It's her day. Sure, they say that about a woman's wedding day, her quinceañera, hell maybe her last teeth-cleaning, but the difference, and an important one, is this: on none of those occasions did she find herself occupied with pushing a human the size of a young pumpkin out of her body via an egress the size of an kumquat.
I laugh a little, because I always laugh when someone talks about farting or peeing and she just mentioned both. And also because Ally, the physical therapist who I just met, is staring at my lady parts. I tense my pelvic floor muscles while she watches. I feel like I am winking at a stranger. With my vagina.
Until I met Mariama, ten years after her agonizing delivery, I had never heard of vesicovaginal fistula (VVF). That's because in the United States, stories like hers haven't been told in more than 100 years. Today, VVF keeps company with obsoletes like smallpox and polio in the shadows of Western medicine, where its symptoms are referenced in the past tense. But in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, more than 2 million women still suffer from the condition.
Once trained, a single midwife can provide care for 500 women every year, including safe delivery of 100 babies. An estimated that 350,000 more midwives are needed around the world to help reduce maternal and child deaths -- but training is prohibitively expensive for most women in the developing world.