Older Chinese ponder a second child

By Lucky Li

Although Chen Ling has planned for nearly a year to have a second child after China’s new two-child policy came into effect, she is still concerned how it may affect her family.

“Many of my peers are those who really want to deliver a second child but are also confused,” Chen, 46, said in an interview at her home.

The Chen family, which includes a 20-year-old son, is an example of older couples who a second child under the new policy. This age group has the strongest desire to do so, according to National Institutes of Health Committees statistics. However, they are facing more concerns and pressure to catch up with the “late bus,” which means the last chance in Chinese.

Chen Ling picture
Chen Ling, like many older Chinese, would like to have a second child.

Chen worked in Ministry of Agriculture and retired last year. Now she lives in Guangzhou with her husband Lai Xiaofei, who works for the County Party Committee. They were allowed to deliver only one child under the former one-child policy.

“We wanted to have more children, but the government didn’t allow us,” Lai, the father said, “We have expected a chance for a long time. Now that the opportunity comes, I hope we do not miss it.”

Chen’s family favors the couple having a second child. “It’s a great idea,” said Chen’s mother-in-law, Ye Lanying, 75. “Having a second child is for more discussion and support.”

The two-child policy is intended to balance population development and address the aging population, according to a communique issued by Communist Party of China Central Committee.

China has 177 million people over 60 years old, which makes up about 15 percent of the total population, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Surveys show that among those people who want a second child, more than half say one reason is that they want better support when they are old. And more than half of the parents think children can develop qualities better in a multi-child family.

Like other parents in Guangzhou, the Chens see a lot of benefits from a second child.

“I want my son to have a companion, and I also need a child to be with me,” Chen said. “And when I get old, things will be hard, for example, such as our support in old age. More children can make it easier.”

Ye Mei, 42, Chen’s sister-in-law, also plans to have a second child. She has a 21-year-old daughter. “People say there is strength in numbers,” said Ye, “We need more children. Then we can have a busier and happier life.”

However, their age exerts pressure on older parents, making them hesitate in the race against time.

A risk exists in older pregnancy, which is defined as a woman aged 35 or over. For example, 31 percent of pregnant women in this age group have a miscarriage. What’s worse, half of the pregnancies end in miscarriage for pregnant women aged 45 and over.

“The incidence of complications rises as age grows, not only to the mother but also the baby,” said Dr. Chen Wenqing, the chief of the maternity unit of the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University. “And elder mothers’ ability of postpartum recovery is not so good as that in their 20s.”

Dr. Chen said many women have come in the past half year to consult about wanting a second child, and most of them were middle-aged women who were born in the 1970s. “Although they want a second child, at their age they may not be able to take the risk,” she said.

Other complications for the mothers rise as age grows. The incidence of trisomy of a baby gets higher as mother’s age grows. (Trisomy is a chrosomal abnormality in which there is one more than the normal number of chromosomes in a cell, which can cause Down’s Syndrome and other problems.)

Chen, the woman who wants a second child, said she did not know much about the risks. Both she and her son Lai, a student at Guangzhou University, said they believed in China’s quality of medical care.

“The developed modern medical equipment is good enough, so I don’t think there will be a big problem in my mom’s health,” Lai, the son, said.

A survey was carried out among Guangzhou citizens about their views toward the two-child policy. Results show that the biggest obstacle for the older parents to have another baby is to raise and educate the child.

“What if they cannot get along well?” Chen said, “And I can accept the age difference, But I am afraid that my children cannot.”

The Chens said they did not worry about their financial condition if a second child was born. However, the cost is the greatest factor that older couples are concerned about, a factor chosen by 77.4 percent of respondents in the questionnaire.

“I would say that the more grandsons or granddaughters, the better,” said Tang Jiesu, 61, a garbage women in Shipai Street, Tianhe District of Guangzhou, “But my 38-year-old son is not able to afford the great cost of raising a second child.”

Fu Jinyu, 38, is an English teacher at Jinan University in Guangzhou. He has a 3-year-old daughter. “We will probably deliver a second child several years from now when we get ready.”

The older couples are the biggest group of China’s 150 million single-child families. They are the first generation to adhere to the one-child policy since it came into effect in 1978 to control population growth.

The former policy resulted in China’s aging society–there are too few young people and too many older people.

Yang Zhicheng, 44, who lives in the Shipai community in Guangzhou, said the new policy was too late for some older couples. “My family will not deliver a second child,” he said. “The new policy is too late for us to make up what we missed. Many older couples’ lives have already been forced to change under the former policy for such a long time.”

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