Worth Celebrating: How to Help More Mothers Survive and Thrive

Pastor Charles Aput, his wife Ann Penina and their children. ©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt

Each spring we have a day when we enjoy brunch with the mothers in our lives. Every grocery store has premade floral bouquets, weather is reliably sunny, and we take some time to tell the women in our lives who we often take for granted, “I love you and I appreciate you.” We celebrate being a mother and the joy it involves.

But what about when motherhood looks different from what we typically know?

In Kenya, Pastor Charles and his wife Ann celebrated motherhood with great excitement when their first child came. The couple had been waiting six years to grow their family and this pregnancy was an answer to their prayers.

However, prayers of thanks soon turned to prayers of desperation. Each year, Ann would once again become pregnant. Her happiness at being a mother was overtaken by exhaustion as she was constantly breastfeeding, but barely nourished herself. She did her very best to care for her children who were weak and constantly ill.

Every time Ann was pregnant, she risked her life. Globally, pregnancy is the number one killer of females age 15-19 and continues to be a risk for mothers like Ann. More than 300,000 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. On top of the stress and illness was heartbreak as Charles and Ann buried two of their young children.

The most difficult part of meeting Ann and Charles and hearing their story was knowing that it is not unique. Each day, 15,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes. I had traveled to rural Kenya to see the incredible benefits of work funded by the U.S. government and carried out by organizations like World Vision and Save the Children. I knew the incredible need in my head, but to see what poverty took from these families was heartbreaking.

Now Ann’s eyes sparkle and her smile is radiant. Especially when she introduces her children, including 4-year old Moses. “Moses is my last born.” She repeats last born with emphasis and laughs. The pride in her healthy children is evident.

Change for Ann and Charles began when a local group introduced them to a community health volunteer (CHV). The CHV explained how to space pregnancies so that Ann and her children could be healthiest. The CHV connected them with a health facility in a nearby community that provides care. Together, these things allowed for more time to be spent farming, meaning better nutrition.

These simple things preserved life for Ann, Charles and their family. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act, a bill currently in Congress, has the power to do the same for vulnerable mothers and children around the world. We know what works to save lives, and no person should be without access to these things simply because where they live or where they are born. Recognizing this, this bill urges the U.S. to create a strategy to end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths by 2035. By focusing on the most vulnerable populations this can be a reality.

A healthy mother and a healthy start for her child starts a chain reaction to lift families out of poverty. With health comes economic opportunity. With economic opportunity comes food and nutrition. Good nutrition aids in education. Households grow, worry subsides, and small celebrations, like those of Mother’s Day, can take their place.

Motherhood should be celebrated. Know that you can do a small part, through advocating for the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, to ensure joy is present with every pregnancy, child, and in every family.

Urge Your Members of Congress to Save Children’s Lives

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Christina Bradic is a Seattle native who serves as the Policy Communications Manager at World Vision US, where she has worked on advocacy and global health policy campaigns since 2011. She believes that speaking out for policy change, and encouraging others to use their voice, is one of the most effective ways to create lasting change. Christina holds a Masters of Public Health from the George Washington University and a graduate certificate in Global Health Policy from the University of Washington.