Mainland mothers share fear of last-minute births
It is bad enough that they have become the objects of public anger.
Now childbirth for mainland mothers in Hong Kong has become an ordeal of frustration and waiting, a last-minute dash to the emergency ward and health risks for their babies, as two women told the South China Morning Post this week.
One young mother gazed in relief at her day-old baby, reflected on the near-panic of her birth on Tuesday and said: 'I had no alternative but to take the risk.'
The 30-year-old mainland mother, who wanted to be called Mary in her interview, is married to a Hong Kong resident. She had made all the preparations she could for the birth of her first child, but she was barred by law from making the most vital preparation - booking a bed in a Hong Kong public hospital.
That led to her harried, last-minute taxi ride to Kwong Wah Hospital with her labour pain already well advanced. Luckily, Mary's baby was normal, and both mother and infant were discharged yesterday.
'Who would take such a risk if there was a choice?' said Mary. The government's suspension of obstetric services for mainland mothers in public hospitals forced her to resort to desperate measures, she said.
The number of deliveries by mainland mothers is capped this year at 34,400 - 31,000 at private hospitals and 3,400 at public hospitals.
Mary lives with her husband in a small flat in Yau Ma Tei, and stays in the city on two-way permits. Three months into her pregnancy she made sure her permit was up-to-date, and began buying clothes and other items for the baby, she said.
Mary felt the normal mix of excitement and nervousness of all mothers-to-be, with the added worry created by the government's measure effectively banning her from booking a public hospital bed. Her family could not afford the HK$80,000 fee at a private hospital.
Mary was particularly concerned, she said, when she went to renew her two-way permit just days before her due date on Tuesday - she had heard of many mothers-to-be being denied re-entry under the new restrictions on mainlanders.
'I spent a few days worrying that the permit would not be renewed, but fortunately I had better luck than some others', she said.
'I knew stress would do my child no good, so I tried to relax and enjoy the times when I could feel my baby inside me. But how could I stop myself from worrying?'
Her labour began at around 10pm on Monday, and her husband called a taxi at 11.15pm to take her to Kwong Wah Hospital. During the 10-minute trip, her waters broke and she arrived breathless from the pain. Her baby girl was born at 3.15am on Tuesday, delivered by the emergency room medical staff.
'It was such a relief to hear her cry - all the hardship has been worth it', said Mary with tears in her eyes. 'I am glad my daughter can be a Hong Kong resident, just like her father.' Mary, too, hopes to win residency soon. Just like her, many other mainland mothers are waiting for their own rushed trip to an emergency ward, hoping for the best outcome.
One woman, who is expecting twins and whom we will name Susan, faces a similar dilemma even though she can afford a private bed. 'Having twins is a double happiness for my family, but now it has turned into a curse because of bad policy,' Susan said. Her husband is a Hong Kong businessman and they are willing to pay for a bed, but no private hospital will accept them because the twins put Susan into the high-risk category.
'We are willing to pay for a private bed. We want to make sure our babies are safe,' she said. 'But no hospitals will accept me, as private hospitals are unwilling to accept dangerous cases, and public hospitals have closed bookings for mainlanders.'
Echoing Mary's comments, Susan said: 'I have no way out but to take the risk of rushing to the emergency ward at the last minute. But why does the government force us to do such a dangerous thing? Why should I be faulted for something as natural as having babies?'
At her home in Tsuen Wan, Susan waits. Her delivery date is late next month, but twins tend to arrive early.
The Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association said this risky situation showed the quota policy was a failure, and mainland wives of Hong Kong husbands should have the right to give birth safely in the city.
They should be classified differently from cases in which both parents were non-locals, the rights group said.