Author: Hana Halim
‘Sugar, spice and everything nice’ was probably how I would have described my first pregnancy many years back. My husband and I were just married, and 3 months after the wedding, the doctor surprised us with ‘Congratulations, you are carrying twins!’ We didn’t even have time for our honeymoon and here we are telling our family and friends that we were having twin boys. You can imagine all the excitement!
Yes, the pregnancy was great. No, it was perfect actually, something I feel guilty admitting sometimes because for some reason, women around me felt that their pregnancy wasn’t such a pleasant journey filled with morning sickness, bloating, allergies and aches. I soon discovered that I indeed had a very lucky pregnancy with very minor effects and no complications during pregnancy. I was even maintaining my weight throughout the pregnancy, something that helped hasten my postpartum weight loss.
But with all the excitement, I made the biggest mistake of NOT RESEARCHING enough about childbirth. I was extremely wrapped up with excitement that I wasn’t even nervous about planning for a child, or two in my case!Needless to say, it was an unprepared childbirth. I carried the twins for a full term until the doctor recommended me to be induced as it was nearing 40 weeks. Cheerfully I chose to be induced on Christmas eve, a day earlier before the actual due date. Honestly, that’s only because I wanted to enjoy a turkey dinner (priorities, right?) before delivery knowing that would be my last time dining out before going into my 44-day confinement period of strict monitoring on food, lifestyle activities and rest at home.
What’s this confinement period, you may ask?
‘Tempoh berpantang’ is the literal translation of confinement period, where the new mom would be ‘confined’ at home, with a special diet, traditional rituals and practices to help her recover from her post-partum. This Malaysian postpartum tradition is done to help the mother recover her energy, assist to heal the wounds of childbirth, reposition the uterus and restore the tightness of the vagina muscles. Asians believe that the uterus plays a vital role in the health and femininity of a woman. If there are wounds or the uterus is still swollen, the vaginal passage is likely to remain loose and watery.
My post-partum journey was as modern as it could get while using traditional methods. What does that even mean? It means that I was able to extract the essence of the traditional treatments and therapy to apply it during my confinement journey mindfully and willingly.
Regretfully, I followed this confinement ritual to the tee only for my first childbirth. For my second and my third delivery, I experimented a bit, relaxing the traditions and the diet after a few weeks. I ate the things I was told not to eat with the excuse of, ‘It’s only a little bit’. I started going out and doing work activities earlier than I should have. Which meant not wearing socks (I wore sandals instead), staying warm (due to the commute in the aircond), and definitely leaving behind the binder (this was by far the biggest mistake I have done).
My conclusion? Sadly, not following the recommended traditional practices left me having the feeling of a ‘used’ body compared to my first pantang where I felt renewed. So, now, if given the chance again, I would follow the 44 days of practice strictly.
My best advice to my old self would be to have the massage and wear the binder for at least a month to optimize your physical recovery. Spend time doing the hot compress, you will feel the difference in your joints, less cramps, and help with the gas in your stomach. You may skip the bath if you are pressed for time, but the herbs are really therapeutic during your hormonal recovery stage.
The best part of doing these rituals on my own allowed that “me-time” to be left alone for at least 30 minutes twice a day, and that was completely necessary for my mental and emotional health.