Like so many of you my family and I recently celebrated the holidays. Ours were particularly special this year because I gave birth to my third child just two days after Christmas. Each time I have given birth safely, I have felt a sense of joy and accomplishment. Inevitably during the days that follow, however, the memory of the loss of my aunt Abena Kara in childbirth always crosses my mind. The loss of my dad’s sister Abena was a pivotal moment in my life.
I remember thinking to myself at the age of 12, why do mothers have to die like this?
Growing up in Northern Ghana, maternal deaths were relatively common; it seemed that most families had lost either a mother or child during childbirth. The loss of my young, vibrant, beautiful aunt was especially difficult for our family, because she had done everything right. When we went to her home after her death to clean and pack up her things we found her prenatal book. Despite being illiterate and supporting herself and her two young sons through long hours of selling fish, my aunt had never missed a prenatal visit. She had also saved funds and managed to go to the hospital to deliver her baby, but there was no medication available to help her when her preeclamsia was detected. She began to have seizures and eventually became comatose. Her baby died that day and my Aunt Abena died two days later.
With my first child, I also experienced preeclampsia, but my outcome and medical treatment were much different. I was surrounded by doctors and nurses, monitoring my blood pressure, ready to intervene at any moment. In the years that have passed since my Aunt Abena’s death, Ghana has made significant progress towards reducing maternal, newborn and child deaths. It is my hope and prayer that our efforts as a Network will continue to accelerate progress in MNCH globally. I continue to remain grateful that I am here today and was able to wholeheartedly celebrate the birth of my son. At the same time I am cognizant of the fact that I am part of a fantastic Network which seeks to make this a reality for mothers around the world.
By Deborah Mensah Awere, CanWaCH
March 3, 2014
Deborah Mensah Awere
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