He hangs it by the ankles, its blue hands splayed, the small kidney-shape of its body crowned with my blood. I open my arms, but the yīshēng shakes his head.

“Look away, you hear? Look away.” He plunges my baby head first into a waiting bucket of water.

Pain roars in my haunches. I push hard, my womb emptying like a blanket thrown into the air. Between my legs…so much blood.

“Stop pushing, another one’s coming,” he bawls and discards the limp newborn beside the bucket. He pulls at the second head – half in, half out – and it slips from me, screaming.

A girl.

He grabs a knife from his work block and hacks at the knotty cord that binds her to me. I snatch her. Rock, rock, rock…

“Sshhh, little one.”

Her lips quiver. Birth has rippled the puddle of her features; a child that has lived ten lives already.

“Here, take her as well.” He picks my firstborn from the mat and thrusts her onto me. She seems almost to be choking. I tap her back and she spews up water. Her chest heaves with life. How neatly she is packed in skin!

But the yīshēng returns. In his hand, a syringe. “Straight to the brain. They won’t feel a thing,” he says.

To read more

To buy the ebook