Mother's Day Theme: Extraordinary Mothers - Meet Grandma Vicky!

1. Hi Vicky, thank you for agreeing to having this interview with us, would you like to introduce yourself?

Hi everyone! My name is Vicky, I am 61 years old and I have retired. Now I spend most of my time helping to look after my grandchildren!

2. How many kids and grandkids do you have?

I am a proud mother of 3 and a grandmother of 3 too! My children are between the ages of 29-40 and my grandchildren are between the ages of 3-5.

3. Today’s theme is extraordinary mothers, in your case grandmother! We understand that you did the confinement for your daughter and daughter in-law. Could you share with us where did you pick up these confinement skills?

Experiences I gained as a mother myself and advice from my friends and my older sister who did confinement for their own daughters. In fact, a lot of my skills were picked up and honed through trial and error, based on inbuilt maternal instincts.

4. What were some of the challenges and memorable times that you experienced while helping your children do confinement?

It was certainly physically tiring to help look after a new-born infant as well as my daughter who stayed with me during her confinement. Less than a year later, my daughter-in-law gave birth as well and I too helped with looking after her and her son!

However, the preciousness of being able to witness and experience every milestone my grandchildren achieve is irreplaceable. It is also heart-warming when my daughter and daughter-in-law praised my cooking and enjoyed their confinement meals.

I recalled one particular incident when my granddaughter was suffering from a period of uncomfortable constipation. Medication did not help, and her parents were getting worried. I decided to encourage her to poo using the good old fashion way, lifting her legs up and making cooing sounds. Lo and behold, she pooped! It is the little things like these that are memorable to me because being able to alleviate the stress of my children, no matter how small, is what matters.

5. Can you share with us what are some of the interesting differences you noticed between the confinement practices during your time and now?

Confinement practices were much stricter during my time! For instance, we could not shower or go out of the house for the whole month! Now, although many still believe that new moms should not shower, at least they can do so with herbal baths that are pre-packed at medicinal halls. During my time, there was no such thing! All we could do was to use a damp cloth with small amounts of lemongrass and white wine.

We could not even turn on the fan due to the belief that after giving birth, a mother’s body is filled with “wind” that needs to be expelled to prevent long term chronic conditions like rheumatism. Even washing of face and brushing of teeth required warm boiled water.  

I recalled one funny incident when I was so warm and perspiring profusely that I snuck into my room and sat in front of the fan at full blast. However, my bliss was short-lived as my all-knowing mother-in-law came knocking on the door with a disapproving look.

During my own mother’s time, it was far stricter! A lot of confinement practices were governed by superstitious beliefs, for eg, confinement food could not be shared with others, because those who ate the meal will be “stubborn”. Hence, we have a come a long way in terms of confinement practices presently.

6. What are some of the confinement practices from your time that you continue to place importance on?

I still hold on the belief that new moms have a lot of “wind” in their bodies which needs to be expelled. These can be done through traditional practices that have been passed down from generations to generations. That is why during the confinement period, confinement food is of primary importance.

Hence, I cooked dishes that contain a lot of ginger, sesame oil and D.O.M liqueur to help them expel wind and keep the body warm. I also added fresh stalks of lemongrass to herbal pre-packed packs bought from medicinal halls for my daughter and daughter in law to use for showering.

7. What advice would you give to new/young mothers? Something that you have learnt over the years as a mother and grandmother.

A mother’s love and concern for the child will always supersede your own needs, so be kind to yourself and remember to look after yourself so you can look out for your child and family!

8. Could you share with us 2 of your favorite confinement food recipes that you cooked?

My 2 favourite confinement food recipes that are relatively easy to cook and taste delicious are taken from the book "Confinement Recipes" by Ong Swee Ngoh. 

Dried Scallops Pig's Stomach Soup

1 pig's stomach- cleaned
300g pig's tail bone
50g dried scallops 
2 stalks lemon grass
2 tbsp crushed peppercorns
5 shallots with skin removed and crushed
3000ml water
1 bowl rice win
3 slices of ginger 

1) Blanch pig's tail bones in boiling water and drain well
2) Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil over high heat and then reduce the fire and allow to simmer for 1 hour. Remove pig's stomach and slice into pieces. 
3) Continue to boil the soup for another 1 hour and add in the sliced pig's stomach before serving. To be served hot. 
Fish Fried with Ginger Slices

300g sliced fish 
3 pips of garlic-chopped
10 slices of ginger
2 shallots- chopped
1 onion cut into wedges 
1 stalk of spring onion cut into sections 
1 tbsp abalone sauce
1 tbsp light soya sauce
Dash of sugar
3 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp white rice wine
Heat the sesame oil and stir fry ginger, garlic and shallot until fragrant. Then add in the fish slices and continue stir frying for a while. Add in the seasoning and mix well. 

These are the 2 simple, delicious and go to  confinement recipes that I often cook during my daughter's confinement! Sometimes I add in essence of chicken into my dishes for that extra boost of nutrients too. 

For beverage, I will make a daily brew of red dates ginger, dried longan and dang shen (Codonopsis) that I boil for 30 minutes. The beverage is then kept in a thermal and to be drank warm throughout the day. This will help to nourish blood and improve metabolism. 


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