BEIJING: Maternity wards in the Chinese capital are seeing a baby boom as women rush to give birth before the Year of the Goat, which is believed to bring life-long bad luck.
With just a week left of the Year of the Horse before it is succeeded by the goat in the 12-animal Chinese horoscope, hospitals are reporting record birth rates and even a surge in demand for Caesarean sections.
Officials at the capital's biggest hospital specialising in childbirth said a marked rise in births last year was due to the traditional belief that the sign of the horse is luckier than the sign of the goat.
More than 5,000 babies were born last year at the Beijing Gynaecology and Obstetrics Hospital compared to around 4,000 in 2001.
“The main reason is because people want to give birth in the Year of the Horse,” said Zhai Guirong, director of the gynaecology and obstetrics department.
“Every hospital in Beijing is seeing this trend.”
Maternity wards throughout the country have been packed with women waiting to give birth before Jan 31, the last day of the Year of the Horse, according to the state Xinhua news agency.
For weeks, the maternity ward at the Shanxi Provincial People’s Hospital in northern China has been so full that expectant mothers have had to make a reservation for a bed days before their baby is due.
Many Chinese people believe that babies born in the Year of the Goat, especially females, are doomed to endure a hard life.
The belief stems from the fact that if a goat is born in winter - the time when Chinese New Year falls – it will not have much grass to eat as the fields are dry.
The horse, on the other hand, is equated with success.
Some parents whose baby is due just after Lunar New Year’s day, which falls on Feb 1, are requesting Caesarean sections to ensure their child is born in the Year of the Horse.
“If it’s a difference of two weeks, we try to accommodate the parents, but if it’s more than two weeks, we won’t perform the surgeries,” Zhai said.
“It’s not good for the baby or the mother.”
Guo Wenjia’s wife had a baby by natural birth last week.
But if she had not, the couple would have opted for a Caesarean, Guo said.
“I don’t believe people born in the goat year are ill-fated, I just don’t want my son to grow up with the feeling he was born in a bad year and use that as an excuse not to excel,” Guo said.
“I’m worried this could affect his self-esteem and performance in school.”
Expectant father Ivan Wang, whose wife was in labour last week, said he would have done the same.
“I guarantee you, nine out of 10 of my friends would ask me ‘When was your baby born? Is he of the goat or horse year? Why didn’t you have him born in the horse year instead?’” Wang said.
“It would be too much trouble to explain.”
Ironically, there is no basis for the prejudice against goats in Chinese culture as goats are generally associated with pleasant traits. The Chinese character for goat is used to form other characters representing “beauty,” “luck,” and “kindness.”
Many parents expecting babies in the new lunar year, however, say they cannot be bothered with such “nonsense.”
“I don’t care at all about that. I want to have a little goatling,” said Jessi Zhong, whose baby is due on Feb 7.
Her husband Erick Yuan agreed.
“I think it’s better to be born in the Year of the Goat. With fewer babies born in this year, there will be less competition for school places and jobs,” he said. – AFP
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