Mother's Day is one thing -- "moon month" in China is another. The tradition keeps a new mother really, really off her feet for the first month after the baby arrives. Waited on hand-and-foot – allowed to do nothing including lift the baby or take a shower – women can see it as a gift as well as a penalty.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
My friend Rachel is about to give birth to a baby, her first, here in Beijing. And while she’s been remarkably organized and calm about the whole process, she did have one East-meets-West moment that made me realize how differently things are done here.
Her ayi, the woman she hired to cook and clean and help her take care of the baby, wanted to know if she was going to honor the “moon month.” When she told her no, the ayi was horrified.
Moon month in the Chinese tradition is a period in which the mother and the baby are confined to the house. I mean, really, really confined. No going outside at all, no stairs, no open windows, no air conditioning in the summer, and – most unsettling of all to many women – no showers or baths. Women are mainly to stay in bed, and even when they breastfeed, are supposed to lie on their sides instead of holding the baby.
Traditionally, the mother-in-law is the person in charge of the moon month, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the baby, waiting on the mother. Special foods are provided that are supposed to bring the new mother strength, like eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. They’re supposed to drink warm or hot water, not cold, which is bad for the mother’s health, the Chinese believe.