This is a translation
of a conversation with my mom about “Sanhu-jori” which can vaguely be
translated to postpartum care. My mom is identified as M, and I am identified
IC: Can you tell me
about sanhujori? What is it?
M: After you give birth,
your body is weak and tired so it is a traditional custom that new mothers
should rest and recover. You should be careful and take care of yourself for
about three weeks to a month.
IC: What do you
have to do to take care of yourself? Are there any precautions you need to
M: Yes, typically
you don’t eat hard, spicy or cold foods. You also have to stay warm with the baby
so it’s harder in the summer since it’s hot. I think the precautions have
become laxer now but when I had you and your brother, I wore socks to keep my
feet warm and didn’t do any physical labour.
IC: If you can’t
have hard, spicy or cold foods, what are you supposed to eat?
you have mi-yeok-gook, which is Korean traditional seaweed soup. It’s warm,
nutritious and easy to eat and I had it for all three meals, every day for
IC: Wait, in Korea
we eat seaweed soup on our birthday, does this tradition of sanhujori have
anything to do with that?
M: Yes, it’s
because the mother had it when the baby was born so it just keeps that
IC: Why is taking
care of yourself after birth so important in Korea?
M: It is believed
that if you didn’t take care of yourself, you have a higher risk of getting
sick later. Like your bones would be weaker so you would have more pain in
IC: You had me in
the US. What do you think are the differences between post-birth procedures and
traditions in Korea and the US?
M: It’s very
different. I don’t think the US has specific procedures of postpartum care. After
you were born, I wasn’t feeling very well, and the nurse came in and asked if I
wanted ice cubes to suck on. This was very surprising to me and I didn’t
understand why. The first meal they gave me was like bread, orange juice and yogurt
and it was very hard for me to stomach it. So, I asked your dad to make seaweed
soup at home and bring it for me.
IC: Why do you
think it’s so different?
M: I think it has
to do with strength, bone structure and physique. When we were bringing you
home, we had to put you in a car-seat and bring that to the car. It was very
heavy for me and I had to ask your dad to help me but there was this woman who
gave birth around the same time I did, and she lifted up the car-seat without
IC: So, how did you
take care of yourself after I was born, since you had to rest?
M: When I was in Korea
and had your brother, there was a sanhujori helper we hired to help around the
house. And when you were born, my mother—so your grandmother—contacted her and
asked if she could go to the US to help care for her daughter who had just
given birth. She agreed, and my grandmother paid for the travel expenses and
she came and helped me.
I vaguely knew
about sanhujori but didn’t know the details of it since I’ve never experienced
it myself. I thought it would be interesting to ask my mom about it and knew
that she would have a unique insight into the differences of Asian and Western
cultures and traditions since she had me in the US and my brother in Korea.
This was collected
in an interview with my mom in a casual setting. I asked her about specific procedures
that a new mom has to follow to take care of her body.
As this is something,
I haven’t experienced myself, I thought it was interesting to hear about the
traditions of Korea. It was also fascinating to hear the diffrences between
Asian and Western cultures from my mom who has experienced both cultures. The
difference really shows the variation of tradition, which is something we’ve
talked about in this class. Just as fairytales and myths have variation from
country to country and sometimes household to household, even something as simple
as post-birth procedures are different. I think if I decide to have kids in the
future, I will also try to do sanhujori if I can.