Jia's Story: Thoughts from a Chinese Mother Living in America

IMAGE: bubblenews.com


I sit down with Jia at her kitchen table. She’s holding her beautiful 5-month old son and everything seems quiet and peaceful in her pleasant apartment just outside of Boston. While she feeds the baby, she starts to tell me her story. She speaks quietly, but is very confident in what she wants to say and what she wants people to know about China, treatment of women there, and the One-Child Policy.




Raised as a Boy


Jia grew up in Shanghai, China as her parents’ only child. Although Jia’s parents raised her with care, they did not disguise the fact that they had wanted a boy. Jia’s father in particular made this painfully clear.


“They raised me like a boy.” Jia said. “My dad didn’t like me to wear dresses or skirts. He told me I looked better in trousers.” Although Jia always wore this clothing, she wished she could wear pretty dresses and skirts like other girls.


Jia’s father tried to make her tough like a boy as well. If Jia got hurt, her father would tell her not to cry and to get up and brush it off. He wanted to see her handle it like a man. “My father hated when I cried.” Jia recounted, “But I still cried, I just did it secretly.” Even though Jia herself was a girl, her father made it clear that he thought it was better to have a son.  


Jia’s father also expected her to perform excellently in school, telling her, “You can do better than boys.” While this encouraged Jia to pursue academic excellence, it also put significant pressure on her, especially because she was her parents’ only child and thus their “only chance”. “I always envied my friends who were not only children,” Jia said, “not just because they had companions, but because there was less pressure on them. They are so free.”  Jia’s parents wanted to be able to brag to their friends about their child’s accomplishments. Not only was Jia the only child who could do this for her parents, she also felt that she had to achieve extra high to make up for not being a boy.


Jia was completely immersed in a society that told her girls had very little worth. At the same time, women were expected to singlehandedly do all the household duties in addition to having a job, because being a stay at home parent was not a sign of success. Jia recalled that her mother was constantly grumpy because she worked full time and did all the house work by herself. Although Jia liked the thought of being a good mother in the future, her parents told her success was more important.


Learning Abroad


In 2005, Jia’s parents prepared to send her to school in England. Because Jia’s parents wanted her to get the best possible education, they invested a significant amount of money in her schooling. When Jia’s mother told her friend about Jia going to school in England, the friend bluntly asked, “Why would you pay that much money for a girl to get educated?” When Jia heard this she was deeply offended, but that was simply how her community thought.


Jia left for England at 18 and attended school in London. Three months after her arrival, she became a Christian, and that’s when her eyes were fully opened to the inequality in China. Jia read in the Bible that man and woman are created equally, that wives are supposed to submit to their husbands, and also that husbands are supposed to be willing to lay down their lives for their wife. This was not what she had seen in China.


As Jia continually wrestled with the way China treated women and girls, she became more aware of just how pervasive this discriminatory mindset was. All the most popular Chinese TV shows in China were about family drama over what gender a grandchild would be--and there was no doubt that the ideal gender was always male. Where Jia was from, you would never curse an expectant mother by saying her baby would be a girl. Everybody always proclaimed it would be a boy. A boy’s birth was a celebration. A girls’ birth was simply an invitation to try again for a boy.


“At one point I hated my country.” said Jia. “They say [men and women] are equal, but they’re not.”


Loosening the Chains


Jia had met and married her husband Yang while she was in school, and they eventually moved to the states in 2012. Later, Jia became pregnant with her first child. Although Jia was out of China and successfully living in the “land of the free”, she quickly discovered that her heart was still bound with the chains of China’s gender inequality.


“When I was pregnant, I preferred boys over girls,” Jia admitted, “and I hated myself for it.” Even though Jia had broken free of China’s oppression and come to faith in Christ, she could not escape her country’s favoritism towards boys. “It’s so deeply rooted in me.” Jia said, “It’s a thought you cannot take away.”


Jia’s parents only amplified her turmoil. Her mother wanted to ensure that Jia would have the perfect baby, and although she did not explicitly say it, she made it obvious that she wanted Jia to have a son. Jia’s father was the same way. While Jia was pregnant, her father spoke about one of her friends who had two girls, commenting that two girls “were just too much.” This hurt Jia. “What if I’m having two girls,” she thought, “what would my father think of his granddaughters?”


Later on, Jia found out she was going to have a boy. Jia’s awareness that her mother only wanted a boy was confirmed by her mother’s hearty approval of the news. When doctors offered to do genetic tests for Jia’s baby, she refused because she knew she would keep the child no matter what. This confused and outraged Jia’s mother.  Her mother insisted that quality was the first concern for this child. If it wasn’t perfect, why should they keep it? “My mom thought ‘If he is smart and healthy, he is my grandson. If not, he is not my grandson.’” Jia stated.


Jia firmly told her mother she would keep the child regardless. “I will not kill this baby.” Jia declared. Her mother was angry and complained that the baby would have a genetic disorder.


When Jia was two months along, she went for an ultrasound and saw for the first time pictures of what looked just like a little person. She sent the pictures to her mother and her mother was surprised. “I didn’t know a baby looks like that.” She said. Jia’s mother then admitted that after Jia was born she had aborted a child at two months, and that she was certain that this aborted baby had been a girl. To her, the unborn baby was not a baby; it was just a burden that they could not afford. This news weighed heavily on Jia, but she now knew she would meet her aborted sister in heaven one day.


While Jia’s husband expressed positive feelings towards having a girl, Jia herself battled with guilt and fear, trying to reconcile what she had been taught was right with what God told her was right. When Jia went for an ultrasound to determine her baby’s gender, the pressure was almost too much for her. “I was so scared I was going to have a girl.” Jia confessed, “I feel so ashamed even now talking about this.” Jia asked for prayer and asked God to take away the bad thoughts, but it was still difficult.


Finally, Jia gave birth to her beautiful baby boy. She recalled how safe she felt in the hospital because she didn’t have to worry about the doctor taking her baby right after the birth and selling it. This is a concern no American mother would ever consider, but for Jia it could have been a very real risk.


Occasionally, Chinese doctors will sell newborns directly after birth and simply tell the parents that the baby had not survived. Baby trafficking is a booming market in China for parents who cannot have children or who want a boy. Jia was relieved to see that the Boston hospital went to great lengths to keep her baby safe and out of strangers’ arms. “It’s ridiculous that you need to think about those things while giving birth.” she fumed.


After struggling through the spiritual and emotional challenges of Jia’s pregnancy, the birth of their son was a complete joy to Jia and her husband. Jia’s husband said he never knew babies could be so wonderful until his son was born. Now Jia says her husband is “all about the baby”. Jia wants to have another child now, and said if she has a girl she will dress her in lovely girly clothes, just like the ones she never got to wear as a child.



After Jia finishes telling me her story, I ask her about what she sees for the future of China and the One-Child Policy. “It’s not about policy, it’s about people’s hearts.” she says gravely. It is evident that this issue is close to her heart.


Although she has changed her mindset, Jia acknowledges that it can still be hard for her to think about having daughters. However, she is not facing this battle alone. Jia’s deeply rooted faith in Christ has been her source of strength, and she tells me this is the only thing that keeps her hoping.


This is why China, and the millions of mothers dealing with the One-Child policy, needs God. Jia does not hide her sadness at what is going on in China, but she knows one thing for sure: “God is the only one who can bring justice.”


by Emilie, All Girls Allowed


Want to be a part of bringing God's love to China? Click here to see how you can get involved from wherever you are.


All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and revealing the injustice of the One-Child Policy.  “In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her.”

















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