Editor’s note: Today, we welcome new contributor and World View Wednesday voice Colleen Mitchell to our CatholicMom.com family. Colleen currently serves as a missionary in Costa Rica and blogs at Blessed Are The Feet. I’m personally thrilled about learning from such a wonderful voice and excited about all that Colleen will share with us. LMH
One of my very favorite parts about being pregnant was always choosing a name for my baby. Even in the pain of multiple miscarriages, there was joy to be found in giving my child a name. I always regarded it as an honor and a privilege bestowed on me as a mother by God. But I never regarded it as a privilege of prosperity, as a privilege afforded to me by class and income.
Recently, my friend Damasis showed up to visit for a while on my front porch, making the long journey from her home in the mountains of the indigenous reserve lands of Costa Rica to the front door of our family’s mission home. She had brought her new baby girl so I could meet her. I rejoiced excitedly with her over a beautiful little being with a bright smile and shock of thick black hair standing up on her head. And then I asked what her name was. Damasis just smiled and said she did not quite know yet. She is not the first of my Cabecar indigenous friends to not know her child’s name. Maybe it’s cultural.
Or maybe it’s due to the fact that in their lives, there is no “baby moon”. The joyous time of preparation that we know as we await the birth of a child and the sweet first days that we mothers try so hard to savor amid sleeplessness and chaos are far from guaranteed to these mothers, who have to walk hours or sometimes days just to reach public transportation that will traverse them the two further hours to access medical care. These mothers for whom premature labor is life-threatening, for whom preeclampsia or heavy postpartum bleeding can be a death sentence, these mothers whose babies die at alarming rates from completely preventable causes.
And my Cabecar friends here in the most rural part of Costa Rica are not alone. Women all over the world face dangers we could never imagine during pregnancy, child birth, and their child’s first days. And nearly 4 million babies die in their first 28 days of life every year. Nearly 80% of these are born to mothers in developing nations, with especially high rates attributed to Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asian nations. Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers Annual Report estimates that nearly 3 million of these deaths could be prevented with access to prenatal and postpartum care and simple solutions like corticosteroids to promote lung development in premature infants and antibiotic cream to promote proper cord care and prevent infections in newborns.
As a Catholic mother who has lived her married years learning the great joy and pain it means to open your heart to life, advocating for the world’s mothers and their babies has become a great passion of mine. The work we do on their behalf is done in the honor of my sixth son, Bryce, who earned his sainthood at the three months old. Bearing the pain of that loss and then being given an opportunity to find hope in caring about and for mothers who have no one to care for them has been healing for my personal sorrow. And it has placed a burden on my heart and a given me strong conviction that a truly pro-life world view will require us as Catholics open our eyes to the aforementioned issues and assure that every mother and every child matters around the world.
We can start by educating ourselves about the primary problems in global maternal health care and simple solutions that could save moms and babies. The State of the World’s Mothers annual report is a great guide to gathering information on this topic.
We can then take what should always be our first line of defense, action, and advocacy on any issue–that is to pray. So many of us spiritually adopt children in danger of abortion and pray for them. Why not add a mother and child in a developing nation to those prayers? Choose a country that tugs your heart for whatever reason. Find an image of a mother and child from that place. Put it in your Bible or prayer book, post it on your refrigerator, and offer a little prayer every day for the babies that will be born in that country that day and for their mamas.
You can take concrete action by becoming a supporter of St. Bryce Missions St. Francis Emmaus Center which offers access to medical care, support and education to indigenous mothers in Costa Rica. Spread the word about the Center on social media. Become a financial supporter. Host a small event to raise awareness about the need and the outreach to meet it. There are many resources needed for the educational workshops we provide for new mothers. You could hold a drive for these items or host a fundraiser for one of the items on the Center’s wishlist.
Most importantly, you can become a voice for the mothers of the world who welcome babies alone and scared, in dangers we could never even imagine, with the very real fear that they or their child will not survive birth or the first days afterwards. Let’s pray together that one day all mothers will be able to enjoy the sweet satisfying moments of their “baby moon” rather than facing those days unsupported and afraid.
Will you be praying for moms and babies with us? Where does the mama God has put on your heart live? What support did you receive as a new mom that you wish you could offer this mama?
Copyright 2014 Colleen Mitchell