“The Month” being the customary period after the birth of a new baby where the mother is under house arrest and force-fed egg and brown sugar soup five times a day. Other nice features of “the month” include avoiding anything cold, including cold drinks, cold foods, and touching cold water, and eating a lot of meat, especially meat that’s still on the bone. If I had a mother in law, it would be her job to make sure that I didn’t so much as get out of bed for the whole month, but since I just have a husband, and a rather understanding one at that, there were no attempts made at enforced bedrest.
When Wang Yao first told me that we would be taking certain aspects of the month seriously, I kind of laughed it off. I figured there was no way I could stay inside for a month without going nuts, and gave it a couple of weeks, tops. I knew I could handle the diet to a degree, but thought that a month of meat soups and eggs would probably be a bit much. I was absolutely sure that going a month without any cold liquids would, in all likelyhood, kill me.
I somewhat underestimated just how seriously most Chinese people take “the month.” According to my husband, if I violated some of these rules, I was putting my health in jeapordy for my entire life, possibly even risking death. He told me stories about how, back during the revolutionary period, female red guards, trying to prove their devotion to Mao and their disdain for tradition, went swimming in cold water while they were menstruating. Later, when they were middle aged women, they suffered from mysterious illnesses that could, naturally, only be attributed to their defiance of the “rules.” Better not to risk it, my husband said. And so I stayed in. And avoided cold things. And ate lots of eggs. While I could have put my foot down and fought with him to assert the superiority of my Western “traditions,” which dictate that it’s perfecly ok to take the baby to the mall at three days old, it really wasn’t worth it to me. Anyhow, Wang Yao’s insistence that we adhere to these rules was based on genuine concern for my well-being, and I found it kind of sweet the way he’d get up before the baby and I were awake to go out and buy fresh chicken to make soup, or how he made that brown sugar and egg soup for me the minute I came out of the delivery room, and as I was laying on a stretcher in the hallway, waiting for our room to prepared, fed it to me himself because he didn’t want me to come out from under the covers and get cold. I couldn’t bring myself to resist “the month” because, as much as I might have viewed some aspects of it with a bit of cynical disdain, I knew that my husband’s insistance on it came from a place of love.
And, surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad staying in for a month, just me, Wang Yao and little Dylan. On Thursday Dylan will be a month old, and while it will be very nice to re-join the world, a part of me is a bit sad that this special period is over. Of course, I’ll be happy to have a cold drink, to go take Dylan for a walk in the sunshine, and to be free of egg soup, but there was also something nice about the little cocoon we’d built for ourselves here, and about being taken care of like that. If and when we decide to have another child, I’ll actually kind of look forward to the once-dreaded “month.”