This I Believe

Liam - San Francisco, California
Entered on April 9, 2007

Submission: “This I Believe”


Every woman knows that motherhood takes guts. It is often a long-haul test of endurance and strength. And while it gets a lot of attention, I don’t believe it gets the respect it deserves.

As I did research in order to mount the International Museum of Women’s Motherhood Project, I discovered that worldwide, every year, 14.4 million mothers and infants die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. That’s close to 40,000 deaths per day—over 1600 an hour, and more than 26 per minute. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable, and have been for years.

Hallmark estimates that in 2006 Americans sent over 150 million cards for Mother’s Day, and that the average household spent about $100 on gifts. And while breakfast in bed might be a nice gesture, doing something to help prevent mothers unnecessarily dying in childbirth seems like a much more fundamental topic on which to focus. And around the world, mothers and infants are indeed dying —in numbers so high it’s almost shameful to mention.

They are invisible to us, these women and infants. They live largely in villages in developing countries, beyond the reach of hospitals. They are women like Halima in Ethiopia, who had her first child at age 16, when her body was not developed enough for the task. Her baby died during a labor so prolonged that it produced a rip—or fistula. Women with fistula have no control over their urination—they leak wherever they go and are ostracized from society because of their smell.

In 2005, our national spending on Mothers’ Day totaled close to 11.5 billion dollars.

For a donation of $50– roughly the cost of a nice bouquet of flowers for mom—you can enable an organization like UC San Francisco to purchase and use a device called a “Lifewrap.” Lifewraps are simple velcro-based pressure wraps that can be applied to women who are hemorrhaging after childbirth—preventing them from bleeding to death before they can get proper care. One lifewrap can be reused on about fifty women– so your $50 dollars helps save fifty lives

My mother worked hard to open doors so that I could enjoy the full potential of my life. She taught me the importance of paying attention and showing respect. When Mother’s Day rolls around this year, I’m not only going to cook her a nice meal and spend the day with her, I’m also going to make a donation in her name to—or one of the many other organizations that are doing great work to improve the maternal health of women globally.

I was well schooled—It’s my way of paying attention and showing respect at the same time.