"It wasn't even a proper hospital. The facilities were no good," said a man familiar with the case who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. He said that Feng had left her village to give birth, but went back briefly to take care of things at home and was grabbed by family planning employees. "They took her when she was alone. They had no permission. Nobody agreed. It wasn't right."
Nowadays, it's not so much a matter of having a large family to work in the fields. Chinese villagers want one child to go away to work and earn money, another to maintain the family home in the village. As the Chinese countryside goes, Shandong is relatively prosperous with its easy access to Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao and the oil fields along the coast. Many families are willing to pay the fines, which run up to five times annual income, for an extra baby.
The one-child policy is now more than three decades old and is credited by Communist authorities with preventing 400 million births. But in this era of urbanization, China's neighbors, Taiwan and South Korea, have lower birthrates without coercive measures, as people marry later and move into smaller homes.
Chinese policymakers in recent years have seriously discussed relaxing the rules because of an aging population and a gender imbalance in favor of boys. But the seemingly glacial pace of change only makes it more frustrating for those who want more children and don't have time to wait.
Meanwhile, Communist Party cadres can be denied bonuses and blocked from promotions if there are excess births in their jurisdictions. Every village has a family planning committee and in some, women of childbearing age are required to have pregnancy tests every three months. Periodic campaigns with banners, quotas and slogans can lead to abuses such as in 2010, when authorities in the southern city of Puning, in Guangdong province, vowed to sterilize 9,559 people despite strenuous objections from human rights advocates.
The sense of unfairness is heightened by inconsistency in how the rules are applied. In some rural jurisdictions, people can have a second child if the first is a girl, but only after a waiting period. In other places, a second child is permitted if both parents are single children. Paperwork to obtain permission is cumbersome.
The rules are bewildering. The Beijing News carried a story last week about a young couple who had to collect 50 pages of documents and receive permission from 10 of their nearest neighbors before they could get approval to have a second child.
In the recent Shaanxi province case, the parents thought they were entitled to a second child because they lived in the countryside and their first was a girl. But they were informed late in the pregnancy that the wife's application would not be accepted because she was registered to live in an urban area. Family planning officials requested $6,500 to approve the pregnancy.
"They decided to make an example of us," said the husband, Deng Jiyuan.
In Lijin, Ma Jihong and her husband, Gao Xuetao, had two daughters already, but still wanted a son. Gao was his family's only son and Chinese believe their ancestral line is traced only through the males. Many other families in the village had managed to have more children by paying the fines.
What went wrong, the family still doesn't know. Lijin County officials said in a statement that she had been sent for a "labor-inducing operation," but that her "breath and heartbeat suddenly stopped before she was injected with labor-inducing medicine." Only then was she transferred to the county hospital.
The family never found out whether they would have had another girl or the boy they'd long sought. To little Yanyan, it didn't matter.
"I didn't want a little brother or a little sister," the 5-year-old said, looking down at her feet with embarrassment over her confession. The obvious went unspoken: What she wanted was her mother.
Nicole Liu of The Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.