Breaking into confinement
By Aly Song
After finding out that I was going to do a story on “Zuo Yue Zi,” or “confinement period” in Mandarin, I realized that although I’m a Chinese man, I knew very little about this tradition. So I asked around and found out how unusual “Zuo Yue Zi” was.
I was told that in general Chinese women lie in bed for the first month after they give birth. Usually the mother-in-law or a skilled elderly woman takes care of the mothers and helps them throughout the month. During this period, the new mothers shall not take a bath, wash their hair and some are not even allowed to brush their teeth. (It is believed that when new mothers go through physical changes after giving birth, their teeth may loosen.) In the past this must have sounded very scary, however, things are different nowadays. This brings us to the modernized luxury “Zuo Yue Zi” center – CareBay.
Walking into the lobby felt like stepping into a five-star hotel. All the employees were in clean and neat clothes; always ready to provide service to clients. The center is able to hold more than 30 new mothers, each living in individual rooms. The new mothers don’t need to do anything here, and they barely even leave their rooms. There are about 120 employees at CareBay including maternity care experts, health consultants, beauticians and nutritionists who look after the new mothers as well as their babies. The cost for a one-month service is between 79,800 yuan ($12,600) and 380,000 yuan ($60,000). This expense covers food, accommodation, slimming exercises and yoga lessons for the mother and nursing services for the child. At CareBay, new mothers can take showers and do some limited exercises three weeks after giving birth. The new babies take sun baths and do swimming exercises on a daily basis, which must be pretty relaxing.
The core value at CareBay maternity center is their diet therapy. A huge team of well-trained doctors and chefs combine traditional Chinese herbal medicines with food to create several unique diet therapy sets. And of course, all these recipes are kept as business secrets.
My biggest difficulty covering this story was that the mothers hated to be photographed. According to the employees, the reasons were three-fold:
1. The women’s bodies are weakened after the delivery and they are afraid that meeting strangers might bring them diseases.
2. Most of the clients in the centre are rich and they don’t want any publicity.
3. Many of them are insecure about their postpartum appearance.