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Confessions of a confinement victim


let me out or i'll kill someone

I don’t know about other postpartum practices but the Chinese have this concept of a confinement period after delivery. It is every bit as terrifying as its name suggests (the only thing missing is the word solitary – but it’s kinda the same, except worse). It’s tough enough grappling with post natal depression and a screaming infant, and then there are all these rules like no bathing, washing of hair, being in an air-conditioned room. I suspect it’s a mortality-rate control technique thought of by the ancient Chinese when they were halfway towards the 1 billion mark –  KILL OFF THE WEAK and only the strongest will survive.

It’s as if the trauma of pushing a human out of your crotch is not bad enough. You then have to endure an entire month of psychotic rite of passage that involves physical and psychological torment in order to deserve the title of being a mother. When I first heard of this whole confinement practice, I almost fell out of my chair laughing. True story.

1. No HAIR WASHING for a month.

You gotta be kidding me. Forget a month, do you even know what a week-old unwashed hair feels like? Seriously. It’s oily and clumpy and tangly and full of lice and dandruff. I lasted all of 4 days without washing my hair and I snuck out to a hair salon to get a thorough scrub from the hairstylist. I swear they were all huddled up to draw lots to pick the unlucky soul to wash my hair. The poor girl looked constipated the whole time and I felt so sorry for her.

Although I hear there’s some ingenious invention called a powder shampoo. It’s like adding flour to butter – you get a freaking lump of dough ON YOUR HAIR.

Confession: Alright, i didn’t quite last four days. In fact, i headed straight for the hair salon once I was discharged. So there.

2. Only VERY HOT BATHS with STINKING HERBS are allowed.

Notice the caps for very hot baths and stinking herbs. No, it’s not a metaphor, the herbs smell like 70-year-old men who haven’t showered for a week and covered their bodies with medicated oil. First you gotta boil the herbs for hours to prepare the bath water, and then bathe with it. The first time I had to go through that ordeal, I thought I was being scalded alive by drain water, and there were all these icky herby remnant bits stuck to my hair which wouldn’t come out for 3 days.

Confession: I couldn’t bear to bathe in that stuff again after that, so I ended up pouring the next few tubs down the chute. I’m terrible, I know. You should probably try it sometime just for kicks.

3. No AIR-CONDITIONING or FAN or any sort of moving air allowed.

The wind apparently will go into the bones to cause rheumatism or some other deadly ailment, so we’re supposed to be cooked alive for the entire month. For best results, stay in a sauna the whole time. Or in hell.

And you know what happens to women who don’t bathe or wash their hair or have any respite from the heat? You end up attracting flies and all sorts of other bugs so you’re like a moving pest factory. And I guarantee that when the husband sees you in that state, you can kiss the sexytime goodbye. FOREVER.

Confession: I spent most of my time at home in front of the fan, spraying myself with water (with, you know, the kind of spray you use to water plants) intermittently. This was after the husband explained to me about the latent heat of vaporisation.

4. Stick to a diet of SESAME OIL, VINEGAR and GINGER for a month.

I call it the triple threat. All the food you’re allowed to eat must be covered with these 3 ingredients. It’s pungent and oily and spicy and sourish, which makes u want to puke all the time.

I suppose it is a good way to help lose the postpartum bump, but I’m sure there are other less painful ones. I was so terrified of the smell of sesame oil I still have nightmares of it.

Confession: I ordered KFC delivery on day 3 of the confinement period. Or it could have been day 2. Everything that happened back then is real cloudy in my mind right now, it may have been the diet.


At first I thought this wasn’t so bad. But it isn’t your average spa session and slimming wrap. There was this little lady with giant karate muscles who came to my house everyday to administer the treatment. I had to strip down while she slathered this green slob all over my body which was all slimy and HOT (I swear it’s made of chili and ginger). She would then proceed to massage what I would imagine were all the fats out from my pores and then wrap me up tight with cling wrap like an Egyptian mummy.

For the next 8-10 hours, I was not allowed to pee (the water was supposed to be squeezed out from my pores anyway, so there was no need to pee) or remove the wrap. I was in so much pain I started shaking and twitching uncontrollably.

Confession: I took it off on day 4. No wonder my fats didn’t seem to go away.

6. NO stepping out of the house.

Don’t ask me what good it does, but that’s the whole point of the confinement. To have my ass locked at home like some prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. I kept making up reasons to go outdoors, and when it was finally time for my gynae checkup, I was practically skipping all the way to the clinic.

Confession: I contemplated, after my gynae session, catching a movie, going for a shopping spree, sitting down for a cuppa latte then heading back at something close to midnight. Then I thought about poor Superdad – who was still in the infancy stage of discovering his powers then – and made my way home.

Suffice to say, it was a month of absolute torture. There were many days where I thought I was going to die. Like physically cease to exist. It didn’t help that I was convinced it was a whole bunch of bollocks. And the fun is going to start again in less than a month.

I can hardly wait.

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  • Reply serline June 5, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Hang in there, you are almost at the finish line.

  • Reply rcl June 6, 2009 at 8:33 am

    I’m jealous you are due soon! Good luck!

  • Reply Why does it always rain on me | MOTHER, INC. August 6, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    […] the nagging. So apparently, falling ill during the confinement is like the mother of all cardinal sins because according to the Chinese, all flu is caused by wind […]

  • Reply mf November 4, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Hi, I chanced upon this while googling for falling ill during confinement coz I’m having a running nose now, week four postpartum. I broke all rules three times! The last two times, I started with fast food delivery on the first night in hospital – so good to say this here coz my mil reads my blog haha!

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