New births help Sichuan quake victims overcome loss of children

Healing influence of motherhood enables women who lost their children in 2008 to overcome despair and rediscover purpose in life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 4:52am

Yang Zhengrong smiled at the mention of her son, who will turn three in August.

"He is such a joy to the family," the 45-year-old restaurant owner in Mianzhu's Jiulong township said. "We will be in our 60s or probably gone when he is only a teenager and he won't be able to do much for us, but just to think of all the joy he brings the family makes me so grateful."

Yang's 18-year-old daughter died with more than 300 fellow pupils when the Dongqi Middle School in Mianzhu collapsed in the magnitude 8 earthquake that hit Sichuan five years ago.

Nothing can erase the memories of your first child, but we have to move on with life

Yang once petitioned the government to punish those responsible for the many school buildings that collapsed in the quake. The government told media the severity of the quake was to blame, not poor construction.

The wounds are healing for some mothers who have found new hope in the birth of a child. "Nothing can erase the memories of your first child, but we have to move on with life," Yang said.

The central and provincial governments provided hundreds of millions of yuan for free medical services and the advice of top fertility experts to families who lost a child in the 2008 quake. More than 8,000 families in Sichuan lost their only child or saw them become handicapped, according to state media reports. Now, more than 2,400 babies have been born to such families.

Yang had a nervous breakdown after the quake and could not ever recognise relatives. Her relationship with her husband was tense and they fought daily.

"Everything in my life was falling apart," she said. "I'd lost my daughter. My house had gone. There was no meaning to life. For a long time I thought only death could relieve me of all this."

But the government project helping mothers who had lost children to give birth again had gradually improved her mental health. "I might be a grandmother if my daughter was alive," she said. "I'd never thought I could be a mother again."

Yang received a government loan to rebuild her house and open a small restaurant, and in August 2010 she gave birth to a son by Caesarean section.

Raising the boy gave her a purpose in life again and kept her busy. She stopped fighting with her husband. "We are too busy to be angry," Yang said.

She tried to ease the misery of women she knew who had lost a child to the quake. Her small restaurant hired such mothers and she encouraged one, who failed to get pregnant, to adopt a child.

"She is a changed person with the adopted child," Yang said.

The director of the science and technology office in Mianzhu's Population and Family Planning Bureau, Wu Dongmei, said the bureau had acted to help such women get pregnant again after the earthquake. "The loss of a child affects the stability of a family and then society as a whole," Wu said. The bureau organised talks, doctors and equipment to help such mothers.

The 27-year-old mother of a two-year-old girl, Li Daiqin, said: "Every demand in terms of materials was met."

Li lost a one-year-old daughter in the quake. "Everyone said my daughter was as beautiful as a doll and she was very sweet. For years I couldn't feel anything but despair. Now I feel warm whenever I'm simply called mum."