Wang Hua feels her heart break whenever she thinks about the 7-year-old daughter she lost in the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province last year.
But she is determined to rebuild her life and family, and, like many brave women in the disaster-stricken region, she is already pregnant again.
Zhao Yu and her husband kiss their twins Wang Bohua and Wang Boxiao, who were born on April 23, 2009. The couple, whose 10-year-old daughter Wang Ruoyu was killed in the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province, said they now have new hope in life. [CFP]
"I can take care of myself because I'm not alone. My baby is with me," said 30-year-old Wang, of Gulong village in the city of Mianyang, who is living in a tent while her home is rebuilt about 5 km from the school where her daughter died.
Her husband, a truck driver, was working away for three months when China Daily spoke to her on Tuesday. But the expectant mother was upbeat, explaining: "In the daytime, I chat with my neighbor who has a 2-month-old baby, and I have my meals at my neighbor's house. They treat me very well."
Wang and her husband were among the many couples that decided to conceive again after suffering tragic losses in the quake, a move encouraged by the authorities, which offered free maternity checkups and delivery services at designated hospitals.
"It doesn't matter if we get a boy or girl, as long as the baby is healthy," said Wang, who is expected to give birth in November. "My sister works at a hospital so she will help me with everything. She has prepared baby clothes for me.
"I don't have a name or a specific plan for the baby yet. I'll just take my time."
Of the 68,712 confirmed dead and the 17,921 still missing following the May 12 disaster, 5,335 were schoolchildren, said the Sichuan education department at a press conference in the provincial capital Chengdu yesterday.
Statistics from the province's family planning office show several thousand couples intend to have another baby after the loss of their children, while 757 women had become pregnant by the end of last year, Chinanews.com reported. In Yingxiu township, Wenchuan county, almost 50 women were expecting by April, setting up a potential baby boom between August and September, reported Nanchang Evening News.
Psychologist Liu Meng, who moved to Sichuan from Shijiazhuang in Hebei province last May, set up his volunteer support center Mother's Home in the city of Dujiangyan in March and offers tailored counseling for women who lost children in the quake.
"Half of the 200-plus women registered with the Mothers' Home are pregnant, and we visit them regularly," said Liu, one of 10 volunteers working at the center.
"The pregnant women face a conflict in their roles. On one hand, they are heartbroken mothers suffering from the loss of their kids, on the other their pregnancy needs them to be relaxed.
"But our counseling has seen encouraging results. We try to switch their thoughts from the past to the present and future. But they need continuous psychological support, as well as a pleasant family atmosphere."
Healthcare workers have also seen the benefits of the newborns. Yu Mei, head of the maternity unit at Mary Women and Infants' Hospital in Beijing, said: "It's best if those who lost their children can have kids again. It would be a huge form of support for them and their families."
Yu explained she had talked with several women during a trip to Shifang, a city badly hit by the disaster, and said many were anxious to have another child. She added: "They still had such sorrow and carry their child's photo in their pocket. If they have kids again, the children will give them the power to live on."
Her description matches 46-year-old Xian Ziwen perfectly after he became a father again. He lost his daughter in the earthquake but, on Feb 14 this year, his wife Yang Xia, 40, gave birth to a baby boy.
"It's like a dream," he was quoted in New Culture newspaper as saying. "Now we have the boy there's hope again. We just hope he can grow up healthy."
However, for some expecting parents the sadness of loss has been intensified by miscarriages, which Liu at Mothers' Home blamed in some cases on emotional pressures.
He said: "Besides the psychological problems, age is also a big factor. All our members are older than 35."
Zeng Zimu, from Beichuan county, whose 18-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son both died, told a television show in the aftermath of the quake that, at 39, she was "too old to have baby". However, five months later she changed her mind.
"It doesn't matter if it's pretty or not, as long as it's healthy and grows up without suffering," said Zeng, who is now 40 and is expected to give birth in July.
Fu Jing contributed to the report