles and do better. Modern women everywhere these days also have to think about how much maternity leave they and their partner or spouse can get.
Is it financially feasible to carry out a very traditional confinement month? Can modern moms and modern women get the physical support to do it, especially for those of you like me who have migrated overseas? And we don't always have a community that we managed to build where we are, especially for myself.
Cause I move around a lot following my husband's work. There were likely less of these challenges back in the days when families lived with each other in the same village or neighborhood. We once knew our neighbors really well and trusted many of them, but this connection isn't as common nowadays.
Now the second part, traditional confinement practices usually exclude partners from the postpartum period.
And that is exactly true. Some of them in Asia still do today. My cousin did spend time with his wife in the confinement center in Malaysia; he was allowed to stay there.
But I do recall growing up, a lot of confinement centers did not allow fathers to stay overnight or really participate, which we now know that paternal participation in the postpartum period does make a difference, both in their own postpartum journey, and this is something I'm going to keep repeating as much as I can.
Fathers and husbands, spouses, non-birthing partners, they have their own postpartum experience, their postpartum journey too. We just need to explore that and give space for them in this time.
And that is why throughout my book, and at the end of many chapters, I make a note for spouses, partners, family members, and friends who want to get involved.
It is absolutely important for them to be part of the process intimately, to be at the forefront of things because it sets the tone for how challenging the postpartum period is.
It sets the expectation that, "hey, we are in this together." It gives the message to mothers that, "we are here for you. I've got your back."
Which brings me to the last challenge of following a very traditional confinement practice. It is inconvenient in the modern world and a modern society and in our modern lifestyles.
It is just so inconvenient, especially when you're in the West. It's not easy to find the herbs that you need. It is not always easy to find a TCM doctor, a herbalist to get the herbs that you need, and a lot of times it is absolutely safer and better for you to get a prescription from a TCM doctor because everybody's different, their needs are different.
But not everybody has access to that. Especially not when you're living in Alabama, deep South Alabama, mind you. And even now in Germany, but Germany is a whole different story now with traditional Chinese medicine.
I'm going to save that for another episode. You'll be mind-blown to know how much TCM is integrated in Western medicine here in Germany. But yes, the inconvenience of getting herbs and ingredients, and also if you want to follow the very strict practice of no drinking water, only drinking tea and soups.
How much time is invested and also the notion of you've got to cook everything fresh. It is very time-consuming, especially for modern families who may not have both physical resources as well as time and money resources to be able to do that.
And not to mention the strict hygiene practices of the traditional style. Oh, I can attest to how uncomfortable that is. Very, very uncomfortable. And I personally did not do a full traditional practice.
With my first or with my second child, absolutely not, because it didn't make sense for me to continue doing that when I know the water that I get at home is clean, I'm able to have hot water at any time, and I am able to mimic a warm environment after taking a shower, so I don't expose myself to cold and dampness and wind.
But yet for those of us, and for those of you who want to follow the very traditional style of confinement, there are also some benefits to it, and it's mostly related to feeling of fulfillment and honoring your elders. So there are three points that I cover under benefits of a traditional confinement.
One is when you do the full traditional style, you remember the nitty-gritty of all of these practices, especially when you write them down, you know, pass it, pass on the knowledge. And the second thing is passing down your heritage.
When you do full-on traditional, it does give you that very unique experience of doing something that not many of us, modern women and modern moms do. And that's also a wonderful story to share with your fellow women and moms and your children once they've grown up.
The next thing is we get to honor our elders when we follow something that they have done to the T in their time. We get to appreciate what they've gone through. We get to appreciate the struggles of recovery after childbirth. And it really actually tells us that as challenging pregnancy and childbirth is postpartum recovery is no joke.
It's not just a walk in the park where you "all right, you're done now. You'll be fine." There is a whole process to it. And a big part of it is also in preserving a mother's health, preserving your health once you get older down the road.
Continuing to practice confinement offers us a chance to reconnect with our elders when we're planning for the postpartum recovery month. And that's why it's also important to do postpartum planning. It's a wonderful time to come together and rediscover family traditions and family histories.
I can only imagine the new or stronger bonds a modern mom will form with their mothers, aunts, stepmoms, grandmothers, well, any and all the mom figures in their lives.
I'd imagine not many elders openly share their stories of triumph and failures when they first become a mother. I cannot think of a better way to honor our matriarch elders than to hold space for them and remind them that they're not invisible.
This is also a perfect opportunity to have open conversations about what you, the modern mom, needs. It's such a tender conversation, so I'd like to think our elders would be more empathetic to the new challenges the modern world brings to new moms and their families.
So looking at the challenges of a traditional confinement, but also the benefits of doing one. This is why I really, really feel there's a need to bridge that and have something that matches both. That's why the modern confinement practice.
It's also important to understand that there is no all left, all right, or black and white. There are many, many shades of color, many experiences in between, many family types in between.
And it's also important to understand that when something is related to traditions and culture and heritage, we can still find a middle ground that works with our modern lives.
Our elders and the previous generation, they have survived before when new technology came about, when world wars changed the course of things everywhere. And so modernity is no different.
And it's even more important now with how much easier it is to migrate or to experience life in another country as an expat, that there is a way for us to carry our culture and heritage with us to a new place and to adapt that respectfully to where we're living.
That is one of the core things in my book is to pay homage to the traditional confinement, the Zuo Ye Zi, but also pay homage to the modern mom and the woman and modern families.
If you and your spouse or partner are the first to raise a mixed-race family like mine, this holds even more value because you're able to pass down your joint heritage once you've tailored a confinement practice to your family. And that's why it's also important to hold space for a modern confinement practice.
I hope you've enjoyed today's episode on making the case for a modern confinement based on exploring the challenges of doing a very traditional one. And also the benefits of that. So we're finding a nice in-between that especially works for you as the modern mom, the modern woman and your modern family.
And now the next episode, I'm going to introduce you to my modern confinement method, how to personalize one. There's a little table in my book that I'll be sharing, so make sure to subscribe and follow me so that you'll get the episode drop as soon as that happens.
And the final part of this mini-series, I'm going to talk about celebrations that you can do after your confinement.
That's the fun part. We're going to talk about the full moon celebration, the hundred day celebration, mostly related to babies. But in my book, I talk about how we can add mom into those celebrations.
So till then, thank you for listening, and I'll see you next week.
In this blog post, we continue our exploration of the Chinese postpartum confinement practice, zuo yue zi.
This time, we discuss the challenges and benefits of following a traditional confinement practice in the context of our modern world and lifestyle, making the case for the need for a modern confinement practice!
If you're not sure what the confinement practice is, check out Episode 7: What is Confinement? The Chinese Postpartum Recovery Practice of Confinement – Zuo Yue Zi.
3 Challenges of Following a Strict Traditional Confinement Practice
- Outdated to the Modern Woman
For many of us, the idea of adhering strictly to traditional confinement for 30 days is outdated. The modern woman carries a unique burden compared to previous generations. We are tasked with breaking the cycles of oppression and generational trauma while setting examples for our children.
For many USA mothers, the lack of protected maternity leave means you may not have the time to follow a full 30-day confinement. Plus, there needs to be a degree of financial capability to have everything you need for a proper traditional confinement.
Not to mention needing the physical and personnel support to do it because you shouldn't be cooking your own food or doing housework during this resting period!
- Excludes Partners from the Postpartum Period
Traditional confinement practices have historically excluded partners from being involved in the postpartum period (learn more in Episode 8: A Brief History of The Chinese Postpartum Confinement Practice – Zuo Yue Zi).
However, research has shed light on the importance of paternal participation during this crucial time. Fathers, husbands, and non-birthing partners have their own postpartum experiences that deserve attention and understanding.
- Inconvenient in Our Modern World
Embracing a fully traditional confinement experience can be inconvenient in our fast-paced, modern world. Finding the necessary herbs, accessing a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor or herbalist, and strictly adhering to practices such as abstaining from drinking water in favor of tea and soups can be challenging, especially in certain locations. The time, resources, and effort required to follow these practices fully are often beyond the means of many modern families.
3 Benefits of Following a Strict Traditional Confinement Practice
- Remembering Our Roots
While there are clear challenges associated with traditional postpartum confinement practices, there are also benefits to consider. For those who choose to fully embrace the strict practices, it offers a unique opportunity to remember the intricacies of these practices. It also allows us to honour the struggles and sacrifices of our elders, fostering a deeper appreciation for the postpartum recovery process.
- Passing Down Our Heritage
These excerpts are from my book, Postpartum 30:
"Combined with our memories of our confinement month, being able to tell our story of experiencing this rite of motherhood and parenthood is an unforgettable way of passing down our heritage."
"If you and your spouse or partner are the first to raise a mixed-race family, this holds even more value because you're both able to pass down your joint heritage once you've tailored a confinement practice to your family."
- Honouring Our Elders
Planning for and following traditional practices provide an excellent opportunity to connect with our elders and learn from their experiences. Engaging in conversations with them can reveal the triumphs and challenges they faced during their postpartum journeys. This can strengthen bonds between generations and remind our matriarch elders that they are not invisible.
Why Modernise The Confinement Practice?
In a world that often seems black and white, it's important to understand that there are countless shades of colour, experiences, and family types. Traditional practices can be adapted to fit our modern lives, striking a balance between the old and the new. As our ancestors adapted to new technologies and challenges, we can do the same with modernity.
With the ease of migration and global living, it's more important than ever to carry our culture and heritage with us to new places. Adapting these practices respectfully to our new environments can help us preserve our traditions while embracing modernity.
By embracing modern confinement practices while respecting tradition, we can continue to honor our cultural heritage, stay connected with our elders, and create a unique postpartum experience that suits the needs of the modern woman.
Postpartum recovery is not a one-size-fits-all journey, and by adapting traditions to our modern world, we can create a meaningful, fulfilling experience for ourselves and our families.
Stay tuned for the next episode, where I'll introduce you to the concept of a personalized modern confinement method, complete with a table from my book "Postpartum 30."
Plus, in the final installment of this mini-series, we'll explore post-confinement celebrations that can add joy to your postpartum journey!
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