Today marks the first day of my merdeka selepas pantang i.e my freedom post confinement. It’s bittersweet because while it’s a great milestone for me in terms of healing and getting stronger, it’s also the day my pantang lady left. It’s pretty hard to say goodbye to someone who has looked after me and my baby 24/7 for 44 days…we have cried together, laughed together, she has probably seen more parts of my body than my own husband (lol!) and she has truly looked after us as a whole family, even doing our laundry, cleaning, cooking for my hubby and taking the baby on some nights to sleep with her when hubby and I were at our wits end. I’ve got a lump in my throat as I write this; Aidan and I have been in tears all morning and I’m pretty sure we’re both sad for the same reason. (Apart from maybe Aidan’s 10.30am cry when he had pooped and needed changing).
Thank goodness people remembered my end-of-pantang so I’ve been distracted by my phone buzzing all day with questions from friends asking, “So what will be your first celebratory meal?” (Reason being because there are so many dietary restrictions within the Malay confinement ritual, that those completing the 44 days will usually go a bit nuts on the 45th day when it comes to food). I had been drooling over thoughts of ice cream, sashimi, soft cheeses, iced drinks and so on, but now that the day has come, I’ve been a total chicken about it! I’ve decided to take it easy and not shock my system so will probably start with a sedate Japanese dinner one of these days.
At the same time I also got lots of questions asking how I lost all the baby weight in a month, despite not being able to move much. Well, I can assure you I’m nowhere near what I used to be but I’m definitely a lot smaller than I was 44 days ago! I guess it helps that I’m one of those ‘eat to live’ rather than ‘live to eat’ types but I also observed my confinement properly- I think that definitely did the trick. So in tribute to the wonderful Kak Ita, (my pantang lady), I will share as much as I can about what we did during my confinement.
Not that I’m suddenly an expert at pregnancy weight-loss but based on my own experience, it appears that all you need are 3 simple conditions to ensure that you get back in shape in no time.
1. Make sure your body prior to getting pregnant is in good condition. It’s unfair to yourself to expect your body to return to a shape that is better than what it actually was. It is however, very realistic to expect your body to return to its pre-pregnancy state quite quickly and without you actually having to do much.
2. Breastfeed. Simple as that. You burn 500 calories a day just by breastfeeding- that is the same as one hour on the treadmill! Say wuuuuut?!!
3. Three words. Pantang. Pantang. Pantang. (Ok that’s one word repeated 3 times, but I just wanna drum in how important it is to do your confinement properly!)
A typical day starts off in the morning with a simple breakfast of branflakes and raisins with warm milk (I wasn’t allowed anything cold during confinement). I also had honey either drizzled over my cereal or as a drink mixed with warm water as an energy booster. In addition to my painkillers, I took Obimin vitamin for strength, Fenugreek tablets for breastmilk production, Polleney Black Fish essence (pati ikan haruan) and sea cucumber extract (air gamat) which was so gross but supposed to help heal my wounds and jamu (traditional Malay/Indonesian medicine- have no idea what goes in them, but have you seen how slim and gorgeous Indonesian women are?!)
Then I’ll have a tungku massage (hot stone) over my tummy which is meant to shrink back the uterus to its original size and also tighten the belly. This is followed by a body massage to expel ‘wind’. Malays are obsessed with the idea of wind or ‘angin’ trapped in our bodies which we believe makes you bloated, big and feel achey all over if not released by massage. This would be topped off by applying pilis to my forehead to ward off headaches and param or tapei to my belly to avoid the dreaded angin. Since I could not use a bengkung or bellywrap due to my c section wound, Kak Ita would just tie a piece of cloth around my tummy to stop the herbs from going everywhere.
Depending on Aidan’s eating habits (I feed him on demand), I’d squeeze in a shower a day (as long as I took it before 7pm). Kak Ita would boil special herbs which I’d have to douse over myself before drying off.
Lunch is usually brown rice with steamed seabass or grilled black fish. I also had beef and chicken regularly as well as leafy green vegetables in a clear broth. At about 4pm tea is served in the form of a mug of Horlicks and some egg-free pancakes with maple syrup or biscuits. On several occasions I’d have cupcakes courtesy of my lovely MIL (who I think became Wondermilk’s best customer throughout my pantang period!).
It’s important to have a small meal between lunch and dinner if you’re breastfeeding. I drank a lot of soy milk for the first couple of weeks until I realised that Aidan was getting tummy aches from it so I stopped. And after his jaundice disappeared I started drinking a lot of homemade ginger tea which was yummy and also helped reduce tummy bloating.
I’d have another tungku session finished with a quick leg and back massage at around 5pm.
This is the metal tungku we used. It was quite funny when my hubby who had no idea what a tungku was kept getting really confused when he thought we were talking about Tunku (Abdul Rahman).
Dinner was usually similar to lunch but consisted of a different type of protein, i.e. if I had fish at lunch, it would not be repeated at dinner. Kak Ita would let me have chocolate for desert instead of fruit – I think she always felt sorry for me! Just a square of Cadbury’s dairymilk though. Literally. One. Square.
At bedtime she brought me this (nothing to do with pantang but my mum insisted the stem cell technology will help me heal).
So there you have it- a day in the life of a girl in pantang.I took anything and everything that was thrown my way in an attempt to recover and get back in shape. If you’re having a baby soon, I hope you will observe your confinement period as best you can…if not for now, for later in life. My mum says those who don’t, will suffer more ailments in old age than those who do, such as uterine prolapse, weight gain, flabby body, pot belly, migraine- the list goes on and I’d rather not take my chances. After all, Mother knows best.