Chinese/English Transcription and Translation of Simeng Dai's interview about China's one-child policy with her mother
噢！妈妈 / Oh!Mama
Title: My mother’s four pregnancies and three deliveries/children.
We recommend you listen to this program with your parents and elders.
大家好，我是S。欢迎收听 噢！妈妈 的第一期节目。
Hi everyone, my name is S. Welcome to the first episode of Oh!Mama.
I was born in an ordinary rural family in Wenzhou, Zhejiang. My mother gave birth to 3 children between 1990 and 1996. I am the middle daughter, I have a sister and a younger brother. I was fostered in someone else’s house soon after I was born. In the past few years, I have been trying to digest this experience myself. In order to piece together a more complete cause and effect and understand that period of history, I plucked up the courage to interview my mother. Asked her to tell her story of struggling between the repressive policy of family planning and the backward culture of patriarchy in rural areas.
Although the two-child policy was introduced in 2015 and the country is now encouraging births, the impact of family planning on our generations will not be easily erased. My mother’s experience is just one of the experiences of thousands of women. I hope that through this program, I will be able to use this program to give insights, interview more mothers, and record their birth stories.
Because my mother has no experience of being interviewed, in order to let my mother relax as much as possible, our conversations were interspersed in dialect and Mandarin. I will translate the dialect part.
In terms of the recording venue, this time the recording was performed on the bed, so there will be some noise.
At the same time, because of the sensitivity of this topic, I have dealt with the names of people and places accordingly. Please bear with me.
— Start of the interview–
S: Mom, like I just explained to you. Doing this project, I didn’t mean to blame you or Dad or anyone. I just want to understand the process of giving birth between 1990 and 1995. Because I have never asked you before, and I am very curious myself. Then I think there may not be many people your age are talking about the things they have experienced. So I think it is a very meaningful project.
M: Here’s how things were. I was almost 22 years old in 1990. At that time, we were young and we were ignorant. We were just following the trend of society. When others were in their twenties, they could marry and get married, so we got married. We gave birth to a daughter. At that time, our family had no money and was very poor. There was no real property. Life wea very hard. We all work hard on our own. Make money and to support ourselves.
When I was pregnant, I was young and strong. Even if I had been standing all day, working overtime at 10 o’clock in the evening, I still had to do things well. Only more than fifty days after giving birth, I got up and continued to work immediately, and took care of the kid at the same time. And my two younger sisters came to help, doing business and bringing the children together.While doing things by myself, while taking care of children, just be self-reliant and work hard.
S: When you gave birth to your first child, could you have a gender check at that time?
M：You could. This is also dependent on interpersonal relationships, but I did not go.
S：So you didn’t know the gender of your first born before giving birth.
M：I didn’t know.
S: Did anyone say anything after the first daughter was born?
M：We didn’t care that much. But the mother-in-law generation, they were . She said that if you gave birth to a daughter, then you must also have a son. She said that no matter how much money is kept at home, no one can see it. She said that if one doesn’t have a son, it must because you didn’t do well in your life. How could there be no son? Anyway, older people think this way.
Later I continued to give birth to a second daughter. Then the one-child policy worked like this, if the first child was a daughter, after 5 years, the second child could be born without paying a fine. But if the first one was a son, then one can never give birth anymore.
S: The second daughter was born, and where did you give birth to her?
M: Here is the story. We bought a house in 1991. The former homeowner sold his house after losing money in gambling. An intermediary said that the house was good, and the decoration was really good in the past. I bought it for 195,000 yuan. When I bought it, it didn’t take long before those debt collectors came to the house to ask for money. But the owner has already sold the house and ran away. The debt collectors would lock the door from outside with their own locks.
We were unlucky to have bought this house. We lived in this house during the second pregnancy and the Chinese practice of ‘sitting the month’ all in this house. My stomach hurt early in the morning in July 1992, the baby was born in a private clinic only about 100 meters away.
S: Did you have an ultrasound during your second pregnancy? Did you know it would be a daughter before you gave birth?
M: I must have known. People here had ways to deal with the second daughter. People thought it was okay to have a second daughter. Some people would pay others to raise their daughter. Some people just gave away the daughter and that’s it.
Then 27 days after I gave birth to the second daughter, my eldest sister found the family in the church (and sent the daughter to that family).
S: Do you still remember what you thought when you gave birth to the second daughter?
M: Up to now, I do not prefer boys over girls, not a slight bit. But my mother-in-law must feel like why was a girl again. The elderly must be upset. We really don’t care.
If I brought up this child myself, I would get sterilized immediately. I would only have two daughters in my life. There are many families with two daughters (because of the policy). There are some people who would give away the second daughter and pretend they didn’t have another daughter.
Some people who work for government owned employers had to be checked every few months to see if they are pregnant. If you don’t go, others will know that you were pregnant. Some people would find someone to replace her. Of course you must have connections to do hits.
But some people were caught when they were pregnant, the TV was taken away, and everything was taken by the government. The family planning workers were very strict, and some people’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, husband, grandma, and grandfather were all taken to prison.It meant that pregnant women must be found before they are let go.
If you were pregnant with a big belly, you have to hide. If they were caught, they would be forced to get an abortion immediately.
Some people who have money and own businesses would be fined 100,000, 200,000 or 300,000 yuan. Or they would punish you with taxes, and ruin your businesses.
So what I did was to pay another family to raise the kid and pretend that I did not have the second one. I did not go to the hospital either.
S: Do you remember the events during these 27 days? Did you discuss the options, to give her away or pay someone to foster her?
M: I didn’t dare to ‘sit the month’ at my own home. I did it at a friend’s place. She gave birth to a boy during the same time.
At this time, we never thought of giving the girl to others. We didn’t have such thoughts at all. We just need a year or two. After the son is born, we would take her home again.
To be honest, I would not give it to others.
S: How did the auntie find the family who fostered me? How did they know that this family would help others with their children?
M: They met in the church. That family had already helped many people to raise children on their behalf. Their lives were relatively poor, so they had to make extra money by helping others raise children on their behalf.
S: How much did you pay them each month?
M: All these have market prices. We pay as much as others pay. We would go there time to time and buy something. We really wouldn’t know if they treat you well. When we were there, they didn’t beat you and didn’t give food. But we don’t know what happens when we left. Of course you can’t speak, you would only cry.
This is a social phenomenon, and we had no choice.
M: Then I finally was pregnant again. I went to check and found out that she was a girl. In fact, I also wanted to give birth to her.She was eight and a half months in the belly.
I remember very clearly, really, I often think of it when I sleep now. I am still regretful.
At that time, it was so strict. People in the town government had quotas, and you had to claim certain number of abortions. If they can’t catch enough, they’ll lose their positions.
There is a government official who has a very good relationship with your dad. He had treated us well. He asked us to do an abortion. It still feels very hard for me to say that now.
My both daughters are so smart, it would be better to have the third one also be born. I still think so now.
They forced an abortion on me. They stuck a needle that long into my stomach.
At that time, it was free to get an abortion, and there were even things sent to us to motivate more people to get abortions. There’s just no way to escape this. This was suppressed by the government. If you don’t get an abortion, you have to go to jail. It is impossible to give birth out of policy.
Either it is a fine, a fine of 100,000 and 200,000 or they will not let you do business.
There’s a person who got promoted all the time because he was very strict with family planning.
S: They could certainly turn a blind eye, but he chose this way.
M: That’s not true. Other people would complain.How come you obviously already had two children and have more. How can they be like this in their family? People in our own village will also report.
S: After that (abortion), you decided to have another one?
M: I decided not. I already had two children, the cost was actually very high. I had to pay for the family who was fostering you. I had already decided not to have a baby. Then your grandma came and persuaded me to have another one. She said that no matter how much money you have, others will not see. If you don’t have a son, others will scold you. I will take care of you during the ‘sit in month’ and things like that.
Your brother has been in my belly for more than 5 months, and we haven’t taken an ultrasound. It took more than 5 months for a friend of a friend to take us to the hospital for an ultrasound. My relationship with your dad used to be okay, we had already jokingly discussed it. If it is a son, he will wash all the clothes later. If it is a daughter, thenI have to wash it myself.
S: Was everyone happy after he was born?
M: I gave birth to a son, of course everyone was happy. After giving birth, his grandmother took care of the baby.
S: Were you willing to let her?
M: What is so unwilling for grandma to raise him? I paid her about 2,000 yuan per month. He was weaned in 53 days. I went to get sterilized immediately after 53 days of birth.
S: Did you volunteer? Or someone else forced you to do this.
M: Go voluntarily and go involuntarily, just like surrendering after committing a crime. Then we registered you and your brother. The fine was 15,000. Later, your father found some connections and we paid 12,000.
S: Any regrets about having children?
M: Just the one that we didn’t get to keep.
S: So you were basically helping that person complete a political achievement, and then you also had known that it would have been a girl.
M: We knew. Of course, having kids is different for everyone. The burden of each family is also different. Everyone thinks differently. Some people want more children, and some people don’t want to have children.
Now that all three children in our family are fine, it would be a pity, why not give birth to that?
If the three children do not behave, then I might not think about it.
Now I really often think of that child. I think of it when I sleep.
—- end of the interview
S: The content of our interview has come to an end. To be honest, I don’t fully agree with some of my mother’s ideas and practices, but these are her truest ideas and the traces of her growing up and living environment left on her.
Her reproductive rights are not entirely in his own hands. It is the traditional patriarchal thinking in the countryside and the family planning policy at that time, which together determine his reputation and the fate of our family, including my disappeared sister.
After interviewing my mother, I also often think of the sister who didn’t have a chance to grow up. If she was born and raised, what kind of life would she have?
Thanks for listening to the first episode of our Oh!Moma. There is no second episode of this program currently, because I haven’t found mothers who are willing to discuss this topic.
If you or your mother would like to talk about your reproductive history, please contact me via email. If you have any thoughts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on social media.
If you like this episode, please share it with your friends or family, hope we will have the next episode.
Hope we can meet soon.