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(THE SUN) – A high-flying doctor has revealed how she didn’t shower for 30 days after giving birth — and swears it helped her bond with her son.
After welcoming baby Matthew into the world, Terry Loong, 40, opted for what is known as postpartum confinement, a practice common in Asian culture where a new mother does not leave the house, have visitors or bathe for a month following delivery.
The thinking behind it is that it helps protect both mom and baby from infections, gives the mother a chance to recover and recharge and allows the two uninterrupted bonding time.
Loong, who is of Malaysian heritage and lives in North West London, said: “I remember my mom having a period of confinement when I was little. I’m the oldest of five so I saw it a lot. It is common in Asian culture. Some of my Chinese friends here in London have done it too but adapted it to what works for them, picking different parts of it.”
“I don’t know many people that did it fully, like me. The biggest thing is that people couldn’t believe I hadn’t showered.”
“After the birth, I had blood down below and was covered in sweat. My hair was really greasy to start with and I did smell of bodily fluids, but I didn’t care – it was the most natural thing in the world.”
“It wasn’t pretty, but it was important. If I had another baby, I would definitely do it again.”
Following a textbook pregnancy, Loong went into labor with Matthew, now two, at just 37 weeks – her contractions starting as she was on a Skype call to a patient.
Coincidentally, she had been due to throw a baby shower days later — but, as her son arrived early, she ended up holding it eight weeks after the birth instead.
She continued: “I remember calling my friend who had organized the shower and saying, ‘I don’t think I can make it – I’m having the baby now.’”
“I got an Uber taxi to the hospital and was in absolute agony, screaming the whole way. Within three hours of that first contraction, I’d had my baby.”
After giving birth to Matthew naturally at St George’s Hospital in South West London, in April 2016, Loong said she felt “like she’d been hit by a bus.”
But despite her experiencing a first degree tear, her baby was healthy.
Keen to give herself a proper chance to heal, she decided to try postpartum confinement.
She explained: “It takes an enormous amount of energy to make, carry and deliver a baby. The sheer exhaustion I felt was a shock to my body. I knew I needed to rest, so decided to try confinement as I thought it would give me a chance to heal properly and mentally rest so I could be the best mother possible.”
So, a day after the birth, Loong, who is married to 37-year-old business consultant Kurt, headed home – without showering.
Because she had sutures in following the birth, Loong ensured she maintained a level of hygiene by washing her intimate areas with a witch hazel solution.
She also sprinkled baking powder into her hair to absorb the grease as it got dirtier. But, for a month she didn’t properly wash her hair or shower.
She said: “I almost got used to it by the end, but I could tell I was smelly. I was committed to completing it though.”
“By the end of it, Kurt joked, ‘Thank god you’re allowed to shower now.’ So much dead skin came away in that first shower – it was almost like I had cocooned myself. We did wash the baby though as we wanted to keep him clean.”
There was more to confinement than not washing and Loong also adhered to strict rules covering physical exertion and staying indoors.
For 30 days, she read books and spent time with her baby, but did not even open her windows or venture into the garden.
“One of the main things is to keep warm at all times, as getting a chill could spark an illness or infection,” she said.
“It was sunny but cool outside and Matthew’s immune system was still so low because he hadn’t been exposed to the outside environment, so we wanted to make sure he was healthy too.”
“I broke the confinement slightly as I went out for around an hour, at the two-week mark, to the park as it was a sunny day. We walked around the park a little bit and took in the sunshine with a picnic, but we didn’t talk to anyone there.”
“My husband’s parents and his sister visited once or twice but we had no friends over until after the 30 days had ended.”
Loong insists she never got bored, saying looking after a baby is a full-time job.
“I became a hermit, but time flew by quickly. Even though I gave up all my social media, I was never bored,” she explained.
“My husband was there all the time, as he works from home and we actually really enjoyed the confinement.”
Food-wise, Loong made sure she avoided anything cooling such as cucumbers and salads.
Instead, she made herself several soups and broths, all rich in warming herbs and roots.
One of the most important ingredients, she said, was the jujube fruit, a type of red date she got from Abakus Foods.
“I stuck to things that were easy to digest and full of nutrients,” she said.
Now speaking out to show other women how bringing Eastern traditions into the Western world could help ease the transition into motherhood, Loong believes having a period of confinement helped her bond with Matthew better and avoided any post-birth complications such as difficulties feeding, backache and hair loss as well as post-natal depression.
“I know not everyone follows it as strictly as I did, but, like with anything mother-related, it’s all about what’s right for you and your baby,” she said.
“I personally feel it helped us bond and become a family without distractions and I came out of it feeling mentally stronger and ready to start my new life.”
“There was plenty of uninterrupted time where Matthew and I could be a mother and son alone, while I also managed to make sure I was resting and taking time for me. I would definitely do it again if I had another baby.”