Saturday, June 20, 2009

three more weeks

Our boy is just over a week old now, but according to local custom, we need to keep him inside- and I should for sure be inside with him, lying in bed- for one whole month after birth.   I know this and I really do want to honor the local culture as much as possible, but this is really tricky!  We don't have family here to take over caring for me, the baby, the house and the big kids, and I admit, I am very Americanly productivity minded.   Matt has been a Super Dad (absolutely extraordinary!) but still, he can only do so much. 

So, I confess, I have ventured out already.  Several times actually.  Matt took me out for breakfast to a cute coffee shop nearby for my birthday.  It was just me and my men (Isaiah was still a bit ill so he didn't go to school, but Marian did.)  I tried to find an exit out of our building where I wouldn't have to pass by the usual line up of people-watchers or hear too many comments before hopping in the back seat of our electric bike.   But the plan failed.

 I ran into an unexpected crowd of very concerned neighbors.  What was I doing out already!?  And WHAT was I doing wearing no socks, even daring to expose virtually my whole calf (calves) so soon after giving birth? (It was about 80 F.)  How old is that baby?...  Basically they were all of one mind and voice: "go upstairs this instant and don't come out again for three more weeks!"

Then I met two more ladies, one about 50 and the other about 70 years old.  The younger asked me "do you know that we have a custom..." and she went on to explain the "Man Yue" custom of spending the first month lying down.  

"Yes, I know."

"But you don't follow it?"

"I know there is lots of value in that custom.  I think it is very nice and helpful, but it's not what I'm used to and I also have two big kids I need to care for so I can't really practice Man Yue like you do."

Then the younger woman, who apparently was already familiar with foreigners ways, explained the whole thing to the older woman.  "These foreigners don't rest for a month.  She walks around with no socks on.  She probably even drinks cold water- really cold." 

The elder was flabbergasted.  Certainly not cold water!  (It would make my stomach upset and my milk undrinkable for our little one.)

Then the younger continued..."She probably brushed her teeth the first day after she gave birth."

The elder promptly replied:  "That's impossible.  If you brush your teeth that soon, all your teeth will fall out."

Lots to keep in mind!  

And, it's not just a few people who have shared thoughts like this with us.  These views honestly seem to be held by at least 9 out of 10 people we meet.... and people do share their opinions very (very) willingly.  There's basically no holding back when it comes to people declaring what they think of you!

The gate guard at the kids school is another friend of ours.  He's always careful to look out for and care for our family.  He told me, scoldingly (which means he cares a great deal for us) that he doesn't care if it's not what we're used to... and then he laid on us the equivalent of "when in Rome, do as the Romans."  

Yes...  Somehow... 

Lord give us wisdom, patience, and good measures of humility in these next three weeks!  (And the 33 years beyond that!)


  1. Wow! What amazing cultural differences. You handle it well. You guys are in our prayers!

  2. I can relate, though I didn't experience it to such an extent! But, you know, even if you weren't a "foreigner," in this culture anyone older than you would still tell you what to do all the time. And even if you did follow the traditional confinement period, people would descend on your house and tell you how best to be at home. So I figure, since the "advice" will always be there no matter what, you might as well live in the way you feel most comfortable. : )

  3. It is so interesting to here these types of stories. They help to give a glimpse into your world there. I will be praying for patience for you, I am sure it can be very difficult at times.

  4. Feel your pain. THis is very hard. Have a lot of friends here who struggle too. Thanks for wanting to do it well! And HAPPY BDY!