“No baby should have to grow up without its mother,” the adverts for Christian Aid Week proclaim dramatically.
Every morning this week, I’ve heard the same advert. It’s talking about women dying unnecessarily in childbirth. And this hits home to me. Maybe I’m being egotistical here, but I can’t help but put myself in the position of one of those women.
I had a long and complicated labour. I had an infection that, if I hadn’t had access to the monitoring and medicine we’re blessed to have in this country, would probably have killed me. (As it is, they caught it in time, put some miraculous antibiotics through my IV, and I was able to continue my labour, delivery and recovery.) But for a different roll of the dice 31 years ago, I would have died in childbirth. And it would have been a tragedy.
But not just for my daughter. She would have, hopefully, gone on to lead a full life. Yes, being motherless would not be the ideal way I’d want her to grow up, but her father and her grandparents would have done a fine job raising her. Her whole life would be ahead of her.
You know who it would have been really tragic for? Me. If I’d died, the worst tragedy would have been that my life was cut short. There’s a lot that I still want to do and experience. I’m not ready to go yet, and I certainly wasn’t ready to go when I was labouring to bring my daughter into this world.
Women have value in themselves. We are people in our own right, and that should be enough of a reason to want to stop us dying unnecessarily in childbirth. Not just because it’s sad for our babies. Because so many of these deaths are preventable, and no human being deserves to die a preventable death.
I don’t believe that Christian Aid are discounting the mother’s humanity. Their adverts talk about the achievements the mothers have had, the adversities they’ve overcome. So why, when it comes to getting people to put their hands in their pockets and support them, do they suddenly forget about the mother and focus on the baby?
Is it for the same reason that women find it harder to be taken seriously by doctors when we’re in pain? Or the reason that maternal mortality in the US is going up, not down – particularly for women who aren’t white? The reason that it’s so hard to get maternal health, both mental and physical, taken seriously, as long as your baby’s been born healthy?
Is the reason that we are just not the priority? We’re just the mothers of the next generation? What about our daughters? Who are they?
I don’t know, but it’s not a pretty picture. And we need to fight this mentality. Because we’re already seeing in the US what will happen if we just roll over and let it be.
We need an army of empowered, angry women to be able to do it. Not just for the sake of their children. The mothers matter too.