When I was a child, my mother used to tell me the story of my own birth at home. I could sense the peace, fulfillment and joy it gave her. She birthed surrounded by my dad, my older sister (who was eleven at the time), her midwife Kristen, and a family practice doctor and close friend of the family, Jose. She gave birth nestled in the one bedroom of my parents’ tiny rental house on Capitol Court here in Austin, TX. I entered the world easily and without complication, my mother’s second and final child. It was obvious that my birth was one of the great moments of my mother’s life. More than thirty years later she still recalls the most minute details of her experience. She tells the story just as vividly and emotionally as she did when I was a child. She has not forgotten.
Mothers never forget the experience of birthing their children. They will remember facts, but mostly they will remember how they felt, how they were treated. Those memories will stay with them for a lifetime. If a mother is surrounded by a loving team of individuals who support her and care for her, then she has good memories. If she feels safe as she brings new life into the world, she has good memories. If she has access to knowledgeable midwifery, medical and emergency care, she has good memories. That is what my mother had, and the joy of those memories has persisted throughout her life.
On the other hand, a mother that births without access to lifesaving medications and medical care will likely feel a great deal of fear when she thinks about her birth. A pregnant mother whose husband beats her every night will have memories of her pregnancy and birth that are full of hopelessness and pain. A refugee mother who gives birth in a foreign land, without a compassionate caretaker by her side, will have dark, lonely memories. The weight of these memories will persist throughout the lives of these mothers.
But these are not just memories. Memories take on a life of their own. Over time memories grow into the psyche and become self-perpetuating patterns. They make more joy, or they make more pain. They make mothers stronger and more capable, or they make them more despondent and more vulnerable. As mothers raise the children they birth, they instill these patterns into their children. And so, the birth experience lives on, generation after generation. A society that provides women with safety, security, and compassion during pregnancy and childbirth is a society that will raise generations of healthy children. A society that values their mothers in their most vulnerable time, when they are creating new life, is a society that also values its future.
The power behind my mother’s story propelled me into the profession of midwifery and maternal health. I want all mothers to have a beautiful, transformative story to tell. I want all women to know the joy of a powerful, safe birth. I want them to know that they are strong and capable and beautiful. Every mother should light up when she remembers the birth of her children, and to be happier, freer and more alive because of it.
This is the work that Circle of Health International is doing. We work to make life, and giving life, safer and more joyful for mothers all over the world. Sometimes we provide safe birth kits, bring in teams of midwives and build birth centers. Sometimes we train community health workers and help to educate the public on gender-based violence so that mothers can live without fear of physical harm. Sometimes we are on the ground right after a natural disaster, like an earthquake or a tsunami, providing much-needed reproductive health care for survivors. We are flexible. Whatever mothers and babies need, we try to provide it. All of their needs are important.
This year, for Mother’s Day, please provide a mother with joyful memories, and help change darkness into light for future generations of women and children. Donate to COHI on Mother’s Day and your donation will be quadrupled by an anonymous donor! (Make sure to make a note that the donation is for “Susan’s Birthday” to qualify the donation for quadrupling).
In Peace and Joy this Mother’s Day,
Michelle Jones, CPM, LM
Director of Programs
Circle of Health International