There are two little girls that I pick up out of bed almost every morning. One of them is sitting in my office, cradling a stuffed turtle in her arms. She is giving it kisses and singing it to sleep. Now she has another little toy that her imagination has transformed into a bottle. She wants to be a Mommy.
It may happen someday, and when that time comes, I will be a worried, emotional, joyful, wreck. I pray that for her, like her mother, the decision to become a Mom will be completely hers. I pray that she becomes a mother at a mature age, with a loving partner, and has access to health care during and after her pregnancy. I hope that when she gives birth, it will be in a clean environment, surrounded by experts, and access to emergency treatments. I know that giving birth is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do, and I will never take for granted the loving care with which she will be surrounded.
I won’t take it for granted, because I know that there are millions of women worldwide that do not have such care. They do not have control over when they will be married, or when they will become pregnant. They are valued for little more than the children they can produce. They are forced into pregnancy too young, and once they have a child, their only option is to become pregnant again. They are misinformed about how to avoid and delay pregnancies, and once they do become pregnant, they have little guidance about how to have a healthy child.
Giving better education and access to maternal health and family planning is a moral imperative. This is from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s page about maternal health:
Every year, complications from pregnancy and childbirth claim the lives of nearly 300,000 women and permanently disable many more, mostly in developing countries. Mothers suffer primarily from hemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labor, and disorders caused by high blood pressure.
In addition, more than 2.6 million babies are stillborn, another 2.9 million die before they are a month old, and many suffer neurodevelopmental disabilities and impairments. Most neonatal deaths are caused by preterm birth, asphyxia during birth, and infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis.
Effective, low-cost interventions are available, but they are not reaching all of the women and babies who need them. In developing countries, many women deliver at home and rarely see a trained healthcare provider before or after the baby’s birth. Skilled providers in poor countries often lack access to current tools or do not use them. Families may not seek care or follow medical advice.
This is why I am an ambassador for the Healthy Families Healthy Planet project. HFHP is a partnership between the United Methodist Church and the United Nations Foundation. The mission of Healthy Families Healthy Planet is to give mothers a voice. Far too many women have no voice. They have no advocate. HFHP is trying to change that. Two years ago I went to a training in Ohio. I sat in awe of the powerful women that I met. I wondered at that meeting if there was a place for me in this project.
When I thought of my girls, my wife, my sisters, my friends who have given birth and never once wished they had a plastic sheet to lay across their dirt floor as they went into labor, I found my voice. As I learned about complications that women I know and love faced and survived that would mean certain death in other parts of the world, I found my voice. As I practiced my elevator speech, learned addresses of Congressional offices, watched documentaries, and met with Congressional staffs, I found my voice.
I am one father, and I have big dreams for my daughters. As I realized that my dreams were not just for them, but for the daughters of the world, I found my voice. I am one father. I am one voice. I invite you – father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter – to find yours.
On September 6, there is a Healthy Families Healthy Planet training seminar in Peoria, Illinois. Follow the link below (or linked to the logo above) to read a little bit more about the training, and apply to come. There is no cost for the training. It starts at 9 a.m. with breakfast and ends at 6 p.m. with dinner. Come and pray. Come and learn. Come and share stories. Come, and find your voice.