Friday, February 7, 2014

Serving the World’s Poor and Working-Class Women

The care given by a midwife may come down to whether a mother and baby live or die. It’s the only contact they may have with any kind of professional care, by those who have the capacity to love and be compassionate of others.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that at least 350,000 women die each year during pregnancy or childbirth, and 4.6 million babies die because of inadequate maternal and post-natal healthcare. For millions of women in the United States and around the world, a midwife is the only contact a mother and baby may have with any kind of professional care. The care given by a midwife in many instances comes down to whether a mother and her baby live or die.

In northern Nigeria’s Jigawa state, Aisha Moh’d Kazaure, with the help of the U.K. Paths2 aide, set up the state’s first midwifery school. She is the school’s principal. It's a region in which 1 in 23 mothers die in childbirth and 1 in 10 babies do not survive.

Yet Sherifa, (pictured above) says, “I want to be like our principal, I see her as a mentor. She's very inspiring. This is what I'm called for; this is what I'm supposed to do.” Sherifa’s life focus is to teach others to become midwives. To devote one’s life to saving the lives of thousands of mothers and their babies in one of the most dangerous places in the world is unarguably an unselfish heroic act of love and compassion.

In her book, Laboring: Stories of a New York City Hospital Midwife, Nurse-midwife Ellen Cohen exemplifies the kind of professionalism and care a midwife brings to mothers and their babies in the United States. Unlike Sherifa, Cohen’s midwife circumstances and her remuneration are different but in other ways alike. The 1,400 babies she delivered and cared for in the United States as in Jigawa are not of middle-class healthy women but of poor and working-class women who often live under very difficult financial, physical and mental health circumstances. The situations facing these midwives, mothers and babies are, more often than not, precarious, and the prenatal and natal care given in hospitals, clinics, or in some other environment is far from ideal.

Much of the time, we use hero to describe a person in a way other than in its actual meaning. We have war, sports, film, and entertainment idols, of whom we often describe as our heroes and virtually worship them. We put world leaders, popes and other religious leaders on pedestals and in one way or another refer to them as heroes.

But most of the time we never acknowledge some of life’s genuine heroes. They are the unsung heroes, like Cohen and Sherifa, who perform mundane work behind the scenes, outside the public eye, who have a choice to do what they do or not, improving the lives of others in significant ways, living their lives without ever receiving the recognition they deserve. Their work in some cases, like Sherifa's work someday will, requires self-sacrifice, their focus, drive, and purpose in life is only to serve the greater good for humanity. It’s work that can only be done by those who have the capacity to love and be compassionate of others.

Copyright © 2014 Horatio Green