Confinement and Curveballs


“O hai! I’m Katy, and I’m the one well-rested member of my family right now.”

Traditionally, the one-month confinement period after giving birth was meant to ward off illnesses and balance the body’s internal hot/cold mechanisms. (Source article here, coincidentally written by a friend of mine…)

In my own humble opinion, the real value of staying home for a month is to allow yourself ample bandwidth to deal with all the curveballs that could show up post-childbirth. And boy, have there been curveballs.

I thought that arming myself with a confinement nanny would be a good way to ease into the insanity of having a newborn in my previously well-ordered, peaceful world. In theory it was a good idea. She would cook for me, clean a little, and look after Katy at night and when I was resting during the day. Personality-wise, we weren’t a great fit, but I told myself that no one hires a one-month contract employee to be their BFF – you hire them for their expertise, and you suck it up and deal with the bits that clash. And it’s not like Katy had an opinion on the matter. As long as milk keeps going in at one end and the diapers stay dry on the other, she’s a happy camper.

Until I realised that it wasn’t just personality that was the problem. She had hygiene issues – I kept exhorting her to use the pump bottle of hospital-grade hand sanitiser before touching my baby, and she literally NEVER did unless someone else was in the room, watching. On one occasion I observed in growing horror as she picked her nose, dusted off her feet with her palms, and then picked up Katy with the same hands.

I was almost ridiculously mindful of the need to give her time to rest during the day so that she’d be alert enough to care for Katy at night. On many days she would get 4-hour blocks of rest or free time. One Saturday we gave her the morning and part of the afternoon off to go shopping because we had family visiting from out of town. Her response was to become spectacularly lazy to the point where I realised I was doing her chores rather than she doing mine. And when she did wash the baby’s bottles and other paraphernalia, I found them speckled with residue – detergent? milk? – after drying.

So we gave her the sack after half the month. For the past week, it’s been me and my mother-in-law in the daytime, and me and James at night. It’s been tiring. Especially since I don’t exactly benefit from midday naps; I’m just as tired afterwards, and I’d rather either add a bit more rest to the start or the end of the night’s sleep. But the peace of mind has been worth it. If Katy gets ill it won’t have been because of a caregiver’s sloppy hygiene. It also means that I get to soothe her my own way, with lullabies and gentle pats on the bum, and not have to sit by while the overbearing and half-deaf confinement nanny bellows tuneless rhythms at my daughter. (I swear, her philosophy is to simply out-yell the baby.)

And cheers to the freakin’ weekend because it means that James gets to catch up on his sleep in the day, watch soccer with Katy at night, and we’re all happier from the spillover effect of one person being that much better rested!

Next post: how breastfeeding threw us even more surprises. Watch this space.

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