Victoria, Karli and Rachel are each preparing to give birth to their first child. Photo by Suzy Sainovski, World Vision
A sheet of plastic. Five pieces of gauze, three pieces of string, two plastic gloves. One piece of soap and a scalpel. Can you imagine giving birth with just those few supplies at your disposal? How about delivering a child with no resources at all?
I can’t imagine it for myself – but I’ve seen places where that is the reality. I work for World Vision Australia, as the manager of our Program Resources team – we look after using goods donated by Australian companies and individuals to support our projects overseas. I’ve been working with our partner Birthing Kits Foundation Australia for many months now to find opportunities to help more women in childbirth through World Vision’s Maternal and Child Health programs. I’ve visited health clinics in countries like Zambia, Mongolia and Uganda that are severely under resourced. Maternity wards without gloves, essential drugs or sterile equipment, birthing rooms with an old hospital bed and nothing else. Midwives that talk about not being able to effectively help women because they don’t have all the tools they need to do so.
Now that I’m pregnant with my first child, I’ve been reminded of these experiences in a new light.
I have really enjoyed being pregnant so far and am actually ‘looking forward’ to the birth, believe it or not! Of course I have a few anxious feelings about potentially having to deliver early due to a complication, but all going well, I’m excited about it. I’ve received excellent care from my midwives and partner. Each week as the ‘bump’ gets bigger and bigger, it’s hard to believe an actual human is growing in there without me having to think about it – pretty amazing really that our bodies just know what to do. It’s lovely to experience that feeling and the little (becoming big!) jabs that remind me each day of what’s happening in there. At work, I’m reminded of those women that I’ve met who might be looking forward to giving birth with a greater sense of fear and apprehension.
I thought what better time to continue doing something I’m passionate about and ‘pay it forward’ – so I decided to dedicate my work baby shower to packing clean birthing kits. As it happens, three of my co-workers are pregnant as well – so we joined together to make it an even bigger event!
Over a hundred of our friends and colleagues came along to pack those potentially life-saving supplies into kits that will be used to support maternal and child health in Tanzania. You see, 1 in 38 women in Tanzania don’t survive the labour or die shortly after from complications. In Australia the number is 1 in 8,100. By the end of our ‘Birthing Kit Baby Shower’, we managed to pack 600 kits – that means 600 women and their babies will have access to potentially life-saving supplies.
To women preparing to give birth in Australia, the small collection of supplies included in a clean birthing kit is nothing compared to the world-class medical care we have within our reach. But for a woman preparing to give birth in an under-resourced setting, that clean birthing kit could make all the difference.
Our family and friends have been so generous with helping us to get ready for the baby, and the hospital I’ll be giving birth at is so well equipped to help me do that safely – so it’s great to have the opportunity to help other women experience that too.