Kong felt restless lying inside all day. But when she tried to help wash the dishes, the nanny scolded her and told her to stay away from cold water. In a month’s time Kong went outside only a few times to the stores below her apartment, and even then she had to bundle up in a hat and coat. She ate pig knuckle and peanut soup, as well as dishes seasoned with sesame oil, ginger, and other Chinese herbs meant to restore the body and stimulate milk production.
Contrary to tradition, Kong showered and kept the air conditioning on after Christie’s birth during a hot and humid Taiwanese summer. At night, she and her husband tended to the baby’s cries themselves, then waited in anticipation for the nanny to ring the doorbell each morning. Relatives also helped grocery shop and helped watch Abigail.
In the past decade, more and more Asian women are spending their first month after childbirth in specialized yuezi centers, which provide 24-hour care to both baby and mother. Kong’s friend Sophia Tsai, 36, stayed at one of the high-end centers in Taipei after her second daughter, Catherine, was born. Tsai paid $400 per day for a room equivalent to that of a five-star hotel, complete with a massage chair. Flouting the stricter rules, center attendants washed and blow-dried mothers’ hair for them, and mothers could choose whether to keep their newborn at their side or in a supervised nursery. Nurses wheeled in five meals a day full of traditional yuezi dishes and taught new mothers how to care for their newborn. At night, Tsai could ask the nurses not to disturb her between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. and to feed the baby during those hours with pumped breast milk.
Tsai knew that once her month was up, she’d not have such peaceful sleep or so much time for rest. “After you leave the center, the baby is by your side all night, and she’ll be acting either like a devil or an angel,” Tsai said. She believes her time resting gave her more energy to care for her two daughters and prevented aches and pains.
Kong, who spent her month at home, said that if she had a third child, she’d want to go to a yuezi center like Tsai, as it provides one of the main benefits of zuo yuezi—reduced stress. “The focus is on eating well, sleeping well, resting. That is what’s important.”