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The Next Life
When Ye Hongmei lost her daughter in the Wenchuan earthquake, her odyssey to conceive again began.
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2011 06:59

When Ye Hongmei's eight-year-old daughter was killed in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, her odyssey to conceive again began. She was not alone. More than 6,000 children were maimed or killed in the devastating earthquake and, as a result of China's one child policy, most of the grieving families were left childless. 

About 5,000 couples began the process of trying to have another child - motivated in part by the belief that the new child would be a reincarnation of the one they had lost.

Hongmei is desperate to give birth to a girl, believing that will mean the return of her deceased daughter. A son, on the other hand, is unacceptable to her. 

But at 40 years of age and with oviduct inflammation her chances of conceiving are slim. As she is reluctant to adopt a child, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) becomes her only option. To this end, she must endure extraordinary pains - travelling 50 miles every day just to receive the necessary injections and blood tests. Back at home, she goes through acupuncture treatment. It is an arduous process that takes its toll on her health and brings her to the brink of a breakdown.

While Hongmei's husband takes good care of her at home, he is jobless and lives on unemployment benefits. He is also fond of drinking and smoking. And when the prospects of Hongmei getting pregnant begin to dwindle, her husband considers divorcing her.

While the Chinese government covers the cost of two attempts at IVF per couple, the additional associated costs must be covered by those undergoing treatment.

And the grieving families have another grievance: on the anniversary of the earthquake, the authorities tried to prevent the parents from holding a public memorial to remember their children.

Some of Hongmei's friends who also lost their children in the earthquake fall pregnant; others do not. Both instances are a source of stress and apprehension for Hongmei, who grows increasingly concerned that her age will hinder her attempts to conceive.

With weakening health and growing financial strains making her second attempt at IVF her last, we follow Hongmei in her desperate bid to get pregnant.

Watch more Witness films for global issues brought into focus through courageous and inspiring human stories.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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