Traditional Chinese families welcome as many children as possible, but they prefer males. My mother said that my Dad would stomp off every time a girl was born to him, staying with the other wife for weeks. My grandmother, who lived with us, would say that at least the girls weren’t killed, like they did in the village where my father was born.
When I was born, Dad did his disappearing act but then two weeks later, his number one wife gave birth to another daughter. I don’t know where he went after that but at his funeral, a woman turned up with her family, claiming to be a third wife. My mother threw them out so I’d never met some of my half siblings. In our family we have a rule: ‘never marry anyone with the same surname’.
As she was still howling at the misfortune of delivery a girl, my mother was already scheming to secure her position in the family. The fact that I was born under thunderous star signs was a good reason to give me away. She was then free to take over the household. It worked; number one died after giving birth to yet another girl and my mother reigned supreme, never allowing another woman into the family.
There was a price that she had to pay. With eight children on her hands (minus me, but I returned) she was not to have any children for another six years. There were seven abortions in that interval.
During the next interval of six years I accompanied my mother to one of her abortions. It was simple. She disappeared behind a curtain with the doctor and a nurse and came out soon after, free again. But I can still remember the bitter tone of her voice when she spoke of those lost siblings of mine.