Blog by Katherine Brown
What is the value of a mother's life? That is the haunting question posed by Save the Mothers' Executive Director, Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, wherever she speaks of the ongoing tragedy that is maternal mortality in the developing world. I have witnessed firsthand the sad reality in Uganda.
On my first visit to the largest hospital in the country, I was met with the body of a recently deceased mother. The young woman had complications, but delayed in coming to the hospital. Once she arrived, the appropriate medical interventions were not implemented until it was too late. She died a preventable death along with her baby. The mother's body was laid on a metal hospital stretcher covered by a thin sheet, with her baby bump still visible beneath. In Canada she would have been saved. She was 25 years old.
A mother's absence changes everything. In the global south the impact is further amplified by the socio-economic conditions unique to the developing world. Here, when a mother dies, her baby is 10 times more likely to die as well (UNICEF). In Uganda alone, the average woman bears 6 babies in her lifetime. This means that when a mother dies in childbirth, there are often many children left behind. These children are sometimes forced to drop out of school to work or care for younger siblings. Their whole future is made uncertain. Maternal death leaves children without their protector, provider and nurturer.
You may be familiar with the popular hymn Will the Circle Be Unbroken? A reworked country/folk version of the song (made famous by the Carter Family) has been frequenting my music playlist lately. It describes the death of a mother from her child's perspective.
The poignant final verse says:
back home Lord
My home was lonesome
Missed my mother
She was gone
All my brothers, sisters crying
What a home so sad and lone.
Those words have stinging accuracy in my current context.
The beauty of faith in Christ is that one day the circle will be unbroken. We will be reunited with those who have gone before. But that does not mean that we should stand idly by in the face of suffering and death.
Recently, in my morning devotions I was struck again by the impact of Genesis 1:27, "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Every person on this planet was uniquely created by God and in his image. What then is the answer to Dr. Jean's question? What is the value of a mother's life?
The answer is: PRICELESS.
With war and conflict dominating the news lately, we can easily become desensitized to death, especially when it seems so far away. Many global problems seem beyond our control. Maternal mortality, however, is one of the most predictable and preventable issues in the world today. We can stop it. We must stop it.
Here is a picture of a mother named Margaret. Victoria and I met her when she was carrying twins. She had four previous pregnancies but no child. Sadly, one of the babies died in utero this time round. They were unsure if the other child would live. Both Victoria and I were able to pray with Margaret before she was put under for a caesarean section. Margaret delivered a beautiful baby girl named Nakalema. Although the baby was born prematurely, with medical assistance both mom and baby are doing very well.
On May 9th I will be participating in Steps to Deliver Change, a Mother's Day Walk taking place in locations around the world to support the lifesaving work of Save the Mothers (STM). I invite you to join me. You may not be able to walk with me in Uganda, but there are advocates participating in walks across North America and others who are supporting financially.
Save the Mothers is an organization working with hospitals to improve patient care through the Mother-Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. It engages and trains societal leaders through the Master in Public Health Leadership program. STM is affecting tangible change.
There is nothing so grievous as preventable death.
Every child deserves to have a mother as they grow up.
Please join me on Mother's Day weekend and do your part to save the lives of mothers and their babies.
Be sure to watch 100 Huntley Street the week of June 1-5 to hear more stories and a solution to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of women in East Africa.
Katherine Brown is the daughter of Moira Brown. She is currently working in Uganda as an intern with Save the Mothers, a Canadian charity. The charity runs a Master in Public Health Leadership (MPHL) program at Uganda Christian University and Katherine serves as the assistant to Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, the Executive Director of the program.