Baby 59: The newborn who was flushed down the toilet in China

Published: May 29, 2013

Baby 59 sleeps in his incubator after being rescued from a sewage pipe. He was flushed down the toilet by his unwed mother. PHOTO: REUTERS

They say there is no creature on earth like a mother frightened for her kids. The almost animal instinct to protect your offspring from harm is borne almost immediately inside a woman, along with her newborn. Whether it is an ape or a cheetah or a rat, all mothers are vicious when it comes to protecting their young.

Yet, as the perversity of human condition would have it, not all vicious mothers are well-meaning.

Every day the news bring cases that shake parents (and the non-parent reader as well) to their very core. Andrea Yates drowned her five children. Nina Koistenin, mother of nine, suffocated her own children because she felt she already had too many. A baby boy was left in the dumpster, wrapped in a pair of jeans, only to die a few hours later. Cassidy Goodson who ‘just didn’t want to get into trouble’ killed her newborn by suffocating it.

Statistics have alarming numbers of dead children at the hands of their own mothers.

With reasons ranging from simply exhaustion to severe mental breakdown, children under the age of five have died at the hands of their parents. The US Department of Justice concluded that in thirty years (from the 1970s to approximately the year 2000), mothers were responsible for a higher share of killing children killed in infancy. Latest in the series of just how twisted and ghastly a human being can be, a newborn baby was rescued from a toilet pipe.

A twenty-two-year-old single woman flushed her child down the toilet – and later watched in secret – as rescue workers attempted to extract the newborn from the L-shaped pipe after a neighbour reported the sound of a baby crying from the pipes.

Photo: AFP

The abandoned child has been named as Baby 59 after the number of his incubator. The child has a fractured skull and is being treated and cared for by the local hospital. Neighbours and locals are also offering help to adopt the baby and assistance in terms of milk and diapers.

The woman, in custody, reports that the incident was an ‘accident‘. She says the child slipped in to the sewer pipe and she couldn’t free him. She hid her pregnancy from her neighbours by ‘wearing loose clothes’ and wrapping her abdomen tightly.

The story seems unreal, almost farcical. However as graphic images flood the senses, as more links come forth about mothers who kill, as I read about the Chinese society and the strict censure they hold dear to, it seems more and more likely that there are more mothers out there who have chosen less public ways of getting rid of their newborns. The Chinese, much like the society that the subcontinent is known for, attribute high value to the birth of a male child. In societies where female infanticide continues to thrive (China, India, Pakistan), the social taboo and the expectation for mothers to produce male children continues to be a motivating factor for mothers abandoning their children. In the case of Baby 59, the young mother may have also been pushed to commit this heinous act by fear of shame and humiliation. In Pakistan there were over a thousand infants in one year that were left to die. Yet the crime of infanticide is rarely ever prosecuted.

The shame associated with being an unwed mother thus becomes another catalytic factor in patriarchal societies, when it comes to infanticide. In China, the society continues to follow many old traditions and celebrations despite the accelerated liberalisation that it overtly accepts as an ideology. It seems to have manifested itself only in the shape of designer handbags and skyscrapers. While women continue to work and participate actively in occupational activities, the Maoist rules of ‘hukou’ continue to exist where it becomes difficult for women to get residency permits in any given city if they do not have a male counterpart. Single unwed mothers in China not only have to face shame and embarrassment, they also have to face rigorous economic difficulties.

However, consequences of an unwanted pregnancy are not limited to China. In countries like the United States, teenagers often abandon or maim their children. The psychological basis of filicide (killing of one’s own child) and infanticide (killing of an infant) stems a variety of psycho-social causes. Most women who have killed their children have had history of mental disorder (manic-depressive or bipolar disorder) and post-natal depression becomes the final nail in the coffin that pushes them over the edge.

The lack of support system that exists for new mothers is also considered to be a factor for them abandoning or hurting their children. Studies suggest that if parents could be given more legal, medical, psychological and moral help in raising their children, such horrific incidences can be prevented.

Whether it is out of shame, out of misery or out of pure social stigma, the murder of an infant is not something that should be taken simply as a statistic. It is a social issue that needs attention and serious understanding. As a mother, the idea of a helpless human being, barely a few hours old, stuck in a toilet pipe with filth stuck to its skin, a fractured skull and a bleak future in sight, makes my heart break and tear and look at my own child in a new light. I appreciate my bond with him even more and when I kiss and hug him every bad feeling, every negative idea, every heartbreaking image goes away. I look into his eyes and I tickle him and a tremendous amount of joy floods my heart like a tidal wave.

And somewhere in China, a mother has no idea what this feels like.

Read more by Mahwash here or follow her on Twitter @MahwashB

Mahwash.Badar.

Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • https://twitter.com/QuratulainK Quratulain

    I dont know what it’s like to be a mother yet, but this truly broke my heart. Makes me appreciate the kind of life I have lived even more. I sincerely hope and pray for a speedy recovery for the little angel and a beautiful life ahead. (Ameen). Recommend

  • Nazish

    She was sooo blessed and didnt realize. She should meet couples attending doctors for years for just one bundle of joy and in vain. We who get blessings without suffering do not realize the value. At 22 I am sure she was well aware of what was happening to her and should have dealt with it in a better way! Shame on herRecommend

  • hina

    Very well written. You mirrored my feelings in your last paragraph. Being a mother of a very active toddler, i do get exhausted sometimes but can never think of how a mother can become so cruel as to get rid of her offspring. Your article brought tears to my eyes. Keep up the good work. May the baby recover soon and get great foster parents IARecommend

  • Sacredpearl

    Its really a heart breaking news. I had gone thorugh the situation of losing my 2 days old son and after that whenever i see such cases its really disturbing for me. Recommend

  • winnie kigongo

    i just feel so bad , this whole scenario made me think twice abt hw grateful i shd be to my mother who didnt dump me even wen she was single, may the almighty God grant this little angel a quik recovery and a beautiful lyf aheadRecommend

  • Mariam

    Wow excellent article!!!! I just gave my daughter an extra super tight hug,.. I can’t believe a mother would do that to her own child… So sad Recommend

  • Madhav

    Being a Neonatologist, I have seen quite afew incidents of mothers dumping newborns in toilets, septic tanks, pit latrines, rubbish dumpsters, in open grass, in the bush etc. Some of them are extremely imaginative and innovative in places where they would abandon babies. Some of the babies rescued and brought to me had rodent bites and other animal bites on them. This practice is prevalent all over the world and not seemingly connected to the Indian subcontinent. I have had the good fortune of working in several countries and have yet to come across one which does not have this problem. Some can be explained away by underlying psychiatric problems or severe puerperal psychosis, most have underlying social issues attached to it… the last one which I had treated, had the young mother trying to teach her boyfriend a lesson!

    As long as social taboos confine us as a society , we will continue to see more such babies. It also needs be understood that for every baby rescued, there are several others who do not make it.Recommend

  • Stranger

    For god’s sake start educating every nook and corner of this planet about contraception and child birth. Many children all over the world ( not just the third world countries) are unwanted and unplanned. Education and availability of contraceptives will reduce this number. The planet will be a better place.Recommend

  • Myda Umair

    Wow! What an article. This surely is a very big problem in this new world where every woman is competing with another in all paths of life.be it the financial issue or the issue of producing female offsprings only.todays woman is facing many psychological issues just because of these senseless comparisons that the society makes and the result is as horrid as this incident in China .I just can’t judge the mental state of the mother of baby 59 but one thing I can surely say that a human being can’t even flush a newborn baby of any animal what to talk of ones own kid ! I wonder where this mess of producing children out of wedlock and then throwing them in dumpsters and female infanticide would lead us!Recommend

  • Insaan

    Author : In countries like the United States, teenagers often abandon or maim their children.

    I think social services and families get involved in cases of teenage pregnancies. There are people who are willing to adopt these babies. Many times Americans adopt handicapped kids from foreign countries. Some teenage parents who are drug addicts may harm their kids. I am sure welfare services provide financial help to teenage parents. Some times mothers kill new born because of temporary psychosis and are not aware of what they are doing.Recommend

  • Sara

    this is intense! :(Recommend

  • Erin

    Makes me really look at the pro-choicers and ask “If you can be okay with a full-term abortion but you’re not okay with this, you really need to search yourselves.” Recommend

  • Junaid

    Good article Mav! nicely expressed with some valid substace!Recommend

  • Red

    @Erin

    Your question leads me to ask anti-abortion rights people this question: You’re in a burning fertility clinic, you see a 2-year-old baby and a petri dish with five blastulas in it, and you can’t save both. Which would you save?

    By the way, there is no such thing as a full term abortion. They are called late-term abortions and they are not the norm in places where women already have abortion rights and can easily make the decision early on. Recommend

  • M. Naseer Qureshi

    It’s awful news, last year when my daughter was born me and my whole family was so happy and deciding her name and one year after some where in this world an angel born and got a name Baby 59? a number of his incubator. It’s really shamefull for all of us that we have done nothing to stop such criminal acts happening on routine basis.Recommend

  • Ms. Ras

    I appreciate my bond with him even more and when I kiss and hug him every bad feeling, every negative idea, every heartbreaking image goes away. I look into his eyes and I tickle him and a tremendous amount of joy floods my heart like a tidal wave.

    Beautiful words and very very true. Children are the best gift of Allah SWT. May the baby recover soon. Recommend

  • wajha

    A very well written article. The women of China should really see the state of the women that try really hard to have a baby, i hoe for a speedy recovery for baby 50 my prayers are with him.Recommend