As Mother’s Day approaches
and I see more and more advertising, ecards, and media I can’t help
but stop and ponder the many complicated nuances of Mother’s Day.
For women in the US, Mother’s Day is often about getting that perfect
Hallmark card from your family or being treated to breakfast in bed.
But for many women in the developing world, celebrating motherhood through
such a simple holiday is not even a possibility.
Every minute a woman dies during
pregnancy or childbirth – and overwhelmingly these women live in less
developed countries. Not so long ago, even in the US childbirth was
dangerous. My own mother lost her first child – and almost her own life – in
the mid-twentieth century. I know she carried that trauma with her through
four other successful pregnancies. Three decades later, at a top teaching
hospital in the US, my first labor lasted more than 60 hours, resulting
in an emergency C-section. Had I not had access to some of the top care
in the world, neither my son, nor I, would have survived.
I started working in reproductive
health in 1973 – first in the US, then abroad, and I have dedicated
much of my career to trying to improve women’s access to reproductive
health care. Despite all I have seen, I am still deeply moved by the
stories that come across my desk. Recently, one of our interns at Pathfinder International traveled to Bangladesh to document
care work. His
powerful three minute video captures the story of Ruma, a 19-year-old
pregnant with her first child. Imagine living in a one-room shanty with
your husband and not having any knowledge about pregnancy or childbirth – I
can only begin to fathom what that must be like. Luckily, Ruma received
the care and information she needed and delivered a healthy baby girl
just a few weeks ago.
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We need more women with experiences
like Ruma. For those passionate about women’s reproductive health,
we must take more action to improve maternal care in the developing
world. Every woman, no matter where she lives, deserves access to quality
health care and affordable maternal services.
In the next few days as you
see the increased flurry of Mother’s Day activities, I would be interested
to hear what others have experienced, both in the US and abroad. Share
your stories and stand with Pathfinder this Mother’s Day as we advocate
tolerance for maternal mortality!