POST PARTUM CARE (SANHUJORI)

11/16/2018 – Typical breakfast Sonny prepared for Care Bear and I. Salted mackerel fry, an assortment of flavored, blanched/pickled vegetables (fern brake, spinach, soy bean sprouts, mountain veggies, sweet potato stems, chayote or Mexican squash), lettuce noodle salad, and spicy daikon kimchi. The ultimate, satisfying Korean style breakfast! Eating like king every morning!

In Korea, there is a culture of taking care of someone who just had a baby and her baby in a certain way. It’s called Sanhujori. The Korean government even gives mothers about $500 to spend on such post partum care (though only if it’s your third child or beyond, which makes sense given Korea’s ultra-low birth rate at 0.96).

Sanhujori involves eating seaweed soup and other assortment of highly nutritious food at all three meals, special sitz baths, chest massages and other body massages, keeping the feet and the body warm, having someone help you with breast feeding and all things baby, including diapering and bathing, and, most of all, not exerting yourself too much. That means someone else is helping the new mom, such as cooking food for her, doing housework for her, and taking care of the baby. That person traditionally used to be the new mom’s mother or other older female members of the family. But in modern Korea, there are swanky Sanhujori centers that are set up like an upscale hotel/spa.

As I spent my adulthood in America and saw friends and coworkers have babies, I had wondered why such specialized post partum care culture does not exist in America. It seems that in America, after women have babies, apart from the common six-week mark ob-gyn doctor’s visit, there is no system or established routine for taking care of the new mom. Instead, the new moms go back into moving as normal (or not), eating as normal (or not), and not doing anything particularly special in the post partum period, other than taking care of the wound (if any) and the occasional sitz baths.

I tried to look up online the reason for this big difference in post partum care culture between Korea and America. The best answer I’ve found seems to be that Asian women tend to have thinner pelvic muscles relative to the body compared to Western women. That is why Asian women need a more intense recovery period than their Western counterparts, apparently. True or not, I was not going to forego the interesting, new (to me), and uniquely-Korean experience of Sanhujori!

When I was pregnant, one of the first things I did to prepare for the baby was to look for a post partum caregiver, since the care givers book up quickly. (It was also, by far, the most costly expense spent on baby/mommy recovery care.) That was when I was five months pregnant. Thankfully, even in America, I was able to find and hire someone who was able to give me the traditional Korean-style post partum care that I was looking for.

11/21/2018 – Masterful handling of babies (and delicious steamed Korean sweet potato snack)

Her name is Sonny. She is an excellent chef. She custom-prepared each meal to my liking (less salt and mostly vegetarian/pescaterian). She made Care Bear and me three meals a day, did our laundry, cleaned our house, changed Dash’s diaper, bathed him, fed him, cuddled him when he fussed, gave me special dried tong ho steam sitz bath once every day, and provided general baby care advice. She helped us for about two weeks.

11/13/2018 – Lunch by Sonny. Ramen noodles with egg, mung bean sprouts, and romaine lettuce, kabocha squash soup with rice cakes, cod fry in egg batter (jeon).
11/19/2018 – Getting up bright and early so we can eat Sonny’s food! Salted mackerel fry, seaweed soup, stir fried eggplants, spicy daikon kimchi, lotus roots, fern brake, seaweed stems, sweet potato stems, mountain veggies
11/21/2018 – Inari udon with seaweed for lunch! This time with one of my favorite dishes, spicy steamed shishito peppers, which she whipped up upon my request
11/22/2018 – A special, extravagant, pre-Thanksgiving, Korean meal that I requested, for our family who was visiting. Dozen variety of tempura veggies and Korean crispy chicken wings!

The biggest value Sonny provided, without question, was her excellent food. So much so that she still comes back occasionally to make food for Care Bear and me!

I had always wanted a personal chef, ever since I learned that Oprah has her own. (Oprah is who I strive to be, in some aspects.) At 34 years old, I too have a personal chef now! Woohoot!

12/13/2018 – Four hours of Sonny’s work, one week’s worth of food for Care Bear and I.
1/10/2018 – Another four hours of Sonny’s work = us being well fed for the entire week (and more) and not having to go out to eat or eat unhealthy

Here is an Economist article about governments providing for new babies but neglecting new moms: https://www.economist.com/international/2018/12/15/why-so-little-is-done-to-help-new-mums-cope

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