New baby a sensation for parents and 'aunties'

By Erik Nilsson ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-11-06 09:33:05

New baby a sensation for parents and 'aunties'

All of a sudden, Chinese grannies were no longer just elderly members of our host society.

They'd become baby-seeking missiles, ready to explode with constructive criticisms the instant they made contact with our newborn baby, Liliana - and especially with my wife, Carol.

The blasts came one after another.

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"What are you doing, taking such a young baby outside?!"

"She's not wearing nearly enough clothes!"

"She's crying! Of course! Such a small baby must stay inside! She'll get sick!"

Even more critiques targeted my wife than our baby.

We'd never heard of zuo yuezi, which is the Chinese prescription for what a new mother must do to protect her health in the first month after birth.

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According to this tradition, as narrated by every elderly Chinese woman we met that month, new moms should remain not only indoors but also in bed. They must stay out of the wind. They must not eat anything cold.

They can't wash their bodies, brush their teeth, clip their fingernails or cut their hair - or do anything, it seems.

When the woman at the corner store saw my wife walking outdoors in sandals while eating ice cream a few days after Liliana's birth, she erupted into such a conniption that I thought she - rather than my wife - would need bed rest to recover.

We made it a point to walk the long way around our compound so she wouldn't see Carol for the next month.

Another fruit vendor in our community actually dashed out from her stand, yelling that Lily was cold and we shouldn't take her outside. She followed us for about half a block, squawking until we reached our door.

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