Zambia and Australia are very different countries. But women the world over share the same fears and anxieties going into labour, especially for the first time – will my baby be okay? Will I?
Meet Josephine and Megan. Both were nervous and excited as they prepared for first time motherhood. Both were concerned for their babies’ health during the pregnancy and birth, but only one of them faced a one in 38 chance of dying herself during pregnancy or labour.
Having seen other women in her community in Zambia die giving birth, Josephine faced a very real fear: would this be her fate too?
“As the days were nearing to my delivery time, I was getting more and more worried because I didn’t want to deliver from home,” said Josephine. “It takes about a four hour walk to [the nearest] clinic and over four hours to walk to [another]. Some mothers and children have died because of delivering from their homes.”
Distance may be an issue in outback Australia, but the vast majority of Australian women know they will share the delivery suite with a trained carer or medical professional. For Megan, skilled and trained medical staff in Brisbane could have been the difference between life and death for her, during what became a dangerous delivery:
“I was so fortunate to be where I was when my labour became complicated. I was taken to theatre where 13 or 14 experienced medical staff were waiting – among them a neonatal specialist, a paediatrician, a midwife, a surgeon and anaesthetist.”
Although Megan wasn’t fully aware during the labour how much danger she herself was in, she says she was reassured by the expertise in the room with her. “I was starkly aware of how fortunate I was to have them there, and I definitely felt reassured. I can’t imagine the terror I would have felt in that situation if I was a first time mother in a developing country and I was alone or with untrained people,” said Megan.
Back in Zambia, Josephine’s anxiety eased when she was six months’ pregnant: a World Vision-built clinic opened in her community. Josephine safely delivered baby Zinia at the clinic, one of the centre’s first babies.
“My heart filled with joy and gratitude when I heard that World Vision has constructed Makoka clinic,” said Josephine. “What would have happened to me and the baby I have now if I never had access to the clinic? I feel either my baby or both of us would have died before or during delivery. There was no way I could have managed to walk to [other] clinics...I thank God it has come to pass and we are both alright,” she said.
Megan’s daughter London was injured during the birth and was in pain in the following days. “I held my daughter for only a matter of seconds then she was taken away to the Special Care Unit. I wasn’t able to hold her again for a couple of days as she was kept in an isolette in the nursery to stabilise her breathing and blood sugars, and to allow her head wound to heal.” But Megan and her daughter were fortunate, far more fortunate than Josephine and her daughter would have been in the same circumstances.
“I received excellent postnatal care from the midwifery team and other medical staff,” said Megan. “I didn’t have to go out to earn money for my family. Instead, both London and I both remained in hospital with access to the right specialists, to enable us both to make a full recovery.”
Megan’s daughter is healthy and happy and approaching her first birthday, and Megan has returned to work with World Vision. Her experience and her work has made her aware that too many stories like hers and Josephine’s – when they happen in the developing world – don’t have a happy ending.
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