In the 1960s and the 1970s, the mothers who drove the population boom of this eastern country was led by the “Heroic Mother”1?to mould the future successors of the country’s socialist system. And because of the traditions passed down in the past five thousands years, the phrase “continue on the family’s line to keep prospering” was deeply rooted in people’s hearts. For a society that revolves around farming, physical prowess was regarded favourably. Hence, a family’s status in society was determined by how many males there were in the family. And in this era of distorted thinking, Hei Nuo reported to the call for socialism.
However, for the parents whose only daughter died at a young age, what they looked forward to was the birth of a girl whom they could treasure in their palms. As for a son… the birth of another male could not offer them the usual pride or happiness anymore. For people of their economic status, managing to raise five sons was really more than enough. They have already done their duty, and could proudly face their Hei family’s ancestors. Now, they just want a gentle, sweet daughter whom they could cradle in their arms and spoil rotten. This idea was bolstered when their cute, infant daughter of three months passed away and left them. After a period of rest, Hei Papa and Hei Mama regained their strength and will, and were determined to fight the heavens to take back their daughter.
Hei Mama fulfilled her wish and was pregnant once again. She didn’t have any obvious pregnancy symptoms, like vomitting. In the first few months, the baby was relatively quiet and peaceful. Hei Papa and Hei Mama were convinced that this baby was their daughter reincarnate. Their excitement slowly rose with the enlargement of Hei Mama’s belly. Unexpectedly, on a snowy midnight, their usually obedient daughter showed an abnormal wilfulness by moving her due date in advance. In the small, southern county where their nights were so dark you couldn’t see your fingers and where there was no traffic or communication devices, Hei Papa could not send Hei Mama to the hospital. It was only after he frantically knocked on the doors of his neighbours before he managed to find a midwife.
The Hei Mama who had went through several successful births was full of experience and courage, but even this Hei Mama had to admit defeat. The little one wreaked havoc in her belly, and yet refused to come out. At first, Hei Mama was still smiling happily, and helped her baby explain, “Daughters tend to be more delicate, please pardon her.” But with the deepening of the night, Hei Mama could no longer smile, and did not even have the strength to follow the midwife’s instructions. Hei Papa was originally happily strutting about outside, then he sat on a chair and anxiously rubbed his hands, but by the end he was squatting on the ground, holding his head in worry.
Before dawn, Hei Papa finally heard the crying of a newborn. For someone who had several past experiences of becoming a father, Hei Papa actually looked up in disbelief. It was only after he heard the sound of successive cries that he stood up on his sore and numb legs. He breathed a sigh of relief and a big grin spread across his face as he walked towards the door, anticipating his first meeting with his precious daughter. However, when the door opened, someone rushed out and knocked into him. That person was his colleague’s wife, Zhang Baozhen.
“Old Hei, hurry, hurry and go in, I’ll go look for people.” Zhang Baozhen threw down these words and ran out.
Hei Papa felt the energy drain from his body, and vaguely heard the midwife shout, “Hei Ma, don’t sleep. Hei Ma, don’t sleep! Don’t sleep!” When she saw Hei Papa, she dragged him over and said, “Talk to her, don’t let her sleep!”
Hei Papa didn’t know how he arrived at the bedside. His nose was filled with the smell of blood. Hei Ma’s eyes had lost their past brilliance, and he could not even find his own reflection in them. Hei Papa ?panicked and fumbled about to search for Hei Mama’s hand. He found it, grabbed it and pleaded, “Hua Di, Hua Di, don’t sleep. Talk to me, talk to me.”
Hei Mama’s eyes lit up again and smiled weakly. “That little one…in the future she will definitely be a crafty one. Let me see her.”
Hei Papa turned around, took the baby from the midwife and bent down to let Hei Ma see her. Hei Ma wanted to lift her hand up, but did not have the strength to so her fingers could only tremble in Hei Papa’s palm. Hei Papa held her hand up to the baby’s face. “Pre-tty, daugh-ter…” her weak voice drifted off at the last syllable.
By the time Zhang Baozhen led her husband and some other men to look for a handcart and rushed back to bring Hei Mama to the hospital, the bedding had already been stained red with blood. Zhang Baozhen pushed the rigid Hei Papa away and called people in to carry Hei Mama along with the bedding onto the handcart, then they frantically ran into the depths of the night.
Hei Mama never returned again. The grieving Hei Papa was wounded heavily by the hands of fate within one night. The last straw came when the midwife turned to him and said, “We need to hurry and find some milk for this little son of yours.”
“Son?” he repeated in confusion, then when he realised the meaning behind the word “son”, he suddenly hollered, “Son! It’s a boy?!”