(Sarah at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry Harry Potter exhibit 9/24)
I’m writing this from the room of one Sarah M. Jackson in South Holland, IL. She has given up her relatively new room of her own to bunk with Ben so I can have this room myself. It’s hard to believe that nine years ago, right around this time, Sarah was sharing a room with her mom and dad in the maternity ward of Brookwood Hospital in Alabama- her first day out in the world. Now she’s reading Harry Potter, learning to swim, writing stories, singing along with the Jonas brothers, and plotting her own adventures. As I’m sure you think on birthdays of your kids, nieces and nephews, I say to myself, wow, what a blessing this child is, and what wonderful things I hope and pray are in her future.
(Sarah last year on her birthday)
On the way here for Sarah’s birthday, I finally started reading this book I’ve been talking about – Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half The Sky- and it’s really something. The chapters are filled with gripping and engaging stories about women and girls facing down challenges of violence combined with poverty. Several chapters are devoted to the subject of maternal mortality and other damage done to women during birth. I couldn’t help but think of that wonderful day we were about to celebrate- the day Becca gave birth to Sarah – and how such an event should be a treasured experience – not one that commonly results in fatalities or severe internal injury to the new mom. A few facts from the World Health Organization courtesy of WuDunn and Kristoff’s book:
Mothers who die per 100,00o live births:
South Asia: 490
Sub-Saharan Africa: 900
The maternal mortality rate is about one mother a minute.
Another big problem moms in the developing world face is that of fistulas, which is basically when the birth goes bad in a way that ruptures the woman’s organs in a way that she can’t hold onto any waste. In America, this isn’t a problem because of the care women receive. In the developing world, not only is it common, but it often leads to women being ostracized because of the attendant hygenie issues. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the first 95 pages of this book, it’s that women aren’t cut a lot of slack by their communities in the developing world…).
WuDunn and Kristoff say they dont want to bring up a lot of stats because stats discourage people from getting involved (according to studies.) Half The Sky is filled with individual stories about individual women who instead of having a wonderful experience bringing their kids into the world, faced medical horror shows, death or abandonment– this along with the fact theyre dirt poor to begin with. I really reccomend the book and maybe – according to the psychological studies – the story of these individuals will put a name (and in some cases, a face) on these far away issues and inspire you or people you know to put a drop in the bucket to fight maternal mortality and serious injury.
But because I don’t have any stories from the developing world myself, because, as of yet, I’m not a world travelling reporter (I love Nicholas Kristoff, have I mentioned?) . Instead, I’ll do what I do, or try to do – which is make a story up. Or really, I will ask you to make one up.
Think of the kids you love and how that day when they came into the world changed your life forever. And then picture – just for a second and only if you can -a different ending than the one you got. Picture, if you can, what your world – and what their world – would be like if you were separated after that day and never saw each other again. Because that is what maternal mortality is: every woman who dies in child birth leaves a motherless child. And every woman who dies in child birth is a mother who never gets to see the remarkable things her child goes on to become. The story of maternal mortality is of a mother and child who never get to have a story.
Unacceptable ending. We can help write a better one. The cause of fighting maternal mortality and disability is a bucket worthy of many drops. Here are some organizations listed on Half the Sky’s website dedicated to helping to end maternal mortality and morbidity (injuries including fistulas):
Thanks for reading. Here now is your moment of twin: