What Is Your Way to Pull Through the Postpartum Period?
What can you do within 10 hours? Spend a day in the office, have a date with your boyfriend or just lie on your bed? But, Kate Middleton, the pretty Princess of the United Kingdom, spent just ten hours in hospital before taking her newborn baby home, most noticeably, in an appropriate light yellow dress with perfect makeup and high heels.
This time, Kate’s debut surprised people from all over the world. Russian Pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda even questioned the authenticity of the new royal baby, and her testimony is “Kate cannot be that beautiful after she just gave birth to a new baby.”
For most of the new mothers, their parturition’s day is the most difficult time for them during the whole pregnancy period. Pale face, unruly hair, and cold feet are the most regular features of the new mothers. “In the first five hours after I gave birth to my baby, I cannot stand on my own, even I wanted to go to the toilet, I needed my husband.” Said by V, a young mum in Melbourne. “ I even told my husband please do not put any mirror in our room, I do not want to see my puffy face”. However, another new mum S, who came from the United Kingdom said “I gave birth in the morning left hospital by teatime nipped into a supermarket on the way home! Certainly, I did not look beautiful.” The curious case of Kate Middleton “magically instant, comfortable and beautiful” postpartum period quickly raised a heated discussion, “in your country, how you pull through the postpartum period?”
“Salt? No. Cold water? No. Taking a bath? No. Going outside? It would be a dream.” C, a 54-year-old Chinese housewife gave birth to her daughter thirty years ago and was willing to share a part of her past “In those days, my mother-in-law was really strict with me. In order to get enough milk to nurse my daughter, she did not allow me to add any salt in my meals. Eating three eggs per meal was one of my jobs” said C, with a light smile. “Besides, I have to stay indoors for a full month. I know some of the Chinese traditions sounds ridiculous, but I have no choice. However, to be honest, I do like those days. Although I missed the sunshine outside, I got more time to have a rest and play with my daughter. What you may not believe is I learned embroidery during that time. I even kept some of them until now!” C then continued her story while smiling and patting her adorable granddaughter.
“The modern way of pulling through the postpartum period in China is not exactly the same with my time, though the general guidelines have been kept strictly. Giving birth to a baby could be devilishly bad for a woman, so you need to be more careful. This time, my daughter who just gave birth to a baby, I still asked her to lie on the bed and not to touch or drink cold water. Until this very day, I still firmly believe that new mothers should avoid getting cold.”
In the Chinese terminology, puerperal period is literally called “staying at home for a month,” as family members expect the new mother to wear looser pants and retreat at home for a month to recover from the childbirth. In Chinese traditional medicine, there is an eating or diet pattern based on Chinese understandings of the effects of food on people’s health called Chinese traditional dietary therapy. From their point of view, the best way to get away from illness is to have specific food in different time to keep a balance of your body’s internal environment. Thus, using specific food instead of medicine becomes an another special Chinese way to help women “survive” their puerperal period.
“ I never had one pill during my pregnancy.” Said by Q, a Chinese mother who has given birth to a baby in The Royal Women’s hospital of Melbourne. “Frankly speaking, it is common that women are afraid to give birth to a baby at the beginning of the parturition process, especially if it is their first time. I am also not an exception. I would sound like a selfish woman who does not deserve to have any child but I still have to say that I was terrified when I heard ‘congratulation! You are pregnant’ from the doctor. The scene was totally different from what I have dreamt before. No sweet tears, no warm hugs and no flowers. The things in my mind were that I had to say goodbye to my spare time, my beauty, my hard-fought job and become a nagging housewife. Time has increased my affection to my baby, yet I was struggling when the nurse asked me if I wanted to do breast feeding. Unfortunately, when I decided to do breast feeding, my nurse told me that I did not have enough milk. They asked me to take a little white pill, but I refused, because I did not want to take any risk which may hurt my baby. Unknown chemicals for new mothers? It is a big No in the Chinese society”
Different languages and culture became the barrier between Q and the doctors. “ I cannot describe how frustrated I was at that time. I did not know whom I can seek help for.” There is a trace of grief on her face. Five years ago, Q’s husband and Q came to Melbourne to get master degree, two years later, they met each other and then decided to stay here forever. So far it is all going smoothly. Last year, they got the permanent resident visa and their first baby. Now, they are living in Melbourne alone, and all of their family members are in China.
“Luckily, the woman who lives in the same ward with me was a Chinese. Her mother, L, is a really warm heart woman. She promised that she would take care of me until my mum arrives from China.” L used to be a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, so in order to help Q get enough milk, she cooked some special nutritious dish such as Carp fish soup.
However, this kind of behavior is totally different from the typical Australian culture. If Chinese people stay in hospital for a long time. Normally, Australian new mothers only stay in hospital for one or two days. Only if there are complications during the delivery or afterwards such as postpartum hemorrhage, infection and pain, Australian mothers will stay more longer in hospital.
More importantly, except for small selections of highly toxic medications, excess alcohol and smoking or smoke inhalation Australian new mothers have no specific restriction to eating, drinking or bathing. They can eat or drink whatever they like.
“Only the women who has Cesarean section, may have pain at the scar site and need help with activities around the house and avoid heavy lifting for around 6 weeks.” Said by A, a female Surgical Doctor with Asian upbringing but has trained and worked in Australia for more than 10 years. “If everything goes well, home is the best place for mother to recover and learn how to be a family. Moreover, these days most of Australian communities provide home support for new mothers.”
When speaking of whether the new Australian mothers need to stay at home for a full month, A, disagreed. “We do not force mothers to stay indoors for that long time. Enjoying the sunshine and spending time with their friends is a good way to go through the postnatal depression. Postnatal depression is a serious condition which must be recognized early. If the mother has untreated postnatal depression, then both the mother and baby will suffer.” Dr A showed her worry about new mothers’ postpartum period time.
“We also not suggest the new mothers go back to work soon. Although I have heard of a mother called Marissa Meyer, who is the CEO of Yahoo going back to work only after a few weeks. But, like I mentioned before, postpartum period is an important period for new mothers. Each mother needs to check her employer rules on maternity leave — how long can she take leave and still receive payment, also whether they will hold the job for her when she comes back.”
The postpartum period is a challenge for mother, baby and other family members. First the mother needs to recover from the delivery itself, which can be exhausting. Having new baby will bring lots of joys, but also mental stress that can overwhelm your weak body. All the attention will be primarily for the new baby. Additionally, there are a lot of things to learn, such as bonding, breastfeeding, nappy change, crying baby in the middle of the night. It is a lifestyle change and each mother adapts differently.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question what is the best way to go through the postpartum period. It depends on the mother’s and baby’s physical, emotional, financial conditions. Australian and Chinese foods are very different, especially in their nutritional value. We are unable to determine which one is the best as both cultures do emphasize that postpartum period is special. When you are planning for a postpartum period, it is also important to consider what support is available such as grandparents, babysitter, stay at home husband. Supportive people around you would greatly increase your ability to cope through the arduous process. Last but not least, no matter how you do it, the most important thing is to stay healthy and have a positive attitude towards for your family and your personal future.