Child of Prostitution
As I hold the tiny baby in my hands, I feel delighted & depressed. The cute little half-Asian girl came out 2 months prematurely and I'm worried she might have health problems.
Her mother—a dockside prostitute in Cape Town—worked the nightclubs until a few days before delivery. During her pregnancy, she never stopped drinking "baiju" (Chinese tequila) or smoking cigarettes. But I'm relieved to see the swaddled bundle appear normal. A beautiful half-Korean, half-coloured baby girl.
But what life awaits this child?
The mother has been a dockside prostitute for 9 years. She has another half-Korean child from another seaman, but he's long-gone. The father of this newborn will dock in Cape Town next month, seeing his baby for the first time. He says he's excited, and that he'll provide financially, but Mom merely shrugs. She knows such promises are inevitable, but they're not likely to stand the test of time & distance.
Like the father to her other child, this seaman will probably end up marrying a Korean woman in a few years time, starting a "legitimate" family in the East. His Cape-born love child will not form part of that family. She'll float on the edge of his imagination, remembered as a product of his wild youth. Meanwhile, his daughter will be absorbed into the mother's family, adding to the genetic potpourri of the coloured community.
In the maternity ward, we try not to worry about the future. We celebrate life and even speak of hope. Admittedly, such talk feels forced.
But Mom and Baby are surrounded by friends—fellow pros—who bear gifts (nappies, food & formula), fuss over the baby, and wish her the best. They've been here before; they understand her predicament. They also know that she didn't want the baby. But here it is anyway.
In the midst of the celebrations, our eyes pity the baby girl. She will have to learn so many things:
- to live without a father
- to curb her curiosity about about Mommy's late-night jaunts
- to lie to her friends and neighbors about Mommy's work
- to guard the secret of her "shameful" birth
- and perhaps to cope with the physical side-effects of a drunken pregnancy
As we take turns rocking the baby, we silently pray that she'll be able to live in the light, beyond the shadowlands.