The Confinement Man

Since I moved to Perth almost three years ago, I used to laugh at a few Singaporean Chinese migrants for their old beliefs, such as avoiding moving into their new house during the 7th Lunar Month or rolling pineapples around shouting auspicious slogans just before the move among the others. I couldn't help asking one such Singaporean if he avoids banana plants at night, just in case he bumps into an Ang Mo Pontianak. As silly as that sound, consider how some believe in the idea of Chinese God of Fortune with a large beard and happy grin travelling all the way to Australian soil to bless their homes with luck and fortune. Curiously so far, I've yet to see anyone burning paper offerings to the dead during the 7th Lunar Month in Perth. I can't decide if that is consumerism (or the lack of) at work or the Gate of Hell just happen to be situated right beneath Singapore.

Having said that, there is nothing wrong in carrying out old traditions even after we migrate to Australia as long as it does not inconvenience, offend or harm the others in any way. In fact, all migrants of different nationalities bring their culture over some way or another. For example, my Afghan colleague insisted in buying house with a dual-living area despite the scarcity of such designs in the resale market because in he claimed that in Afghani culture, regardless of marital statuses, men and women must be clearly segregated in different areas of a house during a social gathering. Then you'll see the Irish in Perth still drinking the world away.

Over the last few days, I received advice from mothers of all ages out of their kind intentions. Two doses of those came from both our mothers, of course and that was to treat Jen's miscarriage like a childbirth in terms of recovery procedures. You see, it is a Chinese tradition to carry out a 'confinement period' usually of one full month for a woman who went through a child delivery. During labour, a woman loses a lot of blood as well as a drastic hormone change. Thus, it is a common practice for Chinese families to carry out confinement for the new mother to assist her in recovering her physical and emotional strength.

Now the problem is, many practices were passed down and followed faithfully across generations. While the practices are clear, their original intentions become ambiguous or even illogical today. One reason could be the variations between practices among different ethnic groups living in difference provinces of China in the olden days. When it comes to common cuisine, the differences in methodology or ideology across different parts of China are palpable. These could be originated from the differences in culture, preferences or even resource restriction across different parts of China. As they migrate to the melting pot of Singapore, these Chinese migrants continue to carry out their old practices according to their dialect groups. By the time the boundaries of Chinese ethnic groups in Singapore becomes a blurry line today, new Chinese parents have a hard time dissecting truths from myths, logic from superstition in regards to confinement practices.

I promised the mums I would try my utmost to ensure Jen a proper confinement period. I don't have a choice. We are all alone and I'm the only one around for her now. There is no way I will want to trouble V, who is busily packing for her permanent move back to Singapore. Though Miss Fiona offered to be my backup confinement lady, she simply live too far away from me for a guiltless arrangement. 

Jen joked that I might be the first confinement man in Perth. No, I was sure I wasn't the first and I will not be the last too. I thought over it and decided I might as well record my ups and downs during the coming month as a confinement man. I know these logs will be unlikely to be useful to anyone else in future so this project sounds like a waste of time. However, if we do have another successful child birth in the future, I will be the beneficiary. I believe helping myself is a good reason enough to work on this.

Thus for a month to come, I'll be working on The Clueless Confinement Man. Since it will be of no interest to you, you may want to come back here again in a couple of weeks later. Seeya.


  1. Awesome article. Like yourself I have moved here for about 10 yrs now. I was lucky to have my mother-in-law flew in a week after my two kids was born. So I was confinement man for maybe a week. I have enjoyed my stay here in Perth and always head back to Singapore probably at least twice a year but I always wanted to come back to Perth after 3 days due to the humidity. Perth is great place to raise kids and good luck with your confinement. :)

  2. Hey clueless confinement man, I did the unthinkable during my confinement, I.e. not bath for a month (my mom insisted 42 days for really silly reasons but I bathed on the 28th day), and my hair, oh God they stink and psychologically, they still do. I did like ginger and dome for a whole month, Mum wasn't convinced that ginger is bad for jaundice babies since I was solely breastfeeding.

    That said, I survived. But I will never in any way, recommend anyone to not bath at all due to hygiene issues. Think Albany will Siam Jen if she didn't bath... In a way, its good that none of the old folks are ard during the dreaded confinement. I think a balanced meal with fruits and vegetable beats Dome and ginger in EVERY meal. Good luck and may the force be with you (laughs*)!