Confinement – a good thing?

I’d heard a lot about the practice of confinement in some Asian cultures, and I’ll admit that before and during my pregnancy I was extremely sceptical about the idea of staying at home (or as I understand they have in some places, a confinement hotel) for a month after giving birth, with a confinement lady cooking traditional, supposedly sustaining meals for the new mother and looking after the baby.

Pah, I thought. Why would I want a stranger coming in telling me what to do? I’d bounce back from birth (it’s natural, right?) and be running the show far earlier than a month, thank you very much. So many of my friends and family had been discharged from hospital in a very short time (one 36 hours after giving birth) that it just seemed normal to return home after a night or two.

I ended up staying in hospital for 5 days, and I was certainly not ready to leave at that point. If they had kept me in longer, I would have been glad. Maybe it was having twins, maybe I was just unlucky, but I had some post-partum complications and was utterly wiped out when I arrived home with the babies.

A midwife came to visit, but she wasn’t very helpful (luckily a new one came later on who was wonderful). I felt totally lost. In addition I’d been scared of losing the babies and then they’d come early so we’d made only minimal arrangements for their homecoming before I’d gone into hospital, so I came back to a house which looked different. I hadn’t been around to supervise the last changes.

The homecoming was awful. A houseful of guests greeted up, all wanting a baby to cuddle while all I wanted to do was settle in, check we’d got everything and give breastfeeding another go. That was the day I broke down. I never thought I’d want to exclude visitors from my house (I love big gatherings at wedding, birthdays etc) but now I know – having a baby is different and if you don’t feel up to it, just say no.

Thinking back, a period of (some form of) confinement actually does make sense. A time for mum to rest and heal in quiet with visitors strictly limited. An opportunity for mum to focus on baby, while someone else looks after mum, making sure she sleeps and eats. An impartial, professional voice to reassure and assist as mum adjusts to her new role.

It doesn’t sound bad at all.

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