As part of the group, Mom Bloggers for Social Good, we are working on spreading information about the State of the World’s Mothers report, and their annual report about the best and worst places to be a mother. The State of the World’s Mothers (SOWM) report is Save the Children’s signature annual publication, which compiles global statistics on the health of mothers and children, and uses them to produce rankings of nations within three groupings corresponding to varying levels of economic development. They have produced the reports annually since the year 2000. Though the core report indices are the same every year, each year there is a new feature or story angle added to it. In 2013, the new feature is the Birth Day Risk Index — the index compares first-day death rates for babies in 186 countries to identify the safest and most dangerous places to be born.
Watch video of the project here, with Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Connelly, and Alyson Hannigan and moms from around the world:
The United States has the highest number of first day deaths of babies of any industrialized nation; nearly 11,300 babies die here every year. American mothers may be surprised to hear this, as we think our healthcare is superior to mothers in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, and other areas with high infant mortality rates. Save the Children’s annual report recommends several actions to solve this problem, such as addressing the underlying causes of infant mortality, increasing health care workers, investing in low-cost, low-tech health care solutions, strengthening health care systems and increasing access, and increasing committments and funding to saving the lives of mothers and children.
In a show of support for Save the Children, American bloggers are sharing their own birth stories. I am more grateful than ever to have experienced the miracle of not only bringing two healthy children into the world, but also the glory of experiencing motherhood for the last seventeen years. Birth wasn’t easy, but the payoff has been magnificent:
“Jennifer. Stop. Look at me. Look at me. You must stop pushing right now.”
My brain and body scrambled to focus on her blue eyes. Something wasn’t right. This wasn’t happening the way the book said it would. What is she saying?
I had watched all the movies, attended the birthing class, packed my bag, bought the diapers, and laid out your little white sleeper, recently laundered in Burt’s Bees baby soap, ready to bring you home.
“Stop,” her voice repeated. “This is important.” My midwife’s normally calm demeanor was punctuated with urgency.
I couldn’t pry my eyes open. The pain was overwhelming; no time for medication, this was happening old-school style. My breath came in gasps, my fear in waves.
I searched for my husband, his hands on my legs. Finally he came into view, his blue eyes holding it all in.
“Her cord. It’s wrapped around her neck. You need to stop so I can flip her out. You must not push-do you hear me? “ I snapped into focus. I inhaled and for a moment, granted her request.
My body and brain were operating with broken connections, like a static dead space. I gave up control out of sheer and utter terror that my baby would be born dead.
This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen.
No one says that first babies come early. Tales of endless labor, walks around the hospital and enduring hours and hours of waiting for her to come were all I’d been told. Nothing-nothing at all had prepared me for these 30 minutes of laying in the hospital bed, feeling her force her way into the world.
The seconds felt like hours. I naively tried to regain control; not realizing that from this point on, you would shape every thought, every action, and every moment of my life.
“Jennifer, when I say so, you need to push harder than ever before. Go deep inside. Growl like a mama bear, and do it with all your power. Do you understand?”
Obediently, I complied.
One. Two. Three.
But wait – this isn’t how it is supposed to be. I haven’t even gotten into the birthing chair. The nursery-the laundry hasn’t been put away into your little dresser. We haven’t even decided on your name yet… I don’t know where you are, or what to do. The only thing I do know is that I’m not ready for this. Am I really going to be somebody’s mom?
But there you were, somersaulting into the world, slightly violet, but breathing. And alive.
And absolutely perfect.
The struggle was over. We made it. Nothing in life could ever be harder than that, I imagined. I held you to my chest and breathed you in, feeling your warm stickiness. I clasped your tiny fingers.
“What is it?” I heard my mother hesitantly, yet pleadingly, call from behind the closed door.
“It’s a girl,” I panted in reply.
And forever afterwards, life as I knew it ended and began at precisely the same instant.