Photos: Center for Zuo Yue Zi, Chinese tradition of postpartum recovery, charges US$60,000 per month in Shanghai

January 27, 2012Jing Gao3 Comments, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Sina

It is common sense that women after giving birth need rest and nutrition among other things to regain strength. In China, the postnatal recovery is a rite of passage that no woman skimps. A long list of dos and don’ts widely believed to be wholesome for new mothers, based on Chinese folk medicine and superstitions, are to be strictly followed, and in extreme cases, can be as debilitating as the pregnancy and labor. She is to spend all of her time indoors, much of it in bed, and is prohibited from bathing or showering, brushing her teeth, eating raw fruit and enjoying any cool air. She can’t even sew, cry, climb a ladder or read any book. This recuperating process where new moms are bedbound typically takes at least one month, which is called “Zuo Yue Zi” in Chinese, or sitting out the month.

Luckily for women in today’s China, Western medical science is heeded more than ever before, and some of the practices not scientifically proven are dismissed by modern-day families. But still, a high value is set upon the first and presumably the most critical month after childbirth, and most people adopt the “better-safe-than-sorry” approach towards “Zuo Yue Zi.”

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This brings us to Care Bay, one of the most luxury and high-end postpartum recovery centers in Shanghai. All its facilities and amenities are comparable to those of a five-star hotel. Each new mother has a team of experts, including obstetricians, pediatricians, health consultants, beauticians, dieticians, nutritionists and psychiatrists, at her beck and call to provide first-class services. Most of its clients are well-off white-collar workers and celebrities. The center has a large variety of service packages priced at different levels to choose from, the most expensive of which is 380,000 yuan per month (US$60,300).

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Contrary to the world outside its walls, the “Zuo Yue Zi” center claims that a majority of products here are imported from developed countries, including the king-size mattresses and cradles. You can hardly see any Chinese character on the packaging of the baby formula here. Each individual room is even equipped with a facsimile machine, a desktop, a safe and office supplies for the baby’s father in case he should need to attend to office work. If the new father smokes, he can take a whiff or two on the balcony outside the room.

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The new mother is transported from the hospital to the care center in a Mercedes-Benz SUV. All she needs to bring to the center is her own clothing. The baby’s clothes, diapers and other baby products are all covered by the baby center. Some new moms feel the experience is very rewarding, and stayed for as long as three months. Asked if they think the cost for a 3-month-stay is too hefty, some replied, “It wouldn’t cost us any less if we lived in a five-star hotel.”

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According to the workers at the center, there are about 120 employees at Care Bay besides administrative staff. The center is able to accommodate more than 30 new mothers. That means a new mother is taken care of by at least four at a time. From the moment the mother-to-be steps into the delivery room at the hospital, till she checks into the care center with the newborn, and till she leaves a month later, she enjoys meticulous attention right down to the most trivial detail around the clock.

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At the care center, an army of neatly uniformed workers, like the housekeepers at a hotel, are responsible for cleaning rooms on a daily basis. The bathrooms where babies take a hot bath are sterilized with UV light every day.

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Yoga lessons designed for the new mother are taught by beauticians. If a young mother is under the weather or feels moody, masseuses and therapists will step in. Caretakers use extra caution when they are bathing babies or training babies to swim. Water temperature is kept at 37 degrees Celsius (98 F) to mimic the uterine environment.

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Obstetricians and pediatricians come daily to take body temperatures, do regular checkups, give immunization shots, and the like. Nutritionists combine traditional Chinese herbal medicines with food to create several unique diet therapy sets.

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All three meals for a new mom are delivered to her room by a worker.

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A new mom eats her meal in her room.

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Experienced nurses take care of newborns in the sunroom.

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The newborns take a sunbath to prevent jaundice.

Selected comments from Weibo

chinois_cho:Awesome! Have to work hard just for the sake of this.

Rashen:Rich people have so much money that they have to come up with ways to spend it. Penniless people have to come up with ways to spend as little as money. So sad!

Daphnezv:So damn expensive…Won’t give birth without money!

甯甯優:A place for people with dough. Nothing to envy. Those who “sat out the month” without 380,000 yuan are doing just as fine.

随想就是瞎想想: This one charging 380k is already a loser. Now the most expensive service is 1.18 million, started by the team that quit from Care Bay.

李伯磊:What’s the result? How is it any different from (“Zuo Yue Zi” of) ordinary people?

ubuntuu:An amazing country with amazing things.

向清风:Why giving birth to a baby has to be so extravagant? This much money would be enough for hiring ten people to carry ten children for you. What is wrong with our country?

Connie-姜良姣:I once dreamed of becoming a nutritionist. It is so easy to make money from rich people, especially rich wives…

米字旗下的Alan: A woman only “sits out the month” once or twice in her lifetime. A real man will try his best to let his wife suffer as little as possible. Based on the cost of living there, this is actually understandable.

尼古拉大玉:This is a great business. Follow the market demand closely and catch the consumer’s psychology. The core service has a big profit margin. There are also many viable value-added services. In the future the demand for professional Yue Sao (note: female helpers, or maids, hired for sitting out the month) will grow larger and large.

晨晨home:As long as rich people love to spend this money, why not? It can conveniently stimulate domestic demand along the way.

天津长荣物流张威:I feel that this actually looks more like a place for well-established people to hide away their first, second and third mistresses, so that any child born out of wedlock will not be discovered.

一颗铜豌豆:Such consumerism should be encouraged. The two conditions that must be met are: 1, it is out of one’s own pocket (note: the implication is: no embezzlement of public fund); 2, a luxury tax is levied on such a service.

Ma-Fi:Is this really necessary? So many children in impoverished mountainous areas cannot even have enough food or go to school! [怒]

Ace徐晶:Great. The gap between the rich and the poor is wider and it is increasingly harder to harmonize. The poor cannot afford to give birth and raise any child. The rich are okay, no matter how many children they have. This is the harmony China asks for. Harmonious!

my安宁:Can children under such care adapt to this society with dirty air and poisonous food?

人人都爱凉白开:The portals of the rich reek of flesh and wine, while frozen bodies lie by the roadside.

金九福0257:I’d go to the United States and give birth there had I have this much money. This is indeed an anomalous industry fed by arrivistes and the nouveau riche.

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3 comments to “Photos: Center for Zuo Yue Zi, Chinese tradition of postpartum recovery, charges US$60,000 per month in Shanghai”

  1. Guy In China | January 28, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    People with too much money, and don’t know where to spend it. It shows China’s culture well – for one rich person there are 4 poor ones to daunt on him/her.

    • Lorin Yochim | January 28, 2012 | Permalink Reply

      True, Guy in China, except for the 4:1 ratio. Isn’t it more like…1000:1? I’m sure someone out there knows the right correct ratio.

  2. O. Embody | February 5, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    As a 老外 (lǎo​wài) who had to live through his beloved Chinese wife’s “zuò​yuè​zi” (坐月子), I can vouch for the fact that, this is one of those Chinese’s hidden ‘little’ cultural gems, which emphatically, brings home one of the greatest cultural divides between our societies (referring to Western/Chinese societies).

    The author of this article wrote: “She is to spend all of her time indoors, much of it in bed, and is prohibited from bathing or showering, brushing her teeth, eating raw fruit and enjoying any cool air. She can’t even sew, cry, climb a ladder or read any book…” He/she is absolutely spot on.

    Alas, your average lǎo​wài comes with a cultural background that forged him to believe that after delivery, [western] women just go back to their normal lives. They certainly do not indulge themselves in such “zuò​yuè​zi” palavers. They do not have such a luxury. They have to work too, to pay mortgages…

    Hence, it comes a tad as a (choking) surprise when the lǎo​wài catches on the fact that, during the “zuò​yuè​zi” period, the father becomes totally obsolete in his fatherhood function. In fact, he is methodically ignored and sidelined by the family’s female contingent (mother, grand mothers, sisters, cousins, etc…), which out of nowhere, takes over his entire home, forms an invisible but impenetrable fortification and moat around the mother and the new born baby, and unconsciously (as this is a normal cultural behaviour), pushes the father outside the protective inner circle…

    This can last up to 3 months…

    What is worse, is that nobody, absolutely nobody whatsoever (not even your own father, mother, and/or whoever), tells you about this before… This is the world’s best kept secret, until of course, you step neck deep right into it, and violently get kicked out from the happiness of your gentle cloud 9!!! Buggers!!! 真讨厌!!!

    Considering that the 1-2-3-month “zuò​yuè​zi” period (‘the-father-is-a-nobody’ period) comes right after a 9-month pregnancy stunt, during which, every single to-be-father (should) dedicates his life to the wellness of his wife/partner and the baby she’s carrying, to all fathers, this “rite of passage” is one of the most hurtful decorums to observe… ever…

    All the fathers (Chinese and lǎo​wài alike) I talked to experienced the same; the same acute feeling of uselessness and rejection. Shouldn’t this be one of the happiest moments of a father’s life… No. Not in a matriarchal society, especially one, which is way too often driven by old women’s antiquated beliefs. Instead, we are made to feel like strangers in our own homes – homes, which most of the time we (men) work hard and pay for – and left with no alternative but be resigned to live with a dirty, foul, repugnant, stinking, and gross wife…

    So, why am I saying all of this in relation to this article?

    Because, unlike all the above comments, scorching people with money who can afford such services, I believe that the Care Bay and alike are a God sent…

    Instead of, 1) enduring the pain (involuntarily) inflicted by your loved ones being utterly oblivious to your very existence, 2) ducking and diving your wife’s increasingly menacing filth and its assault on your senses and hygiene, and 3) getting even more miserable after an already excruciatingly long 9 months of abstinence… I say… do yourself a favour… send your wife to one of those clinics. The high cost will be well worth the peace you will gain by being on your own for a couple of months…

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