My third daughter had a 92% chance of never being conceived. When she was around four years old she heard a friend of mine mention our little surprise, and then asked me: “Mommy, why does she say I’m an accident?” Never wanting her to think this about herself, I stopped anyone from saying anything like that again, and called her our “gift”. I use that term often to refer to her. To us she is perfect and our lives are profoundly richer thanks to her presence – as our present.
Nazeer Bibi’s daughter had about a 92% chance of never being born. Throughout her pregnancy, Nazeer worked in the fields with her husband. One day she felt pain and told her husband. He found an ox cart to take her to the nearest village for help, but on the way her pain and bleeding were so great that they stopped while local women gathered to help her. They held up cloths to protect her privacy but had no midwifery training. One woman pressed down on Nazeer’s belly with her foot which made her cry out and bleed all the more. Other locals arrived and told her husband that he must send for a trained midwife or Nazeer would die. He refused and told the male worker not to go near his wife.
An hour later Nazeer died under the open sky. All had witnessed this woman lose her life needlessly. Nazeer’s baby also died. Sadly, they didn’t defy the odds against them, as my child and I did. But their case can’t be dismissed as an “accident” either. In my case I’m fortunate to call my “accident” a “gift;” but in Nazeer’s and over 1,000 women every single day, her circumstances resulted in a tragic, needless loss.
I didn’t know Nazeer. I read her story on the White Ribbon Alliance For Safe Motherhood’s website, which shares both the Stories of Mothers Lost, and fortunately, of Mothers Saved, like on this video at a maternal hospital in Tanzania. White Ribbon Alliance members in 152 countries are taking the message and concrete solutions for safe motherhood to their own families, local communities, governments, and entire nations. They are working tirelessly, urgently to prevent needless deaths like Nazeer’s.
As I’m wrapping up this post, I just realized that my eyes have been watering and my heart hurting throughout writing this piece. These stories are real, and had I not won the lottery at birth, I realize it could have been me…or you. I don’t want to forget this feeling I have in response to these humble, powerful women. In a few minutes I need to get up from my computer, figure out what to make for dinner, pick up children from activities, and images of Nazeer and others will temporarily erase from my mind. But I’m committed to doing better. To translate this heartache I feel right now, I’ll stay in touch with the White Ribbon Alliance, sign up for the Million Moms Challenge, and learn more about the other partner organizations. The global effort for mothers’ health can mean the difference between life and death for our sisters, and a commitment to a better world we want to build for every one of our children.
(This piece originally appeared at ABC.com’s Million Moms Challenge)