Mother’s Day – Shouldn’t all Mothers have access to a safe birth?

Mother’s Day – Shouldn’t all Mothers have access to a safe birth?

By Nadia Ramoutar  MMM Communications Coordinator              Ireland                           10.03.2024

In the Western world, the weeks before Mother’s Day we see an abundance of chocolates, pyjamas, mugs, plants and other gifts being promoted in shops reminding people to buy their mother a gift. We have gotten to a place where the concept of Mother’s Day has probably lost its dignity going the way of Valentine’s day with obligated purchases. Mother’s Day is not even globally consistent as some parts of the world unlike Ireland, celebrate Mother’s Day in the second Sunday in May.

We just can’t seem to agree over Motherhood in many ways. As my work with the MMMs brings me in contact with global health issues for women, the horrifying conditions many girls and women face in childbirth is heart breaking. Before working in Communications for the MMM Sisters, I did not know about the thousands of women face daily when they are pregnant and find themselves in a deadly birth situation for them, their child or both. I recall reading my first report on Obstetric fistula and just weeping. It’s not entirely my fault I did not know about this as Obstetric Fistula stopped being an issue here about 100 years ago. It’s been a deadly secret.

We have not had to deal with the death, rupture or wounds caused in childbirth for so long but possibly up to half a million women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are dealing with it now. Along with high rates of maternal or baby death, those who live with Obstetric Fistula are also subjected to tremendous pain, discomfort, social and emotional abuse and severe mental health issues. Torn vaginal walls from birth complications or obstructions lead to uncontrollable leakage of urine, faeces or both. This causes the women to be ostracized, abandoned or abused due to the horrendous smell they cannot control.

It is a cruel twist of fate that a woman’s geography can become her destiny. As a humanitarian, I cannot accept this. The MMMs have been pioneers in working to prevent and repair Obstetric Fistula for decades and today actively work to heal girls and women impacted. There are a lot of grey areas in addressing this issue as even statistics on how many women are suffering with it now do not agree. It is grossly underreported. It is said that the waiting list for repair is so long, it would take over 80 years to catch with the current demand. It could also be easily ended or prevented with basic anti-natal care access for all.

More than just being a medical issues, this is a human rights issue. We are working with Toni Pyke, AMRI and Fr Edward Flynn, Spiritan to see how we can get safe childbirth to be acknowledged as a human right, because currently it is not. We seek to coordinate the efforts on Obstetric Fistula making it “history” for Sub-Saharan Africa and not just for girls and women in the Global West. We are raising awareness so resources can be gathered to rewrite the stories of all women, not just the privileged ones.