Lucky start in life for baby Xinyue


CHINA:WANG XINYUE is one of the luckiest girls in China, and she's only two hours old. She emerged ahead of schedule at Beijing Maternity Hospital yesterday afternoon on the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of the new millennium - an Olympic baby with all the eights aligned. You don't get luckier than that in China.

"I hope when she grows up she takes part in the Olympics," said proud father Wang Yongbing, as her mother Huang Yin ignored the crowds in the hospital to gaze at her auspicious bundle of joy.

Xinyue means "prosperity and development".

There is a more expectant air than usual outside the delivery rooms, where fathers are gathered with packs of cigarettes, baby baths and packets of biscuits.

Between midnight and midday yesterday, there were 35 births. Only 13 were natural deliveries, with the remaining Caesarean sections to ensure that most auspicious and treasured of babies - an Olympic baby.

The head of the obstetrics department, Dr Zhang Weiyuan, was expecting 50 births yesterday, much more than usual in Beijing Maternity, the largest maternity hospital in this city of 17 million.

The One-Child Policy of population control means that the single birth most women have is a huge event. In the maternity hospital you see pregnant women with their partners and usually a group of four grandparents fussing around cheerfully. Birth is a community event in modern China.

"We are very happy that we are going to have an Olympic baby," said mother-to-be Pang Lan. "I hope my baby can be very healthy. I was due to deliver yesterday, but it looks like my baby just wants to wait around for the Olympics."

For months couples have calculated the length of their babies' gestation in the hope of landing a baby on August 8th.

In 2000, there were more than 36 million "millennium babies", nearly twice as many births as in 1999 and a year later in 2001. In 2007, the Lunar New Year was the Year of the Pig and a particularly lucky pig year it was too, as it coincided with gold, which meant millions of couples timing some 20 million births to coincide with the auspicious year.

The Chinese obsession with having children at auspicious times can cause some log-jams in the social services. Baby booms put pressure on hospitals, then schools and finally job markets.

"The birth rush will create a series of shortages starting from when babies are born to the time when they look for jobs," Yu Hai, a sociology professor in Shanghai Fudan University, told the China Daily.

Whatever the sociologists say, luck is a more powerful force than theory in superstitious China. You can be sure that lots of these babies are sure to be given the most popular name of the moment - Aoyun, which means Olympics.

It's not just babies - thousands of couples tied the knot yesterday to ensure their marriages have the best possible start. A record number of people got married - 16,400 couples from Beijing's eight districts and, when you factor in the suburbs, 20,000 couples.