By Julie Makinen
Los Angeles Times.
REPORTING FROM BEIJING
Chen Lei runs a Shanghai business that helps pregnant Chinese women fly to Southern California and give birth in hospitals in Whittier, Fountain Valley, Pomona and other nearby cities. But come Feb. 19 — when the Chinese New Year begins, closing out the year of the horse and ushering in the year of the sheep — he’s anticipating a sharp drop in clientele for his company, Xiduo Baby.
“We expect the number of women who will give birth via our center during the year of the sheep to fall by around 30%. There’s nothing we can do about it,” Chen lamented. “It’s because of this expression: ‘Only 1 out of 10 sheep people can find happiness in their lives.'”
For many of Chen’s well-educated, white-collar customers, there’s little point to going to great lengths to secure American citizenship for their newborns in 2015 if the children are going to be born under a bad sign. Instead, many couples may be planning to wait several months into the new year to get pregnant, thereby ensuring their offspring will be born under the subsequent zodiac symbol. “I think there will be a peak during the year of the monkey,” Chen predicted, referring to the year that will start Feb. 8, 2016.
Though some studies say statistics don’t bear out the premise of zodiac-challenged birth years, Chen is hardly the only one discussing shifts in childbearing plans. State-run news outlets in recent weeks have been reporting that some hospitals have seen increases in caesarean deliveries, as couples try to ensure their offspring are born in the current year of the horse, which is regarded as more fortunate.
Hospitals in Guizhou, Shandong and Liaoning provinces have all reported such an upswing in births that they’ve been caught without enough birth certificates to issue. Meanwhile, abortion consultations have also seen a jump, according to official media. All of this, of course, was preceded by dispatches about nine months ago about couples furiously trying to get pregnant “in time” to ensure a horse baby.