Before giving birth, you almost always get whatever you want, even at weird hours, but the sitting month after is the opposite.
The sitting month is a time for women who have just given birth to rest and recover. They are to stay away from what traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) considers possible health hazards, such as cold foods (ice-cream, raw vegetables and fruits) or strenuous activities.
My husband John checked with me over and over again during my pregnancy to know how committed I was to conduct the full sitting month ritual after I give birth.
“Are you serious?” he asked.
He knew we would not be allowed to use the air-conditioner or a fan. I would not be able to take a shower or wash my hair.
The fact I agreed to do the sitting month is not because I believed in it, but because I was freaked out. If you wash your hair, you will suffer severe hair loss. If you take a shower, your joints will ache when the weather changes. If you have air blown on you from a fan or an air-conditioner, headaches will become your life-long friend. If you eat cold food, including vegetables and fruits or brush your teeth, your teeth will fall out. I pictured a bald, toothless suffering me and caved to the tradition that my mother, and my mother’s mother, once followed.
Luckily, my mother had the old tradition tailored and up to date. I could have a sponge bath and eat cooked vegetables and fruits.
“I know some of the taboos during the sitting month are not supported by science, but it’s better safe than sorry. In some rural areas, even cooked vegetables and fruits are forbidden. And food cannot be salted. At least you can still get enough vitamins from your diet, and I try to make it as tasty as possible by putting less salt and no other condiments,” she said.
John complained to his mother about my decision. Luckily, my mother-in-law is a wise lady and has seen a bigger world.
She told him the institute where she previously worked had students from all over the world. A Brazilian couple and a Korean couple happened to have babies the same week. One of the proud new mothers showed up with her baby on the following day to meet everyone and accept people’s blessings. She was from Brazil. The other did not show up or allow any visits until a month later.
“This is an Asian culture thing. You need to live with it,” John’s mother said￼
If you ask John what my biggest obstacle during my sitting month was, he will tell you the air-conditioner. To be fair, we did use the air-conditioner. I bought a special cover to put on top of it so the cool air would not be able to blow directly on people.
By the way, my son was born in August in Dongguan. It was scorching hot.