Chinese woman braves leeches and mosquitoes to protect her baby

This is the story of a Chinese woman named Aiming:

“After the birth of her second child, she was visited by the head of the local Woman’s Federation. “She wanted me to wear an IUD or agree to sterilization,” Aiming recalled. “I refused. At the time the official limit was two children, but this was not strictly enforced. I still had to prove myself, you see. In the countryside people look down on you if you cannot produce sons. I wanted the people in my husband’s village to respect me. My husband didn’t beat me after I gave birth to girls, as some women are beaten by their husbands. But I could tell he wasn’t happy. I wanted to give my husband a son…”…

When Aiming became pregnant in October 1978, she knew she could not openly carry this baby to term. She would have to conceal her condition from the Women’s Federation as long as she could, then go into hiding when she was exposed. As soon as the weather turned cold, she donned a bulky winter coat two sizes too big for her. She wore it indoors and out for the next six months. It was not until early May, when the arrival of warm weather forced her into cooler clothes, that she was discovered to be pregnant. “The local head of the Women’s Federation was very unhappy to learn that I was already seven months along,” Aiming laughed. “She immediately designated me a “primary target for remedial measures.”

Months before, Aiming and her husband had devised a plan for this moment. A room had been rented in a remote hamlet a couple of miles from the mine. It had been stocked with clothes, bedding, and other essentials. This would be Aiming’s hideout until she gave birth. All Aiming had to do was travel there, and she would be safe.

Aiming had planned her escape route carefully but had not reckoned on how quickly the Women’s Federation would move. The night before Aiming was to travel to the mine, she and Mother Wei were awakened at 1:00 AM by the sound of someone banging on the front door. They looked out through the bars of their bedroom window to see the Women’s Federation head at the door. She was backed by five militia men armed with rifles. A horse-drawn cart stood down the street. Aiming knew at once that they had come to take her to the commune medical clinic, by force if necessary.

“I bolted for the back door,” Aiming recalled, “wearing only my nightshirt. Behind me I heard Mother Wei loudly arguing with the head of the Women’s Federation through the door. “What do you want at such an hour?!”

“Open the door! This is a matter of state business!”

“I ran across the alley way and hid myself quickly inside a pigsty. I did not want to wake up the dogs of the village. I waited and listened to see what would happen when they found out that I was missing.”

As soon as Mother Wei opened the door a crack, the militia men forced their way inside. “Where is she?” Aiming heard the head of the Women’s Federation shout. “

“I don’t know,” Mother Wei’s voice came back coolly. “She left some time ago.”

“We’ll see about that,” the official responded. “Search the bedrooms,” she ordered the militiamen. There was the sound of trunks being opened and furniture being moved. After a minute the voice of the official could be heard again. “Where did she go?” She shouted, angry that her quarry had eluded her. Mother Wei’s response was too soft to make out, but the official’s strident voice could be heard loud and clear: “In that case we will wait here for her until she returns.”…

Aiming knew she couldn’t stay in the pigsty. At any minute the head of the Women’s Federation might order a search of the village. Besides, she was being tormented by great clouds of mosquitoes, undeterred by her thin nightshirt or her careful efforts to wave them away. She considered setting out for her distant hiding place under cover of darkness, but abandoned the idea for fear that the roads were being patrolled. Instead, she decided, she would leave the confines of the village and conceal herself in the surrounding paddy fields. There, where it was safer, she would wait out the militiamen…

In a minute she had passed out of the village onto the narrow pathways that divided the individual paddies, placing her feet carefully on the muddy, slippery ridges to avoid a fall. She came to a small rock outcropping about 100 yards from the village – close enough to see what the militiamen were up to but providing enough cover to avoid being seen – and squatted there to wait for the dawn. “There were even more mosquitoes in the rice patties than in the pigsty,” Aiming recalled wryly. “The mosquitoes stung me until I was covered with welts. Maddened by the constant bites, I got down from the rock into the patty itself, squatting down in the cool water, feeling my feet sink into the mud below. I smeared thick mud over the exposed parts of my body. The cool wetness helped to relieve some of the itching, but as soon as it dried the mosquitoes would return, biting me through the layer of mud. I felt a tickling on my legs and kept having to slap off hungry leeches. I was miserable, hungry, and tired. I refused to give in to self-pity, though. I was not going to give myself up, no matter what happened.… If they discovered me, I was ready to fight to the death for the life of my son.”

She stayed in the paddy field for two days until the militiamen left,

“Aiming hid inside Mother Wei’s house that night and the following day, resting and regaining her strength. Then she set out under cover of darkness for her hiding place. It took most of the night to walk to the county seat. From there she took the morning bus to the market towns nearest her destination, covering the last 5 miles through the hills to the hamlet on foot. She was at the end of her strength when she arrived at her hiding place. Her husband, who got word through a friend that she was coming, was waiting for her. She collapsed into his arms, exhausted by but triumphant.

For several days after Aiming’s disappearance, the head of the Women’s Federation busied herself striking other “primary targets for remedial measures.” Nine women from the Village of the Three Brothers and surrounding communities – all five or more months pregnant – were arrested during successful midnight raids and taken to the commune medical clinic for abortion and sterilization. Then she turned her attention back to the still missing Aiming…

She and two assistants invaded Mother Wei’s house like an occupying army, arriving early each morning and staying until late each night. Throughout the day they took turns browbeating her about Aiming.”

Other times they would threaten her with heavy fines…

Aiming had her baby.

“A week after Aiming returned home, the militiamen came again, this time in broad daylight. Aiming’s husband was at the mine. “I thought they were coming for my son,” Aiming recalled. “I gave him to Mother Wei in panic and told her to escape out the back door. But it was me they were after. They grabbed me and put me on a cart. I was so surprised that I put up no resistance.”

Aiming was taken under guard to the commune medical clinic. There, on orders from the head of the Women’s Federation, she was given a tubal ligation the same day…

“They carted me off like a pig to the slaughterhouse. But then… Then I thought of our little treasure. I decided it was not too high a price to pay.”

Stephen W Mosher A Mother’s Ordeal: One Woman’s Fight against China’s One Child Policy (Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993) 237 – 240

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About Sarah

Sarah is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
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