As Chinese, there is a plethora of beliefs and tradition that we somehow adhere to. For some reason, the chinese especially seem to think our entire world and ‘chi’ or whatever the heck balances the spirituality of our essences can be knocked off balances by us walking wrongly, saying things wrongly, eating wrongly, watching the wrong shows and listening to the wrong songs. Among these practices, in what has become a Chinese institution is the everpresent: Confinement Lady program, or “Pui Yuet”, which means, “Companion for the month”.
The tradition is that after birth, the mother is a like a banged up gunny sack that, if left to her own devices, will wither and die, therefore the extreme need for this so called Confinement lady, who will be the expert companion to cook certain food and to take care of the baby. You don’t find this tradition in the west, where moms would generally be up and about a few days or a week after birth, while their eastern companions mope around the house eating gingery food, causing more jaundice for the baby, and having to go to the hospital again, and looking like they just survived a round with Manny Pacquaio for the boxing title.
Personally, I know the confinement lady is a grand con scheme. I mean, they definitely have some use, of course. Like how my dog has his use. But we got a confinement lady for RM3,800. That’s right. Because it was last minute, since the two previous CLs colluded to not turn up…one said she just doesn’t want to do (a month before our birth) and the other conveniently broke her arm (one day before birth). So we had to scour for a CL (due to the insistence of persistently traditional mothers and mother in law), and ended up at a beat up shack in Old Town, PJ, for this old lady called “Lan Che”. That’s LAN CHE, not Lao Che, the villain in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.
“Lan Che” cost more than my junior IT consultants per month. And she doesn’t do anything very useful, except to cook. She’s at her irritating best when she would repeat her mantra EVERYTIME our kid cries: “He’s Hungry.” or “You don’t have enough milk.” to my wife and pointedly persist in feeding him formula milk or water and that my wife is as dry as the sahara.
Thankfully, my wife doesn’t have a very discreet husband. I’m the kind of guy whom your mother would think is very rude when dealing with older and wiser people. After two three times of this ridiculous “Not enough milk” nonsense, I let fly in my best retarded cantonese that she should just shut the hell up and cook, instead of distressing my wife. This so called companion for the month knows as much about breastfeeding as I know about African gerbils, and refuses to admit that there is actually milk coming out of a human breast and that breasts are not intended to be used as a handrest or a cupholder. I don’t like to sound like a know it all and not respect an elderly woman, but if you start cursing my wife and saying she doesn’t have milk, and that our baby is going to die everytime he cries because he’s starving to death, I am going to punch you in the face. Seriously. Get the hell out of my house, you useless confinement lady. My mom had to intervene just as I was about the get the cleaver and she going for the long bladed knife. Some measure of peace restored, I laid down the house rule that she should never interact directly with my wife on anything to do with breastfeeding or face my unreasonable wrath. So now, the Lan Che only touches the baby on two occasions: Clean his shit and bathe him, and we’re going to take that scope away slowly this week, as we’re doing it all ourselves. It’s the easiest RM3,800 she has ever earned in her life. But at least now, my wife is stress free and breastfeeding on demand. Sometimes, you just gotta stand up and take the fight to these so called experts.
I’ve heard about tragic stories of these confinement ladies out there, about how absolutely useless they are, and how much they cost, and what a mess they leave the house in, and how actually, it’s like a Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme: you don’t actually need these people parasiting your home after your kid is born. Half of them doesn’t know jack, and the only experience they have in raising kids is through the same methodology they raise their cats. Options are there, maybe get a midwife, or a maid, or someone with basic food skills and baby handling skills. Or someone in your family. Or maybe your border collie. Or at least someone half the price if I’m going to get such retarded service. RM3,800 is a total rip off. Plus the stupid ang pow. Why must I give you an ang pow when your service is slightly better than a discarded orange peel? Chinese tradition!
Now, of course, some advocates of confinement lady will definitely have their say, and since I’m just a Dad, and not a direct benefactor of the confinement lady’s services, my opinion generally doesn’t matter, and it won’t impact this great con of confinement ladies. My wife believe in them somewhat, so who am I to say anything else? I’m sure there are some very very good CLs out there, but unfortunately for us, we hired someone who was only as good as Ghollum in handling our child.
I’m quite confident that Lan Che is slowly poisoning my food with rat poison by this time, but I’ll just have to wing it for a few more weeks. Or maybe we’ll finish our battle when my mum isn’t around to intervene.