I love what Christy Turlington is doing with Every Mother Counts. I was thrilled to cheer her on in the Boston Marathon a week ago, and I wear my own EMC shirt with pride (see above, June 2014). It’s a totally random coincidence, but I’ve also been particularly aware of Christy ever since she and I both had first-born daughters named Grace within a year of each other.
I’ve written about Grace’s birth some, though mostly I’ve written about the deep postpartum depression that swamped me after she arrived. The process of Grace’s birth, in particular its immediate aftermath, makes me care deeply about Every Mother Counts. Because had I been a mother in a third world country, I would probably have died after delivering Grace. After a long and intense labor (posterior baby, anyone? my midwife, who had been delivering babies for decades, told me after that it was one of the most difficult labors she’d experienced) I hemorrhaged. They gave me pitocin. I was fine (albeit unhapppy to have the drugs I’d tried so desperately to avoid coursing through my system).
It wouldn’t have been that easy had I been delivering somewhere else. I am grateful that western medical care was there to intervene when I needed it. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that moment (I mostly think about the 43 hours that led up to it!) but whenever I hear anything about Every Mother Counts, that simple act of putting an IV into my arm comes immediately to mind. It’s not rocket science, and it was simple that morning. But it saved my life, and I’m aware that that intervention is unavailable to hundreds of women, whose birth outcomes would have been entirely different from mine.
The statistics are appalling. 303,000 women die every year from complications in pregnancy or birth. These deaths are tragic, and they have a ripple effect too: they leave an average of 4 orphans. In the United States the picture is better, but not as good as it could be: we rank 60th worldwide in terms of maternal health, and 2 women die per day in childbirth or pregnancy. Every Mother Counts has a tremendously compelling call to action: 99% of these deaths are preventable.
I adore what Every Mother Counts stands for, and I also love the way that running has become a focus of what they do. The movie Every Mile, Every Mother (which I was fortunate enough to see in New York a couple of years ago) really highlights this connection, as did cheering Christy on in the Boston Marathon. The metaphors abound: motherhood is a marathon, of course, and by putting one foot in front of the other we can achieve our goals both large and small. It’s a mental game as much as a physical one, and it’s about commitment.
It’s impossible me to think about Every Mother Counts without reflecting on my own birth experiences. I imagine most women who’ve given birth recall those life-altering hours regularly. I know I do. I was stubborn in my pursuit of an unmedicated delivery; I recognize that, and know that I could easily have wound up with a different kind of experience. People ask me regularly (still!) why I chose to go that route, and I don’t have a good answer other than to say I had a deep, instinctive desire to do it that way. And I’m glad I did: Grace and Whit’s births are without question the two most empowering experiences of my life. They shaped who I am and I’ll never forget anything about those passages, when I touched another world, felt something holy both holy and primal. And I’m hugely aware that it was the medical support I received after Grace’s birth that allowed the story to have a happy ending. The care was so simple, and I think it saved my life. Every mother should have access this.
I’m not affiliated with Every Mother Counts and nobody asked me to write this post. I was inspired to do because of my particular interest in and passion for the cause.
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