Happy to announce that I’ve finished Ge-Lai!
30 days is over, and happy 30the birthday to this little one! Finally, I can now wash my hair and nobody is happier than my suffering husband who wants me to take a bath every day.
What is Ge-Lai?
Ge-Lai is the Chinese method for post partum healing. In Mandarin, it’s called, zuo yuezi (tsuo yüe-tz), which means to “sitting the month” or “confinement.” As the translation suggests, gelai is a way Chinese women can rest her body after giving birth and involves a lot of rest.
Loosely said, gelai is the next 30 days after your delivery where your body and energy is allowed to fully rest and recover from the physical stress of childbearing. In the olden age, there was no anesthesia, epidural or technology so childbearing was a very difficult period for a woman that needs time to recover.
During ge-lai, you can’t take a bath for 30 days, have to eat gelai foods that’s aimed to help you regenerate iron and all the blood you lost during childbirth, rest and stay at home. Specifically, gelai for me was:
1. No hair or body washing for 30 days.
You can punas punas your body with a cloth doused with a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water, but you are not allowed to shower or bath in 30 days. If you’re curious, I survived because I kept my hair tied up in a ponytail all the time. This is what hair looks like 30 days later without bathing (forgive the au naturale look):
Staying at home in an airconditioned room helps too (though I did not follow this rule this time around due to work). For washing down there, you use warm bayabas (guava) water. All you need to do is boil bayabas leaves and use that for washing your private parts.
2. Eat gelai food that is seasoned with a lot of ginger.
Gelai food is aimed to help the woman recover her energy and health post partum. The food is usually soft and easy to digest, and are filled with nutrients that helps the body recover, restore the blood and heal the wound. A big bonus is that the more nutrients you drink, the more your body makes breastmilk. Here are the sample of food that I ate for 3 weeks post my delivery.
The Philippines has two reliable suppliers — Gelai.ph and Ahma Shirley’s Specialties. I personally tried Gelai.ph’s weekly menu this time and found their food to be quite delicious, reasonably priced (Note: they deliver it once every 2 days to your house), and nutritious.
Gelai.ph explained that the first week’s menu is usually soft, easy to digest and full of nutrients. I know that Cha Yo Tsi (kidney), liver, fish soup, pigeon, and black chicken may sound weird and yucky to the Filipino palate, but trust me, Gelai.ph makes these dishes palatable and delicious.
I’m not a liver lover but I liked how they made their stir fried liver, which was ultra soft and yummy. Not as disgusting as I remember. The pigeon and black chicken were my favorites, and the sauce was sweet yet hindi nakakaumay. The stir fried kidney is my second favorite as the flavor is perfect, the kidneys are soft, and I really love their sauce.
The second week moves to meatier dishes like beef and pork to help digestion and easier absorption of nutrients. If you’ve noticed, while there’s lapu lapu, tons of soup and malunggay on the menu, you can’t eat sushi, shrimp, squid or shellfish during gelai. Instead, you basically eat the same things over and over again.
As what Gelai has stated, “GeLai focuses on a small number of dishes served many times. The new mom consumes the same dishes over and over to get all the healing benefits from these key dishes and drinks.”
Okay, so that makes a lot of sense. It’s a bonus that you’re eating something healthy, nutritious and yet delicious. Note that this is NOT a sponsored post and I paid the supplier 100% for my food. But thanks Gelai.ph for preparing. Really enjoyed the meals way better than the other gelai supplier I used during my first delivery.
3. Drink Saravello wine daily.
Serravallo’s Tonic Wine (Retails at around Php 850 to Php 1,150) is a must for any woman undergoing gelai. Thankfully, if you need stock, you can get one from the ever reliable Lazada or Shopee.
Rich in Vitamin B complex and iron, the Serravallo tonic wine is made of grapes and the bark of the cinchona shrub, and is said to stimulate blood circulation and appetite, nourish the nerves, and rejuvenate the red blood cells. Said to be the only wine with more than 10,000 medical testimonials all over the world, the Serravallo wine is said to boost body immunity, cure iron deficiency, prevents anemia and symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, weakness, migraines, cold hands and feet, pale skin, loss of sleep/appetite and others. It also eases pain for ladies who suffer dysmenorrhea or menstrual disorder. A must-have drink for birthing moms to recover energy and strength fast.
Personally, I drink it for its healthy properties and because it’s delicious. It comes with a small cup and you drink it twice a day — once in the morning, and the next before sleeping. Taste-wise, it’s like drinking sweet wine, and you feel the warmth for a few minutes after. I was able to finish one bottle for my gelai, and it’s one of the things I really look forward to.
4. Drink a lot of soups and herbal tea.
Strict gelai prohibits new mothers from drinking water because water is considered as “cold” and you can’t drink cold stuff. Instead, you need to drink herbal teas all the time. Thankfully, my mother-in-law prepared the expensive herbal teas for me which was really sweet of her.
5. Stay at home and rest all the time.
Unfortunately, this was what I was unable to do much this maternity leave. Three days before I gave birth via CS, one of the staff stole money from the store and I had to ensure that due process was followed to investigate her case and to terminate her properly, which puts a damper to any good maternity leave.
I also have to coordinate with our architect and engineers as we start constructing a new store so gotta go and inspect the site myself, with Baby Alyx in tow and resting in the car while I finish work. There is truly no rest for the weary. Oh well, work is always a blessing so I cannot complain.
So why do Gelai?
Personally, I do gelai because I believe that there’s nothing wrong in following tradition that’s passed through generations. Resting your body makes a lot of sense, and there is only upside in following your elders.
Many women who follow the gelai tradition often say they feel more invigorated afterwards and can go back to their normal habits faster — not a bad incentive to not ligo for 30 days. Tipid ka pa ng tubig!
My wound is healed and I have removed my binder. I am somewhat working from home and being very busy. Not a traditional way of healing but hey, this is what life gave me, so we must go through with it. Regardless, the first 30 days has been extremely busy for me. Hope that the next few days quiets down, and looking forward to give you guys an update soon!