I have two good friends back in Toronto who, unable to have children of their own, travelled to China on two separate occasions and adopted two beautiful baby girls. At summer barbeques, its fun to see them along with all of the other similarly-aged children enjoying carefree splashing and swimming in the backyard pool.
I couldn’t help but think of the two girls back in Toronto earlier this week when news broke from Jinhua, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, that a newborn baby was rescued from the cramped confines of a sewer outfall pipe. The images of the cramped little being were gripping — the big hands of rescue workers delicately removing the little baby from the ceramic pipe that was destined to be its tomb after minutes on this earth.
We have all since learnt that the baby is a boy and has been dubbed “Baby No 59” after the incubator in which he was placed following his miraculous rescue. And it was a miraculous rescue — I’m sure that he spent the past few days communicating with his neighbours in incubators Nos 58 and 60, telling them all about it in the way that only newborns can communicate.
Little ‘59’ weighed into this world from his pipe at 2.3 kilograms — a fairly good and healthy weight for a newborn critter. This is where the story of little ‘59’ gets hard to believe. According to media reports, 59’s mother was the one who actually called the police anonymously, saying that there were baby cries coming from a pipe in her building. What’s more, she apparently watched as 59’s rescuers set to freeing him from the 10-centimetre pipe.
When little ‘59’ was safe and sound, police quickly narrowed the search for his mother down to the caller. She admitted 59 was hers, and, without going into too much details, said that he kind of slipped down the squat toilet.
Police say she won’t face charges because the incident was an accident. It seems little ‘59’ was no stranger to accidents. He was conceived by one after a one-night stand and his mother’s boyfriend did not want anything to do with him. Mother of 59 had kept her pregnancy a secret, for fear of being shamed and shunned by the same neighbours whose sewer system is now in need of major reconstruction.
According to media reports on Thursday, little ‘59’ said goodbye to ‘58’ and ‘60’ and was allowed to go home with his mother — and grandparents, who will hopefully ensure that something like this never happens again to poor little ‘59’.
I think in this case, there is little chance of something like that ever happening again to ‘59’ — it was, after all, a pretty traumatic way to enter this world. I’m sure that psychiatrists somewhere will be forming a syndrome to explain 59’s criminal acts, if he ever turns to breaking the law that is, saying: “Your Honour, my client’s actions can be excused by his ‘Early Onset Acute Ceramic Claustrophobia Syndrome’...”
Sadly, in China — and in all too many other places on this planet — what should be the joy of a new little person full of potential entering this world turns into a problem that needs to be solved as quickly as possible — even if that means flushing it down the toilet, leaving it on the side of a street, abandoning it in a quiet corner or ending its life as soon as it comes crying into society.
In China, babies born out of wedlock are often abandoned because of social and financial pressures. The country’s one-child policy can also mean heavy fines for couples who have more than one baby. And boys are more favoured than girls with sex-determination ultrasounds often being a sad, critical factor.
In Germany, there are baby boxes built in some hospitals — a window of sorts where troubled new mothers can anonymously leave their babies in a safe environment. I cannot fathom for a moment — nor would I ever want to — the emotional turmoil such a mother would face in walking away from her son or daughter. But I do think the baby box is a wonderful idea. That’s not to say I support the abandonment of newborns — obviously and most definitely not — but if you’re desperate enough to do it, and it happens, let it be in a safe environment.
I hope that this story has a happy ending, that little ‘59’ grows up and never has to face such a trauma again. I know that in the case of my two friends in Toronto, there’s a happy ending — judging by the screams and shrills coming from the backyard pool at those summer barbeques.
But sadly, there are too many other little Baby No 59s in the pipeline. And they won’t be as lucky.