A group of Vietnamese women whose husbands died or work far from home devote themselves to burying the fetuses of babies resulting from abortions or miscarriages.
The women, from Nam Vien Parish in Tien Du district neighboring the northern city of Bac Ninh, provide a service that other married women who are busy looking after their husbands and children could not be involved in.
At night they have to work at full stretch. They will immediately travel 100 kilometers from home to visit pregnant women in spite of chilly or rainy weather when they receive calls from people in need. They do not miss any call even when they are tired from their own work.
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In the dead of night, a female doctor from a local hospital phoned Mary Pham Thi Hoai, one of the members, asking her group to help a young mother who gave premature birth to a baby who died after being placed in an incubator for 10 days. The baby’s father, with a low weak voice, also appealed to the group to bury his newborn baby.
Hoai, accompanied by another group member, immediately left for the hospital. Hoai said the young mother, whose eyes were blinded by helpless tears, said their house was far away and they could not afford to take their baby to their home for burial. They wanted her group to bury their baby at a local church-run cemetery for fetuses.
The husband received the body of the baby from the doctor, held it in his arms and walked towards the hospital gates, while Hoai carried their luggage and led his wife out of the hospital. Both sobbed loudly after he gave the baby to their helpers, who could not hold back their floods of tears.
We never hesitate about challenges but are at their service around the clock
Hoai invited the grieving couple to spend the chilly night at her house after finding that they had no place to stay as their boarding house was closed. She called a taxi and gave the baby to them. Hoai rode a motorbike following the taxi driving them to her home.
The women prayed for the baby, especially for the couple to overcome their sad loss, soon after dressing the baby in white clothes and placing it in a box. They spent a sleepless cold night with the couple and the baby.
Hoai said she burst into tears after being told that the blue-collar couple live in poverty and the mother, a factory worker, had to return to work just two days after she gave birth. Their employers did not even want them to have time off after their baby’s death.
“That is our service. We wish all women who have unwanted pregnancies, run into financial difficulties in giving birth and even have babies die for any reason, to contact us and get our help. We never hesitate about challenges but are at their service around the clock,” Hoai said.
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The enthusiastic volunteer said one time she was woken early on a winter morning by a call from a doctor who asked her to fetch an aborted fetus from a hospital that was a 30-minute motorbike ride from her house.
“My heart was broken and my eyes were blinded by burning tears so that I could not bathe and dress the months-old baby, whose sad eyes seemed to look at me and mouth seemed to call me,” she said, adding that the poor baby was deprived of motherly love and warmth when he was still in his mother’s womb.
Hoai and other members kindly volunteer to be mothers of poor babies when they call their names before putting them in the ground.
The church cemetery has become home to 12,000 babies since the first ones were buried five years ago. The cemetery looks like a city of silence where mass graves lie between love and selfishness, and sweet love and bitter sorrow.