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New Moms in China Pay $27K for After-Pregnancy Pampering

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

New moms in China are following an ancient custom of “confinement” consisting of doing absolutely nothing for a month after birth. But like a lot of things in modern-day life, the cost of getting help as a mom comes at a hefty price.

Like a $27,000 price.

Confinement in China has evolved from elderly grandmothers shoving bone broth soup (good for healing!) down new mother’s throats to lush “maternity care centers.” Stays at these centers, where new mothers aren’t permitted to go outside for fresh air but do have round-the-clock care, nannies, medical experts on hand, massage therapy and other spa services, and personal chefs — and they can run for as much as $900 a day, The New York Times reported. One such center, actually called the “Blessed Month,” features a yoga studio, crafting rooms where mothers can learn how to make soaps while their babies are treated to infant massages, gyms, and fully catered meals, which starts to make eschewing fresh air for four weeks sound mighty temping, indeed.

Even modern Chinese women who scoff at the old-fashioned tradition of confinement consider it a given that they will get some kind of help during the postpartum period. If they don’t do traditional confinement with family or at a center, they may hire an in-home postpartum nanny, called a “yuesao.” The New York Times described one mother, a housewife in Hubei, who paid $800 to have a certified yuesao live with her for a month to do all her baby care while she slept or relaxed.

At first glance those numbers sound shocking, and I’ll admit, my first thought reading descriptions of moms lounging about while they pay other people to change their baby’s diapers in front of them was, “Are you kidding me?! Must be freaking nice!” I never once considering hiring help after a baby was born, and I feel guilty these days if I even think about paying a babysitter $10 an hour so I can go to the gym.

But digging a little deeper, I think we can all admit, albeit perhaps a bit begrudgingly, that any bitterness we have at these posh postpartum practices is spurred from jealousy and that maybe, just maybe, there is a better way than how we do things here in the U.S. of A.

“How many of us are guilty of rushing to get back to ‘normal’ after having a baby, as if the world will somehow give us a medal for how quickly we are able to button our jeans?”
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Looking at the trend of other customs and cultural beliefs towards postpartum practices can tell us a little bit about how appalling ours happen to be. We have no organized maternity leave for women, nor do we support women after birth as a country either. It’s the “figure it out somehow” message to new mothers that leaves us thanking our lucky stars if we have any kind of help whatsoever. After my second daughter’s birth, my husband took one and a half days off of work — one for the birth and half of a day to drive us home for the hospital.

Why do we treat mothers this way in our country? Why do we treat each other that way? Isn’t there some kind of internal monitor that chimes in when you hear about other moms who had more help than you did, like they’re somehow cruising down easy street while you’re the “real” mom of the bunch? How many of us are guilty of rushing to get back to “normal” after having a baby, as if the world will somehow give us a medal for how quickly we are able to button our jeans and start cleaning our houses with a newborn strapped to our chests?

It’s so telling that in other cultures, women are willing to pay a significant amount money to hire nurses to do everything and lounge around for a month, while in comparison, we focus on “bouncing back” and “getting back to normal” and celebrating moms wearing bikinis after birth. Some of these women are literally sacrificing their savings to afford help after birth — that’s how high of a priority healing after birth is for these women.

And in other countries, like the Netherlands, it’s simply a no-brainer that women will get help after birth. Writer Olga Meckling, who lives in the Netherlands, describes how women there receive care from a postpartum nurse who comes to their homes, for up to eight hours a day and up to eight days. This nurse, dubbed the “guardian angel” of new moms, for obvious reasons, did housework, made lunch, prepared tea, went grocery shopping, and even whisked away older kids for walks outside. Meanwhile in the U.S., women go back to work as soon as physically possible and more often than not, even before then.

Are we sufficiently jealous yet? Yeah, I know. But I can’t help but wonder — what can we learn from these types of practices, which arguably go on to create healthier women and mothers in the long run?

One study found that Asian American mothers have lower rates of postpartum depression than non-Hispanic white women. Although the rates of postpartum depression have been found to be similar among American women (between 9 and 16 percent of all women experience postpartum depression) and Chinese mothers (10-20 percent), I can’t help but wonder how our views of the way women are “supposed” to act after birth has bearing on how those women are able to then survive postpartum depression.

But maybe even more than that, the postpartum practices of different cultures may just paint a bigger picture as to how women will go on to forge their new identities as mothers. Because if you sincerely value yourself enough to believe that help and healing is non-negotiable after birth, how would it change the way you take care of yourself through the turbulent years of motherhood?

To have that level of knowledge to realize, on an innate level, that self-care is not a “luxury” but a necessity?

I can’t even imagine.

No, really. I can’t even imagine. And I think that may just be the whole point.

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