Sunday, May 23, 2010

Keys to a Healthy Pregnancy: The China Guide

by Ruth
Our student Kiki was admiring the little bouncy baby seat she helped us buy from (sort of like a Chinese Amazon). “In China, we don't have seats like these. We don't put the baby down.” She said when her mother was alone and trying to get something done, she didn't know what to do with Kiki because she had no where to put her. So she put her in the washing machine to hang out while she did housework! I laughed and laughed. I guess it works... (Chinese washers don't have a post in the middle and are smaller than American washers).

About a week ago, Kiki and some other students were over visiting and started doling out pregnancy advice. Once they got rolling, they were unstoppable. It was great fun, and we learned all kinds of interesting things. In China, there are an awful lot of rules for what you can and can't do, and especially what you should and shouldn't eat while pregnant and after the baby is born.

We learned that some foods are “yin” and some are “yang,” and only yang foods should be eaten during pregnancy. Yang foods include beef, chicken, apples, green beans, and potatoes, while yin foods are things like pears, bananas, spinach, watermelon, seafood, and pig liver (oh darn).

Some of their advice was a bit contradictory though, since at one point they said not to eat “yin” bananas, but earlier they I should eat bananas since they are good for the baby's brain. Incidentally, walnuts are also good for the baby's brain because the nuts look like a brain.

Drinking cold water is, of course, a death wish. If it's bad for you in normal life, imagine the harm it could do while you're pregnant! This continues to be important after giving birth. In fact, you shouldn't even touch cold water in the first month because your joints have loosened and if cold gets into the joints, you will have arthritis later. This is also why you should wear lots of layers (and a hat) after having a baby, because cold wind can have the same detrimental effect.

The first month after giving birth is extremely important for recovery. If possible, the woman should stay in bed for the full month. If she does not recover adequately, she will have many health problems later in life. Traditionally, the new mother should not wash her hair for one month after giving birth – but now one week is considered passable. To aid with recovery, the students recommended several things.  First, black chicken. I don't think we have black chicken in America but here you can find it at the supermarket – little chickens with black skin. Something about them is very good for the blood. Kiki said her aunt ate 15 chickens in the month after having a baby!  Also good for the blood is a potion translated as “donkey hide gelatin.” Kiki graciously offered to buy some for me to eat after giving birth.
    Of course they are all very curious if it is a boy or a girl and gave various theories for being able to tell. Do I crave spicy or sour food? Spicy means a boy and sour means a girl. They're always a little let down when I tell them I don't really like either. Also, if your belly is rounder it means a boy, whereas a “pointy” belly means a girl.
    The students were going at it for probably about an hour, while I alternately smiled and nodded and laughed outright. Fortunately we know and like these students a lot, so their advice wasn't annoying, just amusing. One of the girls was sitting quietly for most of the time and after a while she calmly said to the others, “I'm sure her doctor will tell her what to do. These things will probably be helpful when you are pregnant, but I doubt that Ruth will follow your advice.” I told her it was okay; they were having so much fun dishing out the advice, it seemed like a shame to stop them.

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