My journey to motherhood has barely started, and I am already immersed in the excitement, horror, panic and joy that this adventure is filled with. Expecting my first baby in October, I am technically still a mother-to-be – but, in my head and in my heart, I have been a mother from the moment my husband and I first decided to become parents, and I have enjoyed every moment of this adventure.
While I am overcome by happiness, knowing what I know about the state of motherhood globally casts a shadow on my joy. What should be the happiest, greatest and most natural experience in the world too often turns into something scary, sad, and dangerous for millions of women and their children every single day. In the world we live in – the world my husband and I are about to bring a child into – 800 women die every day because of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. These deaths can result from something as simple as lack of 10 cent antibiotics to stop an infection, or lack of trained birth attendants, such as midwives, to help women during their pregnancy and labor. In our world, one million babies die the day they are born, and three million newborns die within the first month of life – mostly from preventable causes. Every day my child grows stronger in my belly, 800 women and 18,000 children die from mostly preventable causes. While I am taken over by incredible happiness at the sound of my baby’s heartbeat during a sonogram, mothers continue to give their own lives while giving birth to new life. During the course of my pregnancy, almost 225,000 women and over 5 million children will die, needlessly. In our world, girls are kidnapped for no other reason than for going to school and getting an education. There is no excuse – we are failing the world’s mothers, girls and children.
Simple and low cost solutions could save millions of mothers and their children. We need to start by ensuring that all women around the world get to become pregnant the way I did – on their own time, according to their own terms, with the person they have chosen to start a family with. This means that all women need to have access to affordable and safe forms of contraception, information and services that allow them to take control of their fertility and family planning. It also means that no woman should ever be forced to carry out a pregnancy against her will. Every mother deserves the chance to plan their pregnancies, and every child deserves to be wanted.
We need to strive for a world where every woman gets to go through their pregnancy and childbirth with a skilled birth attendant by their side. Properly trained OBGYNs and midwifes are a crucial tool for ensuring women can experience a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Forty million women give birth every year at home without the help of a skilled birth attendant – and millions of babies and mothers lose their lives during an event that should be the most beautiful of their lives. There needs to be more recognition of the importance of midwives and nurses, and the crucial and life-saving work that they do for mothers and babies.
I wish that my child would be born into a world where every Mother got to experience pregnancy the way I do, with proper healthcare services, information and support at their reach. That instead of having to take the risk of losing their own life, mothers could focus on creating life. I wish we lived in a world where every mother had the chance to choose motherhood, and enjoy the beautiful experience and journey the way I have.
On this Mother’s Day, let’s remember those mothers who gave their own lives while giving life. Let’s remember Mothers who never got to hear their children call them “Mom”, never got to hold their babies or see them grow up. Let’s remember the girls in Nigeria who have been stolen from their families, and their mothers and fathers who want nothing but to get their daughters back safe and sound. On this Mother’s Day, let’s decide to strive for a world where every woman can take control of their own body and fertility, experience a safe pregnancy and childbirth, and bring into this world a child who wanted, loved and cared for, and treated equally despite their gender – not only by the Mothers, but by the societies to which they are born into.
Becoming a mother is simultaneously the most universal, and the most individual journey women experience. Every single one of us deserves to enjoy becoming a mother without having to fear for our lives, or for the life of our children. Research has shown that for millions of mothers and their babies, the first day of a newborn’s life is the most dangerous for the mother and the baby – it’s time to change that, and make that day the happiest, most miraculous day of every Mother’s and child’s life.
Happy, healthy and safe Mother’s Day to all the Mothers around the world – especially to my own Mother, who I owe not only my life, but all that I am. You are my inspiration – and if I will be a fraction of the mother to my child that you were to me, I will consider myself the greatest mother in the world.
For more information on the status of motherhood globally, visit Save the Children for their 2014 State of the World’s Mothers Report and follow @SavetheChildren and #SOWM on Twitter.
Follow Girls Globe (@GirlsGlobe) and #ICMLive for coverage related to the upcoming International Confederation of Midwives, taking place in Prague, 1-5 June 2014.