The moment when a mother sees her newborn baby for the first time is a joyous, special occasion. However, sometimes there are instances when that special moment is followed by uncertainty and pain. As a volunteer for Operation Smile, I have experienced the joy and the heartbreak that comes with this type of work.
While motherhood is one of life's greatest joys, it can also lead to tragedy. It is vital that we redouble our efforts to make child bearing and rearing safer. As a global community, we all need to join together to determine what else we can be doing to make sure that women are able to see their children grow up.
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.
During her pregnancy, every expectant mother has bright hopes for the new life she carries. She may have concerns about her ability to care for a newborn. But depending on where she in the world she lives, her fear may be much deeper and more fundamental: "Will my baby survive childbirth?" Or, "Will I?"