Being immersed in Taiwanese culture for a good 9 years of my life convinced me that recovery was of the utmost importance after giving birth. My mom kept asking me who was going to help me zuo ye zi (postpartum recovery) in Saudi Arabia since she wasn’t able to come due to health reasons. The good thing is that Jose went to Taiwan in April and I ordered a box of zuo ye zi stuff online that he brought back. My friend PJ did some research on PCHome and recommended this one:
It had 30 days worth of herbal soup bags (tasted bad), 7 days worth of “blood shedding” tea (tasted awful), a box of lactation tea (tasted good-ish), a box of bath herbs, and special talcum powder for the baby.
Besides all the teas and soups, I knew that I wasn’t supposed to bathe or wet my hair for at least 30 days, could not eat/drink cold foods and had to avoid “cooling” fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, lettuce, cucumber, etc. I also knew that in Chinese culture, a woman who had just given birth was not expected to do housework but just sleep, eat, take care of baby.
Since Jose’s parents were here and then his sister’s family came right after, they took on the cooking for us and helped us a great deal the first few weeks. They did the groceries, prepared our meals and even made sure to make my soups and teas. It also really helped that his sister Montse and her husband Erick are gynecologists who were very willing to give advice, etc. I even asked Monste to check my episiotomy sutures instead of going to Jeddah for my check up (I felt it was better than to spend maybe 5 hours of my life going to a doctor who would probably do the same thing anyway). Monste also encouraged me to go out more, breathe some fresh air and not be stuck with the baby all day.
Well, therein lay my dilemma because as a Taiwanese person, I was programmed to believe the first 30 days should be spent in doors recovering. And yet, as I was being encouraged to do otherwise by my husband and his Spanish family, I started to feel like it would be good for me to get away sometimes. I tried not to shower for as long as I could but on the fourth day Montse said, “Hey let’s go to a restaurant tonight!” I panicked at the thought of people seeing my super greasy hair so I took a long hot shower (it felt SO GOOD). I then felt guilty and hoped that my muscles and joints would not suffer when I grow old. But after that first shower I never looked back and decided that it was good for me MENTALLY to shower everyday again.
About a week after giving birth I started to help a bit more with the housework. One day I took the trash outside and my elderly Chinese neighbor (almost all our nearby neighbors are Chinese) walked by. She knew I was pregnant and was pleasantly surprised I didn’t look pregnant anymore. She asked me when I gave birth and I said about a week ago. She shook her head and said, “You shouldn’t be doing any housework. Just rest indoors.” I told her I had some extra time so I thought I’d help out. Nope. “Go back inside and rest!”
When Jose’s family left he took on the role of family chef and came home from work to cook lunch and dinner. He also made the best breakfast sandwiches I’d ever had. Basically I was happy to be pampered because I knew that it was my right as a Taiwanese woman! During this whole time I tried to stay indoors and limited our visitors.
Two and a half weeks postpartum and it was Jose’s 33rd birthday. Of course we had to go out to eat and invite his friends. As we headed to the car with Jasmine in a car seat, a congregation of Chinese grandmas walked by and curiously asked how old the baby was already. “2.5 weeks.” Wow their tongues were wagging. They couldn’t believe I was taking the baby out to a restaurant so soon! I told them it was Jose’s birthday. Nope, that’s no excuse. One grandma looked at the sleeveless knee-length dress I had on and said “You’re wearing that?!” I told her a brought a jacket and she replied, “What about your legs?!” To take the heat off I said that I was drinking my zuo ye zi soups and teas and I was feeling good. That threw them off a bit and they started discussing how Taiwanese zuo ye zi herbs were so good that even people from China order them from Taiwan. It was our chance to escape so we bid them farewell and left as quickly as we could.
The dinner was at the only Italian restaurant in KAUST. It was good and Jose’s labmates saw Jasmine for the first time. They also gave her a red envelope.
As the days went by I started to relax a bit and not feel panicky every time the baby made a sound. I felt good enough that Jose and I actually started taking late afternoon walks with the baby and the dog. My friend Olha and I also took our babies for a walk and I was surprised when she told me she’d been taking her baby (2.5 months) to the beach on weekends and they stay under the shade, remove her diaper and let her bum enjoy the fresh air. I thought it was a good idea and later told Jose that we should do that as well (but not now).
Well it’s been over a month now and I’ve finished all my soups already so I really feel like my dormant period is officially over and I can start thinking of going to yoga and going to photography club activities again. I’ve also been eating so well that I’ve probably gained more weight postpartum than when I was pregnant. Jose still cooks the meals although we’ve started discussing transitioning to a more workable routine for him.
So I’ve failed at sticking to the whole zuo ye zi thing because I’d been drinking cold drinks, eating “cooling” fruits and vegetables, washing my hair, going out and doing some housework but that only matters to the Taiwanese side of me.
I just hope my mom doesn’t read this haha!