I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

29 November 2012

The Girl Effect, part 20

Magnolia in bloom - photo by J. Stahl

When you think of childbirth, what comes readily to mind? No doubt, top of the list is a safe environment, competent doctors, nurses, midwives - maybe doulas, home births.

For millions, possibly billions of women across the world, childbirth is not the safe, fuzzy, awesome thing we know in the West. Sure, most people are looking forward to the birth of their long expected child - but what it takes to get there, and stay alive after having given birth - comes at a high cost.  As an acquaintance of mine online said: "It's always good to remember that some women have to fight just for a hospital birth."

...each year 3.3 million babies are stillborn and more than 4 million newborns die within 28 days of coming into the world. Some 536,000, often sudden, unpredicted deaths occur among women during pregnancy, childbirth or after the baby is born, leaving behind devastated families who are often pushed into poverty because of the cost of health care that came too late or was ineffective...
Inform Africa: Making Pregnancy Safer in Least Developed Countries
Improving health facilities and access to drugs could mean 60,000 fewer maternal deaths in Africa per year from post-partum bleeding and sepsis, according to a UCL study.
UCL study: improving maternity care in Africa
In Malawi, in the local language the words for pregnancy - “pakati” and “matenda”- translate into “between life and death” and “sick”, respectively.
Every year, in Africa 200.000 mothers die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth; and for every woman who dies, many others suffer injury, infection or disability.
Every year 1,5 million African children are left without a mother.
Maternity Project

 I have to admit this is something I had thought about in passing a few times, but not something I regularly have thought about. As a mother, and a woman who has required medical intervention in both births (non-medicated assisted midwife/doctor birth in hospital and c-section), I know all too well how dangerous birth can be if it goes downhill.  I remember thinking in my birth how at the very end, we are both on the threshold of life and death. Morbid I know, but you push a rather large baby out of your nether regions for several hours and I'm sure after all that hard work you'll realize your own mortality as well.  I'm very lucky and fortunate that I have doctors in a rather wide radius nearby me, even in my small village that can help me out at a moment's notice.

Other mothers are not so lucky.

Other mothers may have to walk, ride a moped, a horse, donkey, camel, hitchhike, or a little bit of all of those for many hours while in labor.  I remember trying to walk while in transition with my oldest - five feet from the birthing tub to the bed where I was to birth him due to a slight issue we had with his heart rate and the fact I'd been in transition "so long" (scary, I know).. and that was really stinking difficult, especially in the middle of contractions that were around a minute apart, if that far.

Imagine now, being a mother who needs help, who wants to birth in a safer environment than her home - who has to walk once she knows she is not having false labor pains, to get a ride to get to the hospital, and ensure that everything is hunky-dory.  Is that not terrifying?

Birth is a Dream: Maternity in Africa
This is a photo/audio essay from Paolo Potruno, who documented births in Uganda and Malawi.
If you are sensitive to blood, birth in general, nudity (totally normal while birthing, nursing and in the rest of the world that is not the USA...) DO NOT CLICK THIS VIDEO LINK.
I'm not joking. You will see blood, afterbirth, babies being born, nekkid mamas, naked babies, and more blood and unsanitary or less than optimal birth room/ward conditions.

Until this morning, I'd never heard prenatal and postnatal care or birth really discussed in this manner. And I shook to my core. I asked immediately if there is anything we can do to make it better, to help, to fix this unnecessary injustice towards our fellow sisters. And there is a way. There are many ways. Below, are a few charities that help women who are facing this terrible health crisis, that should be a time of joy, expectation and NOT fear, dread and worry.

If you know of any others, please let me know in the comments and I'll add them to this post.  Please, prayerfully consider giving  - not just this time of year - but as often as you can to support women in their time of need. 

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