Post-partum Recovery and Cultural Customs

My friend Annie was looking forward to having her mother-in-law come out from Hong Kong to help out for a while after the pending birth of the first grandchild in the family.  After Annie, her husband, and the baby came home from the hospital, she was relieved that her mother-in-law took care of everything so that Annie could rest and bond with the baby.  She even made soup for her everyday.

“Family recipe.  Will make you strong soon and you make good milk for our baby.”

Annie appreciated all the help…at least for the first seven days.  When she began to feel strong enough to do some easy housework, her mother-in-law immediately ordered her back to bed.  Annie was barely allowed to lift a finger except to nurse the baby and to go to the bathroom.

In fact, the matriarch did not allow Annie to get out of bed for THIRTY DAYS!  By the end of the second week, she was nearly in tears.  And by the end of the month, she had gotten so weak that she could hardly walk.  And the baby fat around her belly?  Don’t even think about it.

I’m hearing conflicting reports on how common it is in Hong Kong to remain bedridden for 30 days after giving birth, but my husband David agrees that the Chinese custom calls for keeping the baby away from the public until he or she is at least a month old.

Baby Meg with Big Brother Josh

That’s why I had this unfortunate incident at the nearby shopping mall one day when Meg was only about a week old.  Being the second child and a very easy baby, I popped her out in about two hours and was no worse for the wear.  My first born had already done most of the damage anyway.  It was a hot day in August, we were in a small apartment with air conditioning that couldn’t keep up, so we thought we’d go cool off at the mall.  Besides, Josh loved to go on the merry-go-round there just like any other 2-year old.

A couple of Chinese ladies came walking over to our bench where we were enjoying some croissants, peeking into the canopy of the infant car seat which sat upon the dual-purpose stroller.

“The baby – how old?” the older of the two asked me with a smile, in broken English.

“Oh, six days,” I replied, proudly.

Her eyes grew wide.  She then turned to the other woman, said something to her in Chinese, and turned back to me and glared.  They both pointed their fingers at me.  I wasn’t really sure what they were thinking, but they suddenly didn’t look so friendly.

I asked my husband who speaks Cantonese, “What did they say?”

“I’m not sure, because they were speaking Mandarin, but I think they said, ‘Child abuse!’”  I decided to scurry away before they called security on me.

Every culture has its own way of handling childbirth.  In Japan, they let the mom stay in the hospital for a full week even when there are no complications.  As for me, I followed the cultural customs of Kaiser Permanente Medical Hospital in Southern California.  I went into labor with both babies on a Friday morning then came home with a new bundle of joy on a Sunday afternoon.  It was like I went on a weekend retreat each time.  I just came home with a special package afterwards.  If my husband didn’t pull some strings, though, the hospital would have made me leave on Saturday instead of Sunday.  Also, the German nurse told me that I had to pass poop (and show her the proof) before I could leave.  For once, I was happy to be constipated for 48 hours.

My friend Christy, a fitness instructor, shared with us one time that she had decided to go for a jog, pushing her newborn in a baby jogger, three weeks postpartum.  She quickly found out that that’s not a very good idea.  She recommends others now to avoid her same mistake.

I am not sure which culture does it “right,” but it really all depends on mom and baby.  After my experience with mastitis, though, I would just recommend you to take it easier than you think you should.  That’s what I should have done, in hindsight.

How did you handle your postpartum period?  How long did it take you to get your groove back?  Share in the comments below!

Strollers, strollers, and strollers

My husband got a new car the other day.  Actually, it’s a used car, but it sounds better to say “certified pre-owned.”  David loves wheels.  He can’t stop poring over Motor Trend and other car mags.  He feels that he’s finally gotten his dream car, but that’s what he said about his last car too.

When our kids were young, they had wheels, too.  I don’t remember how many strollers we went through, but we sure spent a lot of money on those buggies.  Here are just some of the models we invested in:

1.  Strollers and infant car seat set (approx. $160)

Our first stroller kinda looked like this Graco model

We wanted to be practical and purchase a stroller which would serve us for a long time; thus, we decided on this combined unit.  This was a good investment and we got great use out of it.  But what I liked the best about this was that when the baby was still in the snapped-on car seat, I had the entire toddler seat to put all of our stuff in — baby bag, my purse, groceries, jackets, toys, car battery, you name it.  For this reason, I kept our baby in the car seat until his feet and head were hanging off the ends so that the toddler seat would remain free. We eventually did we move all our stuff into the teeny basket under the seat, but it sagged from the weight and scraped the ground as we rolled along.

2.  Lightweight travel stroller (at the time $200)

Before we embarked on our first trip with a baby to Japan, we decided to leave the aforementioned stroller at home and use a small, lightweight one.  We found one at Babies ‘R Us that was perfect.  It had leopard print, and it even reclined so Josh could nap as we walked around Tokyo.  It was a little pricey, but we used it on many trips.  Ironically, it was made in Japan.

3.  Baby jogger (about $399)

The stroller which would only go straight.

As soon as I got the okay from the doctor to get back to exercising, I went out and got me a baby jogger.  It was purple, heavy, and it had a tendency to go straight.  That’s great until you have to make a turn.  It took everything I had to make it go to the right or left; otherwise, it took about a quarter mile to make that 90 degree turn.  At times, I had to push down on the handle to lift up the front wheel to change directions.  This became more and more difficult as my baby grew bigger and bigger.  After a while, I just gave up and joined the gym, and the jogger collected dust until we gave it to another new (unsuspecting) mom.

4.  Umbrella strollers (about $20)

Your typical disposable umbrella stroller

These disposable strollers are great.  I probably went through three or four of them during our toddler years.  They’re lightweight, they’re cheap, and they have zero support.  I used them all the time, especially to go shopping.  The only bummer was that when the toddler got up, the whole stroller fell down backwards from the weight of all the bags hanging on the handles.

5.  Double stroller (about $225)

After much debate over whether to go front-and-back or side-by-side, we opted for the unit which looked just like this photo so we could navigate the narrow aisles at stores.  The two kids enjoyed riding this like a choo-choo train.  The only trouble was that this stroller was incredibly heavy — 50 pounds, I believe.  When the kids were getting bigger and heavier and throwing cheerios at each other, we knew it was time to give this model up too

Our kids are obviously too old and big for strollers now, but I sure miss how cute our kids were during those years.  And in only a couple of more years, one of them will be driving a real car.  Yikes!

* * * *

How many strollers did you own?  What was your favorite model?


Metamorphosis of a Minivan Mom

The change was so insidious.  It didn’t happen overnight.  Before kids, I had always zipped around town in cool, two-door sedans like my Acura Integra.  Then I had a baby and before I knew it, I had become a minivan mom wearing mommy jeans.  I thought I should explain how this all came down.

My cool Acura Integra looked like this except it was silver

You see, when David and I came home from the maternity ward, we found that the little baby car seat carrier fit snugly into the middle back seat of our sedan, and it was just fine.  Of course, we always wanted to keep an eye on the little guy, so one of us would drive and the other would sit in the back with Josh.  This was all fine until we started going places with our new baby.  Besides the diaper bag, we needed to throw the stroller in the trunk, which quickly filled up with other baby things — portable crib, baby saucer, baby swing, balls, stuffed animals, and an inflatable pool.  You know, just in case.

Last stop before a minivan -- Toyota 4Runner SUV

When our car began to resemble a trunk show for Toys ‘R Us, we decided we really needed to move up, so we got a Toyota 4Runner.  It’s an SUV.  It’s still cool…enough.  Hey, my husband was still okay being seen in it.  As our baby got bigger and heavier, it was easier on our backs to step up to buckle in the car seat.  Also, when Josh was big enough to face forward during our drives, he got a better view from his seat and fussed a little less. We loved that little SUV, even if it did drive like a pickup truck.

David sold the car he had to a friend and drove my Integra around until I bashed into it with my 4Runner (see my other post about sleep deprivation).  Actually, we got it fixed after that, but the final straw was when David was pulled over by an officer whom we suspect thought that David was an Asian gangster.  The officer stated that the Integra’s windows were tinted too dark, but after realizing that he was talking to a straight-laced physician, the officer gave him a fix-it ticket to remove the tinting and let him go.

When our second baby arrived, it was getting increasing crowded in our Toyota SUV.  Double the car seats, double the baby junk in the trunk.  So that’s when it finally happened: our first minivan.  David decided to sell the Integra and got me a Mazda MPV so he could drive the 4Runner.

And then it happened...a Mazda MPV minivan.

I had to admit — I loved that minivan!  Our kids could actually stand up and play baseball inside that thing.  I could haul two strollers plus all the other baby accoutrements and not feel crowded.  We could even give our babysitter rides home.  No, it’s not exactly sexy but can we agree that no car is more practical for young families than a minivan?

My current mom-mobile: Honda Odyssey

We’ve since moved onward and upward to the Honda Odyssey, probably the best minivans around, even better than any swagger wagons.  Strollers, bikes, furniture, pools — we can throw them all in there!  It’s ideal for carpooling, because you can seat about 100 people.  You almost need a Class B license to drive it.  And the stereo!  I could out-thump any sub-woofers around town.  And I do.

Now, our kids are getting to the ages when some parents consider moving back down towards a sedan or an SUV.  But I love my minivan so much that I think I’ll keep driving it until the day it dies or I die, whichever comes first.

So, are you a minivan parent?  How did you get here and do you intend to stay?  Let me know!