What started as a casual conversation between two moms unfolded into a lesson about the sanctity of life, when our parallel stories took dramatically different turns.
A minister and his wife were visiting the Christian non-profit where I work. They had traveled from Uganda to discuss the possibility of setting up a medical clinic in a rural part of his diocese. In an attempt to find common ground, I’d asked the shy wife if they had children. Yes, she smiled, they felt blessed with four of their own and several they welcomed into their home after their birth parents could no longer afford to raise them. We talked about the difficulties of pregnancy and the joys of being a parent.
I shared how my first child was born prematurely. Since all indications from my prenatal care pointed to a normal healthy birth, the delivery at six weeks early was unexpected and frightening. During labor, my blood pressure suddenly rose to a critical level. There was no time for a C-section and my risk of stroke was alarmingly high. I found myself surrounded by a medical team singularly focused on saving my life as they delivered my daughter as soon as possible, as safely as possible.
The minister’s wife, in turn, confided that a close friend also had a premature delivery. However, her village did not have a health clinic, and prenatal care was almost non-existent. So when contractions began, her friend labored under a tree for hours while her family scrambled to find transportation to the nearest hospital, miles away. The baby, born in the hospital corridor, was too small, too premature, and died shortly after birth.
In addition to the obvious medical intervention that separated our experiences, other factors contributed to our tragically different outcomes. Her friend already had two children under the age of three and her body was not fully recovered from those births. She was exhausted and under-nourished. Her husband worked hard, yet there were times when the family went hungry. This couple did not have access to methods to help space out these births, which, ultimately, may have resulted in the premature birth and death of her baby. We know these factors can mean the difference between life and death, because this tragedy is far too common.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The deaths of 1.6 million children under the age of five could be prevented each year if we met one of the most critical needs for women around the world. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) tells us that if pregnancies were spaced three years apart, infants would have a healthier start to life. This spacing gives the mother time to breastfeed for the recommended one to two years; her body has a chance to recover and avoid high-risk pregnancies. Even though we know that healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies saves lives, and preventing unintended pregnancies reduces abortions, today, 225 million women worldwide who want to safely space the births of their children lack the ability to do so.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Amy Hewitt