Sunday, 16 August 2009

My thoughts on Confinement & its taboos...

Confinement practises... hmm... I've been wanting to talk about my confinement experiences... So, here goes...

Mine was a DIY confinement.. thanks to my confinement lady (CL) who broke her leg 2 weeks before my due date (she went to Bali for holiday). At the last minute, I was not able to locate any replacement CL. Even my CL couldn't recommend any of her friends as normally you need to book a CL months before your due date. In fact, this CL of mine was the 7th person we called and managed to get...

I was 4 month pregnant when we started scouting for a CL. Through friends' and colleagues' recommendation, we tried and failed... until I went to surf on the Net, found the 6th CL contact, called her up only to be told she is based in Ipoh (she can travel to your place tho') but she was already booked in March (I was due mid March 09').

The next day, I got a call from this lady who said her friend (CL #6) passed my mobile number to her. Turns out CL #7 stays about 10 minutes from my house! We went to her house to survey and interviewed her, and paid our deposit (RM500) to book her for March 09'.

What I can tell about her:
  • She works for 28 days only
  • Her fees are RM3,300 (excluding angpow which you need to give when your baby full-moon) - and her fees doubled if my confinement period falls on CNY...
  • She does the cooking (and marketing if you / spouse are not able to go market bcos of work etc etc)
  • She only washes for the baby and the mum (but she told me to buy & use disposable panties throughout the confinement period)
  • She will sleep with the baby (which we don't want to actually - don;t want baby to be accustomed to her smell)
  • She is pro formula/bottle feeding - we noticed this when we mentioned about our intention to fully breastfeed baby from day 1 and she mentioned 'You just buy a tin of formula just in case you don't have enough milk laa' (which, from the moment I was pregnant until this day, our house do not have a single tin/can of formula milk at all, we are that insistent to breastfeed our baby!)

Anyway, on the day she broke her bad news to me, I was at work, about to attend a project meeting and my CL called to inform that I need to look for another CL. She said she will refund me the deposit (as if money will help in anything then...) and keep saying sorry and that I need to collect the deposit ASAP (latest by that day itself) cos she's going back to her hometown to rest and heal her leg. After the call ended, I went to the restroom, locked myself in one of the cubicle, pulled down the toilet seat, sat on it... think think think... and cried quietly like a slaughtered pig.

I was so devastated with the news. It's not like I made the arrangements last minute, and yet I am left to deal with this. I texted my hubby and he replied 'don't worry dear, I will be your confinement lady for 2mths oso can. Maybe this is God's way of telling us to let go and let Him handle this' (I still kept that SMS in my mobile)

So from that day onwards, I surfed the Net, trying to gather as much info I can about confinement practises. The fact that we're attending the antenatal class that time helps a great deal. The trainer actually told us why there are such confinement taboos, the logic of it and why we should not continue on doing it in these modern days.

In the class, we learnt how to recognise labour signs (not working for me judging that I only realised I'm having contractions few hours before I reached the hospital which I supposedly go for labour induce), breathing exercise (which helps a great deal when I was waiting for hubby to register for me to be admitted to hospital - from then on, mind went blank hahahaha...), baby care on bathing, changing diapers, etc etc (helps hubby since he took care of Ben during the 1st month), breastfeeding (helps me a great deal!), birth pain relief options (which helps!)

After delivery, we engaged the trainer for the post-natal home visits (3 times for RM100) to check whether we are doing things correctly since we are pretty much doing confinement on our own.

I think the lessons learned here are:
  • No matter how you planned, things may not work out the way you wanted (i.e. ended up doing DIY confinement despite engaging the CL 5 mths before I delivered)
  • No matter how bad things seem to be (i.e. no CL 2 weeks before due!), God will not leave you flailing about and lost (i.e. by doing our own confinement, hubby & I bonded with Ben faster, not to mention saving ourselves RM3,300!!)

Come to think of it now, if the CL did not break her leg, we will actually be spending RM3K+ for her to cook and wash for baby. Think about it, we insist on breastfeeding and that baby sleeps with us at night. So, what is there left for the CL to do? My MIL can cook too and she did helped out with our DIY confinement by cooking those herbs and stuff (we didn't ask her to help care for Ben cos she's 60+ and had knee problems, so we didn't want to trouble her, that's why thought of getting a CL). So, God works in a mysterious way, just that we can't see it at that point in time.

Now, on the topic of confinement taboos, I think I broke most of it within the 1st week after I discharged from the hospital hahahahah... btw, I got this list of taboos from the Net:

  • Cannot wash hair for 21 days or bathe for 12 days. (I bathed right after delivered when I got back to my VIP suite, hey, I'm all bloodied up down there and whoever dares to tell me not to bath is gonna get themselves killed...)
  • Cannot be directly exposed to wind (hot, for example, hairdryer; or cold, for example, air-conditioning). (Yeah, try to turn off that air-cond in my RM300/night VIP suite will get you killed too!)
  • Can only watch TV or read for 15 minutes at a time, so that the eyes are well-rested. (Yeah, the TV in my RM300/night VIP suite is on 24hrs throughout the 3 days 2 nights I was there!)
  • Cannot cry. (Actually I cried on the 5th day - that's when Ben got jaundice and needs to overnight in the hospital and the nurse initially told us to go home and parents not allowed to stay since no more rooms available for parents...)
  • Cannot carry heavy objects (including the baby), over-exert self or walk up and down the stairs. (Hmmm... I remembered being scolded by the nurse when I walked around real fast about 5 hours after I delivered Ben - was looking for hubby who followed a nurse to bath Ben...)
  • Cannot drink water for the first 20 days, only rice wine (with the alcohol “steamed” away). (does the IV drip hooked to me while I delivered Ben count as water? Anyway, broke this taboo as well...)
  • Must wear socks, long pants, long shirt (cover up) (hah! The first thing i got home was wear singlet and short pants. i wore it thruout my confinement time hahahah... it is so hot and stuffy!! how could i cover up??!!!)

Below are from another site:
  • Do not shower or wash your hair. (I showered right after delivery, washed my hair after 1 week, got hubby to keep watch for me while i blowdry my hair hahahahah...)
  • Do not sleep in front of the fan or air conditioning unit or have direct contact with cold, constantly blowing wind. (I slept with fan 2 feet from me, air-cond 2 horsepower above me and I'm still sweating like a pig...)
  • Do not drink cold or chilled drinks. (I had a sip of Pepsi 12 days after delivering Ben - it was my birthday and hubby got me a McD McChicken meal set minus the soft drink... he let me have a sip after i found the hidden Pepsi... yummmmm... heavenly...!)
  • Do not consume excessively “cooling” foods (like kang kong, cucumber, Brinjal, Chinese pears, barley etc. (ok, i don't eat all this but its bcos i don't eat veggie... muahahaha...)
  • Do not lift heavy objects or overexert the body excessively. (does lifting your newborn son to breastfeed him count as lifting heavy object?)
  • Do not engage in strenuous/ high impact exercises. (does breastfeeding every 2 hours count as strenous activity??)
Anyway, there are tons of other stuff which we didn't do as well like:
  • We didn't shaved Ben's head bald - until today, he has such perfect and beautiful and even hair
  • We didn't bath Ben in alcohol/beer (antenatal class trainer said dangerous for baby as their skin will absorbs the alcohol)
I'm not saying rules are made to be broken, but then we should not follow things blindly too. There are reasons why there are such confinement taboos but we've gotta think logically where are we staying... Malaysia has only 1 weather all year round - it's not fun (and certainly not funny) to not bath/wash hair for even more than 1 day!!!

i hate it when ppl tell me 'if you don't do it/listen, next time when you are old, you'll get arthritis and all'... then when i ask why cannot do this/that, they will say 'you don't ask, just follow. Old folks all say the same thing sure must have a point mahhh'.. yeah... rite... whatever... until they can tell me the logic and justify the taboo, I guess I'll rely on my instincts better... :)


Mumzzy said...

I completely completely agree with you...u broke more rules than me! :P u still can get away with wearing shorts!!! i'd be getting a lecture from confinement lady for not wearing socks! even though i was pretty much covered up

I'm a full-time mummy... said...

Mumzzy, that's the difference la... you got CL, I don't hahaha,...

JadeLD said...

Wow I had no idea there were so many rules! It's good to hear you used yuor own judgement and did what you feel is right for your baby.

Zeemaid said...

wow. I'm am always amazed at how different customs are. Most of those rules sound ridiculous. We don't have CL's here. Oh we can hire a doula but that's only really gotten popular in the recent years (in Canada anywas) but really, not many people can afford to dole out the extra money.

And I can't believe you shaved poor Ben's head. Aww. I read another blogger who talked about going against her family by not shaving her babie's hair. Again, these customs just amaze me. Very interesting to read about :)

happy SITS day!

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Zeemaid!

Thanks for dropping by my blog! It's been really fun to have my own SITS day finally!

Anyway, just wanted to correct your statement on shaving Ben's head... We didn't shave Ben's head at all, even today at 14.5mths old, I had only recently cut off half an inch from the front of his hair, since its touching his eyebrows and making him itchy.

We are totally not for superstitions things when it is illogical. Thank goodness my MIL is pretty modern when it comes to the topic of shaving baby's head! :D

Chiaw Lian Tan said...

Hi, I am amazed at how you manage to DIY your own confinement. I am pregnant for 2 months now, and plan to DIY my own confinement as well. Do you mind to share the detail of your DIY confinement process & the plan? Thanks.

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Chiaw Lian!

Oh boy, it's been a long time since I checked my old blog... appreciate if you could hop over to my new blog at after this :)

To answer your questions, my hub is my CL lady hahahaa... he basically handles the baby bathing, caring, etc I just focus on resting and breastfeeding on demand. Food wise, my MIL will take care of dinners and sometimes lunch meals but I've always been the rice + fried egg + luncheon meat person, so I had these during my confinement on top of the occasional black beans with red dates drinks that my MIL made once every few days. Apparently it helps to increase breastmilk :)

It is best if you can attend an antenatal class somewhere between 6-7 months of your pregnancy and you get your hubby to go with you as well. You will learn basics of baby care, breastfeeding, labor signs, breathing exercise, etc. Do message me in my new blog if you want to ask more ya! Thanks for your comment!


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