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Chinese Cultural and Childbirth

I learned about some cool Chinese traditions surrounding a new baby’s birth when I was a kid.  Growing up, my mom would often tell me things to never do immediately after having a baby since it was bad for your health: don’t work or cook or do anything laborious for 1 month, don’t take a shower, don’t get cold, don’t wash your hair because it will cause arthritis in old age.  I never really knew where she picked up that kind of information, so I decided to dig more into Chinese culture surrounding childbirth here, here, here, and here.

Many of the influences on cultural beliefs stem from Chinese Buddhist and Taoist religious beliefs that utilize spiritual rites to offer protection from evil spirits.  For 1 month post partum, the mother and baby are supposed to remain home-bound to prevent against death and disease.   However, worldwide for centuries, the most delicate time in a child’s life is that first month post-partum when immune defenses are low.

In the Chinese beliefs of yin and yang, it is believed that pregnancy is a “hot” period, therefore hot foods should be avoided and expectant moms should consume cold foods.  I have no idea what foods are in which category, because they’re not referring to temperature.  But, I imagine spicy foods are considered hot, and they definitely do flare up the heartburn and nausea!

On the contrary, post-partum is considered a “cold” period, so “hot” foods should be devoured and cold foods avoided.  It makes nutritional sense to me that Chinese women often consume foods high in protein to replenish blood loss during birth.  They also drink hot ginger tea and eat several other concoctions that sound utterly horrendous to me (pickled pigs feet with wine and other things, blech!).

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the mom to take a month off to bond with the baby, relax, and recuperate.  I welcome the fact that post-partum, I’ll be able to stay at home and rejuvenate for a month until the holiday season kicks in.  Not taking a shower during that 1 month period, well, I’m not too sure about that one.  Not washing your hair for 1 month, now that’s just utterly gross to me, although I don’t think it’s necessary, especially in colder months, to wash your hair every day.  It makes sense to avoid taking a shower immediately after delivery in that a new mom is probably fatigued, somewhat hypoglycemic, and possibly unstable on her legs and could possibly pass out, which could be a hazard while standing in a slippery shower.  Taking a bath makes sense to help flush out any birth remnants, but Chinese culture advises against taking a bath when a woman is menstruating, so I don’t understand how that’s different than post-partum.

One of the particularly interesting Chinese traditions surrounding a newborn baby is the 1-month birthday celebration.  After the mom and baby have had a chance to bond and get into a routine for a month, the baby is officially presented to extended family and friends at a party.  Typically, the baby’s name isn’t announced until the party.  In fact, the baby’s name isn’t determined until the baby is born since there’s an entire elaborate process surrounding that regarding gender, name meaning, name sound, number of brush strokes to write the name in characters, and whether the name is representative of water, fire, earth, or air.

Okay, back to party-talk.  So, like most anything related to Chinese tradition, the party is typically themed in red to promote happiness and prosperity.  Baby’s birth is announced by sending out eggs dyed red: an odd number of eggs means girl and an even number, boy.  Guests typically present the baby with red envelopes filled with money (the same type of thing that elders give to kids at Chinese lunar new year celebration).  Grandparents give the baby jewelry (bracelets, anklets, necklaces, etc.) to “tie the baby to this world”.  The baby is adorned in red, often times that includes an ornately designed silk coat and hat.

In exchange, guests receive dyed red eggs, pickled ginger, and mini red and yellow cakes for happiness and prosperity.

Since Steve’s family’s church wants to throw a baby shower after the baby’s birth, I thought it would be fun to throw in a few elements of Chinese tradition with a red theme and a couple of the traditional party favors.

Thoughts on Bradley Method

I like the Bradley Method birthing class. We view a video of a birth each class, and it helps me realize what birth is really like. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a live birth. After seeing what Hollywood produces, no wonder the majority of women in America are scared about labor and birthing, and they want an epidural before even attempting to trust their own bodies for strength to get through the process.

Knowing about the risks and possible long-term side effects of the numerous medical interventions involved in a hospital birth is what gives me enough determination to avoid them.

Last week, we did an exercise to simulate a contraction and relaxing through it. Basically that consisted of Steve squeezing my arm with increasing pressure and then slowly releasing the pressure. My job was to concentrate on slow, abdominal breathing and relaxation. I thought it was a good physical and mental exercise. Throughout the week, I do various other exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, low back, and inner thigh muscles to prepare for birthing.

I’m also reading Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. I think a significant amount of material in the book won’t apply until the baby is born. For example, it’s hard to categorize a baby’s personality when you haven’t yet met him/her. But, at least I can be familiar with most of the general types of baby personalities and how to meet their various needs.

Birthing Class

Thursday, we had our first Bradley Method birthing class. Since we’d missed weeks 1-3 of the classes (we were in PA, and not yet in MN), it was a review class for what info had been covered thus far. We met again tonight and we were able to watch a water birth video. I was amazed at how relaxed and calm the woman was. Her husband couldn’t even tell when she was having some of her Stage I contractions. I hope I can get close to that level of relaxation and calmness when I’m in labor!

Moving to Minnesota

We leave on Tuesday for Minnesota.  Along the way, we’ll visit friends in Ohio & Wisconsin.  We’re just now getting unpacked and settled in PA, and we have to pack up what we’ll need for our 2 month stay in the Midwest.

I recently enrolled in a Bradley Method birthing class out in MN.  We’ll miss the first few classes which cover topics such as an intro to the method, nutrition, and gestational changes during pregnancy.  I’m really not to worried about missing those first few classes since most of that stuff is info I’ve received from chiro school and the numerous books on pregnancy that I’ve already read.  What I really want to gain from the class are relaxation methods during stage I labor and ways how Steve can help me through the long and tedious birthing process.  The class is being taught by a mom of 3 and her chiropractor husband.  You can find a Bradley Method instructor in your area of the U.S. here.

New Book

I just received this really cool book from my friend, Christina. She’s also pregnant and desires to do a natural childbirth for her second baby.

I have so many books on pregnancy, caring for a newborn, etc. and I hope to read as many of them as possible in the next 6 weeks. It’s tough to find time to just sit still and read books other than right before I go to bed, because most of my free reading time has been used to do research for my writing job at the Triune. But recently, I accomplished a little of both by writing an article on natural birthing.