Supporting the journey of motherhood, in style
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U-Fhern Chang On Empowering New Mothers With The Nurture And Nourishment They Need To Thrive

We chatted with U-Fhern about the importance of rest and why she wants to make women realise they are worthy of slowing down.

U-Fhern was born in Malaysia and raised in Brunei, a small country on Borneo Island. From a young age, her mother instilled in her the importance of women prioritising their own health and rest and often referred to the Chinese postpartum practice of ‘sitting the month’, or ‘confinement’, where new mothers are cared for, nourished and supported for a minimum of 30 days. 

“For as long as I could remember, my mother and grandmother had talked about confinement after having a baby. It was portrayed to me as a time for me to follow all these rules, and if I didn’t, bad things would happen to me later in life,” recalls U-Fhern.

U-Fhern moved to Melbourne and went on to become an accountant. When she had her first child she returned to her traditional roots and utilised the ancient practice, “mostly out of fear”, she admits. But it was during that time that her perspective completely shifted.  U-Fhern came to deeply appreciate the support of wise women – mums, aunties, and friends – as she embarked on her new journey into motherhood. As she learned about the healing practices and benefits of confinement, she began to understand just how important this approach to postpartum is for a woman’s beauty, vitality, and longevity. 

“Once I had experienced confinement with the support of my mother and mother-in-law caring for me, I wondered how does one start motherhood without this care. I very quickly realised my perception of confinement was completely wrong – it should be embraced and not feared,” says U-Fhern. She goes on to say, “I believe if we are to embrace this sacred time knowing the benefits it holds for our future selves, we are more likely to approach those early days with slowness and grace.” 

“Once I had experienced confinement with the support of my mother and mother-in-law caring for me, I wondered how does one start motherhood without this care. I very quickly realised my perception of confinement was completely wrong - it should be embraced and not feared."
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U-Fhern recognised that the western expectations and norms surrounding motherhood were the opposite of what she had learnt from her family, and she set about helping the next generation of women make this transition with confidence and clarity. “For too long we have accepted that exhaustion, sleep deprivation, illness and stress are an expected part of early motherhood.” 

She founded Elan House of Wellness, a business that aims to bring about deep change to the modern practices of pregnancy and postpartum care by drawing on the traditional Chinese practice in a contemporary way. U-Fhern wants to extend this change beyond those early postpartum days by empowering women to continue to prioritise their rest. “We are not conditioned to rest,” she says. U-Fhern has just launched a short film entitled You Are Worthy Of Rest which she hopes will start to change the thinking around motherhood, where it has become common practice to measure self-worth in ‘busy-ness.’ For many mothers, constantly rushing combined with a need to ‘do it all’ has become normal. “We have become accustomed to assuming what is common as normal’. But how would normal look if mothers were well supported?” U-Fhern asks.

Despite managing four young children and the demands of a growing business, U-Fhern ensures she finds time for herself to rest, but even she admits it is never easy. U-Fhern has a wise and calming aura and lives by the mantra of “small things often and big things sometimes”. For her, this means things like a face mask or yoga nidra regularly, and a retreat or solo trip once a year. She notices the impact on herself and her family almost immediately. “If I’m not well rested, I instantly find myself more snappy than usual and my tolerance for mess and noise is extremely low.”

With everything she is juggling, U-Fhern still manages to look polished and put together. “Now that I’m a mum, my fashion choices are less trendy and more timeless.”  She looks to local brands like P.Johnson Femme and Jac and Jack for everyday items such as tailored pants and quality basics and international designers such as Celine (Phoebe Philo days) and Chanel for investment pieces she intends to cherish for years. 

U-Fhern holds great aspiration for the future of Elan and intends to grow it beyond its current retail offering. Her dream is to open a postpartum retreat in Melbourne but is leaving it to divine timing. “I am in a season in my life where I want to enjoy my babies while they still want and need me. The business will slowly flicker away, and I will gently tend to its embers, but I know I will soon be rebuilding up this fire.” 

 

Words by Elizabeth Briskin | Imagery by Odin Wilde

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