The story behind my passion for maternal health and child mortality

Millennium Development Goal 5 is about improving Maternal Health. MDG 5 as is commonly known is ‘the heart’ of the MDGs because it is almost impossible to meet the overall goal of reducing poverty without improving maternal health.

When I see the rate of maternal deaths and the causes, I cannot stand aside, and as if it is ‘business as usual’, throw my hands in the air and continue with my undertakings! No way, I will speak; I will take part in my own small way. I hear stories casually being told, like any other chit-chat about how so and so went to work, started bleeding, was rushed to this or that hospital, the doctor was not around and she bled to death!!! Those stories traumatized me, those stories make my heart beat very fast that at times it is painful to even breathe.

Globally, approximately 350,000 girls and women die from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth every year, while 10-20 million experience serious injuries, including lasting disabilities. And you know what? Each death represents a family’s loss of a sister, daughter, partner, mother or a friend! This is what I mean from proven studies and research:

  • Women’s deaths and poor health can push families further into poverty through lost income remember women are also income earners and their income is more likely to go to food and other necessities for the family.
  • Children, especially daughters who lose their mothers at a young age often leave school early and may become sexually active earlier than girls with mothers who survive.
  • Newborns whose mothers die are 3 to 10 times more likely to die before their second birthday than newborns whose mothers survive.

Maybe you are asking yourself why am so passionate about maternal health yet am not and I will never be in the medical profession (I love my profession you know).  But behind this passion, there is a story; a very sad story of me and another one of my sister Doreen and my late aunt Everlyne may her soul rest in peace!

For today, I will write about my story. My sister’s and my aunt’s story i will write about it later.

When I discovered I was pregnant in December 2012,  I was confused. I had my fears in fact I cried my heart out because it was not planned but days later, I was so happy I referred to myself as ‘the pregnant mama with swag’!

I started visualizing my baby his angelic smile, tender little hands; small soft lips-it was simply amazing. I called my baby ‘my Little Sunshine…my honey bunch! The boy loved the song ‘from this moment’ by Shania Twain whenever I sung that song, he literally kicked with joy we had connected so much, he was my world, my friend, we talked about everything and anything, did everything together including school assignments and house chores!

Enjoying my baby bump

Enjoying my baby bump

Health diet became part of me; plenty of fruits and vegetable, water and exercises especially walking. I attended my antenatal promptly. Took my calcium and iron supplements religiously and since I had developed high blood pressure, aldomine also became part of my everyday dosage.

But the worst happened…on 14th June, a cool Friday morning, just a day after seeing my doctor, who recommended a 14-day bed rest, I started feeling contraction-like pains from my lower abdomen. Like any other young first time mother, I went back to my doctor that very day and he confirmed they were ‘just normal contractions’. The next thing to do was to go home, lie down and maybe the ‘normal contractions’ will go away.

I took a cab home and though the pains intensified, I was safely in my house but after some more than 1 and a half hours due to Nairobi traffic jam. By the way, I was alone at home since my husband had traveled abroad for official duty.

I visited the bathroom before I could rest and maybe wait for the pain to go before I eat fish, which had become my favourite dish (I bet my boy could have been a genius lol!). What I saw in the bathroom shocked me!I was bleeding heavily and as a result, my white panty was literary red.  On calling my doctor, he advised me to check myself in to the nearest hospital because bleeding is dangerous to any pregnant woman. Kenyatta National Hospital was my nearest hospital so I checked myself in with the help of my good neighbor and his wife. I will be here to write how I Kenyatta hospital received me and other women that came to the hospital in labour.

Fast forward, with all the pain, agony and even more bleeding for close to 3 hours, I underwent an emergence CS and my little sunshine 29+ weeks old was removed dead! For some months, my world came to a stand still; it happened so fast and the more I tried to understand what really transpired the more I went nuts. My body ached; the emotional and psychological pain was too much; my attitude towards everything changed some to the better and others to the worse. This is the reason why, after God has given me another opportunity to live I will not keep quiet- I will speak, I will advocate for safe motherhood in the world with other like-minded people after all, a woman is either our mother, sister, daughter, aunt or friend so, when we hear about maternal death, it can be OUR mother or sister or daughter or aunt or friend.

My son could have been 5 months 2 weeks today all I can say is: ‘Rest in peace my little sunshine; mummy loves you even in death’.

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