According to traditional Chinese “confinement” practices, new mothers must rest and replenish their bodies for thirty days after giving birth. During that time women bundle up in blankets and heavy clothing and stay inside, eating special warming and strengthening foods prepared by family members. Anything thought to diminish warmth—  certain vegetables, cold beverages, and bathing — is forbidden.

After her son Rhys was born, Annie Cok adopted a special diet and didn’t leave her apartment in Queens for a whole month — but some of these ancient traditions were a bridge too far.

Audio story by Anne Noyes Saini

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Anne Noyes Saini covers food culture, immigration, and the elderly in New York City—especially in Queens, where she lives. She has contributed to The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, WNYC-FM, WBUR-FM, and City Limits magazine.

Shawn Cheng is an artist living in New York City. His comics have appeared in Best American Comics and The Graphic Canon. He is a contributor to the all-ages fantasy anthology Cartozia Tales.