Friday, May 8, 2015

A Little Perspective This Mother's Day

When you were pregnant, did you have your perfect birth plan all figured out? The music you would listen to, whether or not you would have the epidural, who would be in the room, which doctor would deliver your little bundle of joy and what scented candles you were going to burn?

Did everything work out as you planned? Did you sail through the birth as though you were born to birth, or were there complications? I hope you sailed through it and both you and baby were happy and healthy. For most women, things don't go as planned.

Maybe your baby was breech and you had to have an emergency C-section after many painful, unsuccessful attempts at turning her. Maybe the pain became too unbearable after 36-hours of labor and you went against what you originally wanted and got the epidural. Maybe you were almost two weeks past your due date and had to be induced. Maybe the hospital wouldn't actually let you burn that candle or your partner forgot the iPod at home so you couldn't listen to your birth music.

Were you angry, disappointed, and pissed off at your partner because you couldn't listen to music? Did you curse your doctor for "making you" have a C-section or for inducing you? Did you blame yourself and feel like a failure for not being able to endure the pain of labor for another eight hours?

What if your problem wasn't that your partner forgot your birth music, but that you had no medical clinic to go to and you had to give birth in a tent? What if instead of worrying about what scented candle you were going to burn, you had to worry about whether or not the local birthing assistant, who has no formal training, would be able to safely deliver your child? What if your biggest worry wasn't whether or not you would opt for an epidural, but rather whether or not you would make the long walk to the nearest hospital or clinic once labor started?

Did you know that there are believed to be 126,000 pregnant women who survived the earthquake in Nepal last week? Did you know that none of them have a hospital to go to, doctors to help them, drugs to take away the pain? That some don't even have their partners to hold their hands and support them through their deliveries?

Photo Credit: CARE

Every Mother Counts is an organization started by fashion model Christy Turlington Burns. Christy suffered from postpartum hemorrhaging, which is the number one cause of childbirth related deaths worldwide. Every Mother Counts is dedicated to helping women around the world have access to the basic essentials of childbirth. It is estimated that 289,000 women die every year due to complications resulting from childbirth. That's one woman every two minutes. 90% of these deaths are preventable!

Every Mother Counts has announced that they will be funding a $25,000 grant to One Heart Worldwide to help assist the roughly 126,000 pregnant women in Nepal who would otherwise have no help. They will set up safari tents delivered by Arlene Samen, President and Founder of One Heart Worldwide, as makeshift birthing facilities. Think about that for a minute. Safari tents as birthing facilities. We get upset because we can't burn a lavender and eucalyptus aromatherapy candle in our hospital room, but these women are giving birth in tents!

Here is what they are hoping the $25,000 will provide;
  • 10 Solar Suitcases to provide light and electricity in temporary birth shelters. These suitcases will eventually be moved to permanent facilities. 
  • Prenatal vitamins 
  • Blood pressure cuffs 
  • Miscellaneous medical supplies (I.e. sutures, Betadine, IV lines, medical stands, autoclaves, and privacy screens) 
  • Dopplers (to listen to fetal heart tones) 
  • Birth kits 
  • Blankets 
  • Baby hats 
  • Essential medicines 
  • Suture kits 
  • Gauze bandage rolls 
How many of you raided the little crib/cabinet on wheels in the hospital room before you left? I know I did. I stashed all those pacifiers, swaddling blankets, diapers, nose suckers, wipes, hats and anything else that was there that I thought I could use. And you know what? I didn't think twice about it. Just like I don't think twice when we run out of diapers, or wipes, or milk, or baby shampoo. I simply get in my Chrysler Town and Country minivan, drive to the store and buy more. Are there weeks when I can't buy the jumbo size pack of diapers or the organic milk because our bank balance is too low? Absolutely. But I don't have to worry about not having those essential items for my babies. I am fortunate to have medical insurance, but even if I didn't, I could still walk into a hospital and receive medical care because they can’t legally turn me away.

It is 2015 and hundreds of thousands of women still die from childbirth. This is unacceptable to me. I know we can't save everyone. I know a lot of people live paycheck-to-paycheck and can't afford to donate to charities and causes such as this. I'm not writing this post to guilt you into sending money to Nepal. I'm writing this post because Mother's Day is a couple of days away and while we're over here dropping hints and writing posts about how we want a new bracelet, or a fancy brunch out, or even a day alone without our kids, there are 126,000 women who don't know how/where they are going to provide for their families or give birth to their babies.

Learn more here.

What I'm asking for this Mother's Day is that we all gain a little perspective. Yes, it gets old not being able to pee without a toddler running in after you. We all want to be able to sit down and catch up on a TV show uninterrupted. We would love to be able to sleep in late and then go to brunch on Sunday. There is nothing wrong with any of that; after all, we are only human. We are also damn lucky to live in a country where we have everything we need at our very fingertips.

This Sunday as you enjoy your Mother's Day, think about all those less fortunate. As your children jump on you in bed when they bring you breakfast, send out a prayer to the mother who is giving birth in a tent. When you send your partner out on an "emergency" diaper run, think of the women who lost their partners in the earthquake and have no one there to help them. If you can spare a few dollars, please consider donating directly to One Heart Worldwide to help assist the victims of the earthquake and their families.

The 289,000 annual pregnancy/childbirth related deaths aren't only abroad, they are also happening right on our very doorsteps. According to Every Mother Counts, "the U.S. ranks 50th in the world in terms of maternal health. With 1 in 5 women of reproductive age lacking health insurance, too many women are not accessing prenatal care or childbirth education." They also state that "maternal health in New York City is among the worst in the Nation. Low income women of color are disproportionately impacted. Preexisting health conditions coupled with sub-standard care, unnecessary interventions, discrimination and voicelessness results in many pregnant women not seeking or receiving the care and resources they need." In the U.S., the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth related causes is 1 in 1,800. When you take into consideration that we are supposed to be a super-power, and a country who prides itself on family values, those numbers are shocking.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, I strongly urge you to watch the documentary No Woman No Cry (available on Netflix). Find out more about Christy Turlington Burns' own childbirth scare and follow her around the world as she visits various countries and meets real women and their struggles and fears surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.

After watching No Woman No Cry I wanted to hold my babies tight and call my OB to thank him and his staff for the amazing pre and postnatal care they provided me. Of course I will still have days when I question my decision to have kids as I change yet another poopy diaper; or have to deal with a whiny, clingy toddler; or break up one more argument between squabbling pre-teens. I will, however, always be grateful that I had clean, sanitary hospital to give birth in surrounded by medical experts ready to make life saving decisions at a moment's notice.

Oh, and the freebies from the little crib/cabinet on wheels in the hospital room. I will always be grateful for those.

For more information on grants and other help provided by Every Mother Counts visit