‘The Mother and Child Project’ – A Review of a Recently Released Title
Imagine having to give birth unassisted, on the dirt floor next to a rubbish dump. It’s unfathomable really. I’ve always been aware of the pitfalls in our maternity system here in New Zealand. It isn’t a perfect system. Even the Health and Disability Commissioner argues this. In fact, before I had my children I didn’t really trust our maternity system. However I am grateful to have received excellent care while having my three children, but there are heartbreaking cases of when birth goes horribly wrong, right here in our own backyard. There are the cases of babies who didn’t make it, and babies who sustained birth injuries caused by multiple system errors. Errors that were preventable. Sadly it does happen. But most births in the West go well, and with our obstetricians, anesthetists, pediatricians and tertiary hospitals readily available if we need them in childbirth, we western folk tend to forget that being born is still a risky business in many parts of the world, for mothers and for babies.
I’ve always had an interest in maternal and child health, and with Mother’s Day coming up next week it seemed timely to review the recently released book ‘The Mother & Child Project.’ This book is a collection of short, well written essays by influential leaders in different spheres – medical professionals, pastors, artists and policy makers. Leaders such as Melinda Gates, Kay Warren, Bill Frist, Kimberly Williams Paisley, Christine Caine and Michael W. Smith speak out about why people of faith must get on board with ‘The Mother and Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope’. This is a project that aims to increase healthy pregnancies and lower maternal and child death rates in developing countries. The book is divided into four sections: Maternal and Child Health: How Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy Saves Lives; Strong Mothers: The Key to Healthy Families, Communities, and Nations; Other Concerns: Male Involvement, Child Marriage, Slavery, and Orphan Care; and Why Maternal Health Matters to People of Faith. It provides a mix of interesting statistics, personal stories and success stories too.
Ponder this for a moment – even today, almost 287,000 women die each year because of pregnancy and birth complications. Many children are orphaned due to this tragedy, and without a mother, many of those children die as well. This compelling book opens one’s eyes to the injustice and the epidemic of child marriage and child birth which is common in developing nations. Today there are numerous campaigns and missions geared to assist people in poverty, however young women are still marginalized in many poverty stricken countries. Many teenage and even younger girls are forced into early arranged marriage and childbirth. These girls suffer physical trauma and even death as their bodies are not ready for marriage and childbirth. They also suffer the effects of complex psychological trauma. They also have no access to health care, much less prenatal care. Furthermore, if something goes wrong during labor, which is quite probable given their young age, and the fact they themselves are not fully grown, then these girls endure hours and even days of painful, non productive labor, which often ends in maternal death and stillbirth. Even if the mother survives, she may face permanent debilitating injury such as obstetric fistulas which result in ongoing infection as well as urinary and fecal incontinence. Furthermore, these women and girls are often shamed as a result and forced out of their homes to lead a life of begging on the streets. These girls are denied what we take for granted – an education, advocacy, health care and simple methods of birth control. This book provides a Christian voice to these complex issues.
How are we going to respond to the cries of mothers and children bound in poverty? Hope Through Healing Hands, a nonprofit organization promoting awareness for healthy mothers and children worldwide, is already spreading the word about improving maternal and child health outcomes. This organization aims to save lives and decrease death rates. It also aims to build healthier, flourishing families and bring stability and sustainability to families, communities and nations. To find out more about Hope Through Healing Hands, please visit their website: http://www.hopeforhealinghands.org.