TORONTO — Helen Miller is carrying a dragon inside her burgeoning baby bump.
At 71/2 months along, she and husband David are expecting a son in May — right in the middle of the year of the dragon — just as they planned.
The dragon is the only mythical creature among 12 animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac, and is considered to be the luckiest.
Asian couples around the world are timing their pregnancies to give birth before the year of the dragon ends on Feb. 9, 2013, leading to a baby boom of monstrous proportions.
“I think dragon is the best,” said Helen, 32.
“(It’s) the most powerful, has the best luck.”
The Millers were ready to get pregnant shortly after moving to Toronto from California in 2010, but waited until 2011 to conceive a dragon baby.
Last year’s rabbit just can’t compare, said Helen, who is originally from Sichuan, China. “I don’t want to have a rabbit. It’s too soft!”
“If dragon year was last year . . . our son (would be) one year old already,” she added.
Being born in the year of the dragon spells good fortune for babies and their families, said David Lai, a now-retired University of Victoria professor who taught courses on China and Chinese-Canadian communities.
“It symbolizes strength, power and is also symbol of the emperor of China,” Lai said. “People born in the year of the dragon usually are very passionate and (fearless), do not rely on other people and can do it individually very successfully.”
“More or less, (they’re) on the top of other people.”
This idea of dragons as lucky figures counters how they’re portrayed in the west, he added.
“Unlike western culture where dragon has a negative significance . . . in China, the dragon is an important symbol, something like the lion to the English people.”
As someone who grew up in the U.S., David, 34, said he accommodated Helen’s traditional Chinese desire to have a dragon baby.
“The way I was raised, it wasn’t — because I’m Caucasian — it’s not really that much of a deciding factor,” he said. “I didn’t really follow the zodiac sign before.
“We’re from different cultures, so yeah, there’s some things we have to compromise on.”
Many couples in Canada and the U.S. preplanned their dragon pregnancies, according to Lauri Berger de Brito, co-owner of Agency for Surrogacy Solutions and Global IVF, an informational website for couples looking to travel for fertility treatments.
“Both of the companies have seen an increase due to . . . people wanting babies in the year of the dragon.”
The California-based agencies, which serve couples globally, have seen business surge since last November, said Berger de Brito. The Agency for Surrogacy Solutions experienced a 250 per cent jump in surrogacy clients from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and from ethnic Chinese in the west. It typically gets 50 to 60 clients a year.
Berger de Brito and co-owner Kathryn Kaycoff-Manos first discovered the dragon baby craze after one of their clients, an Asian-American couple, approached the agency last year, but wanted to postpone surrogacy.
“Normally, when somebody wants to do surrogacy, they want to get going immediately,” said Berger de Brito. “(But) we realized there’s a lot more to this than we knew.”
Soon after business started booming, Global IVF created a “Dragon Baby Special,” which offers in vitro fertilization, medication and other services at a discounted rate, she added.
In Asia, hospital officials are expecting a baby boom in countries and territories that observe Chinese New Year, including China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau. A recent poll in Hong Kong suggested that 70 per cent of couples wanted children born in the year of the dragon.
David, who recently returned from a business trip to China, said the locals he met were intent on having a dragon baby.
“It’s a huge ordeal there … like it was a set priority to have a baby this year.”
While the Millers see their son’s prized zodiac sign as a “bonus,” Helen said she would be happy if he embodied dragon-like qualities.
She’s also encouraging her friends to try for a dragon baby before it’s too late.
“Still can make it!”
Dragons are born in 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 and 2012. Notable dragons include: John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr. and Tommy Douglas.