Sunday, May 13, 2012

No Mothers Day

Mothers Day is like the Christmas of the mom blog world.  It's the mother load (ahem...); a celebration of much of what we focus on in our writing; an acknowledgement of our struggles and sacrifices, of our inherent worth.  Of all the times we kiss skinned knees and wipe away tears; the times we keep our cool in the face of tantrums and sit with our kids pretending to remember how to multiply fractions.

The mom blogosphere will be all a twitter.  The twit-osphere will... explode? with poignant remembrances of our own mothers, tales of our children finding touchingly unique ways to express their love, and funny accounts of how well meaning husbands clumsily failed at giving us a break.

So, I won't do any of that.  You've probably had your fill.

But I want to use this celebration of mothers to say something close to my heart.

Just two months ago I became a mother to my second son.  He's, objectively speaking, the sweetest baby currently alive on the planet.

A few weeks after his birth a friend's sister died due to complications from childbirth, orphaning her children and devastating her family.  It hit me hard, and I think about it often.  The unfairness of it all.  The fact that the wealthy world is insulated from such preventable tragedies that are a fact of life for so many.

And living in Kenya these inequities are hard to avoid. 

This is an important issue to me, so I was heartenend when a friend shared this video by the Every Mother Counts campaign about maternal mortality.

Did you watch it?  Did something strike you? 

OK. The statistics are undeniably devastating, and it seems clear that these women believe in the cause.  But what's the ask?  Here it is: The Every Mother Counts campaign wants us all to be SILENT on mother's day (don't answer the phone, update your status or accept gifts), with the goal of... (wait for it....)  spreading the word.  Staring a conversation.  It makes no ever-loving sense!

If someone doesn't answer their phone on Mother's Day, I'll assume she went to brunch. 

But I'm a good mark for this campaign.  I care about the issue and am ready to do something. So, I think their strategy is a bit ... let's just be nice and say "perplexing," but maybe there's somewhere I can donate. I go to their facebook page, which has an option "share" the video or "donate." 

Great.  I'm ready to donate, to help at-risk mothers, to help prevent needless deaths.  But that link takes me to a page where I can donate to the "advocacy and mobilization campaign."  The very campaign which has just proved its ineptitude.      

Is this an activism fail? 

It might even be a slacktivism fail.

At best.  At worst it's a wasted opportunity. 

And I don't think all "awareness raising" is bogus. This is a very neglected issue in the international policy space and could use some sunlight, some pressure on the world stage. 

But here's the thing:  The root causes of maternal mortality, of a woman dying every 90 seconds from complications (90% of which are preventable) or suffering lifelong disabilities from childbirth, are poverty, sexism and culture. 

It's from young girls forced into early marriages whose pelvises strain to carry and deliver a baby; women too poor or isolated to get pre-natal care or be attended at birth by a trained professional; women who are cut off from the decisions about how to spend their family's meager income and not valued enough that it be spent on their care; from countries too poor to provide health care. 

So, who are we putting pressure on to change these things?  If this is a symptom of poverty, we need services.  Money.  Advocacy sure, but money. 

To be fair to Christy Turlington's Every Mother Counts campaign, they do support NGOs which are providing tangible services to areas in need.  If you dig a little further on their Website you can find places which are presumably doing good work on the ground.  In fact, one of the few that they support is directly in my neighborhood of Western Kenya, providing motorbikes to community health workers to increase access to maternal health care.

So here's my Mother's Day gift to you:  If you are moved by this cause, and I assuming every mother who has had the luxury of access to quality health care, even if they chose a home birth, -- I'm looking at  you mom bloggers -- is moved, here is a link to the page featuring some organizations doing work to prevent maternal morbidity and mortality.

And a few more places, becase it's good to have options:

Maybe it's tacky to ask something of mothers on the very day they are to be pampered.  But if it's a day we are to celebrate mothers, I want to celebrate by being thankful that I was given the gift of becoming a mother -- that it was my choice, that I survived the birth, that my chilren are thriving.  It's not a given.  And what better way to do so than to help make sure this is a reality shared by as many women as possible.

Thanks for reading and Happy Mother Day!

Even though it is no longer Mother's Day, I'm linking this up with Yeah Write. I thought about not doing it, but then I figured if I believe in this cause the more people who read about it the better.  Just consider it the Mo' Mothers Day Week. read to be read at


  1. I was so perplexed by that video when I first saw it. It was so...ridiculous. "Let's raise awareness by...saying and doing nothing. And not telling anyone what we're doing."

    1. I know! It's like they were just jumping on the Kony 2012 bandwangon and not thinking it through...

  2. One of the reasons I went into fund raising is that I truly believed in the power of not-for-profits to change communities. And, if you believe in the mission, then the mission needs resources to affect change. Belief in the mission makes it easy to ask people for money. If you read your blog closely, aside from being a policy analyst, you have the makings of a great fund raiser. I am so proud!



  3. check this out please

  4. Hello Fellow African Kim, I discovered your blog via yeah write. It does seem very odd to communicate by not communicating.

  5. Thank you for the ACTUAL spreading of the word. Every "normal" birth is a blessing and an absolute miracle. Childbirth in the United States use to be on of the most dangerous things a woman could do and in our insulation we have forgotten about places where this is still true.
    Strong post. Ellen

  6. This hit me right in the gut. I almost died from a postpartum hemorrhage after the birth of my first daughter. It was terrifying- more for my family as I don't remember much of that time. I never even considered the possibility- women don't die in childbirth in the US anymore, right? I found out just how wrong I was. Thank you for spreading this message!

  7. It isn't tacky to use the day to ask mothers to help mothers who don't have access to healthcare. In fact, to me Mother's Day would be SO much better if it was all about helping mothers in the Third World. What a great idea. PS: I have donated to the Fistula Org. I love it.

  8. great post, and i agree with you. and what you call "perplexing" i thought of as a marketing fail when i first saw it, well-intentioned but just not quite...there.

  9. Great job raising awareness for this very worthy cause!

  10. Sigh, it's such a bittersweet holiday. Good for you for blogging about an issue - that's better than staying silent!

  11. "it's not a given" So true. So easy to forget that when, for many, myself included, it feels like a given. I never, ever thought I wouldn't survive childbirth. Even when things were getting tricky, I never worried I'd die. How selfish of me to not think how many women DO die when things get tricky. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  12. Glad you didn't jump on the "let's be silent" bandwagon. Strong post, worthy cause, much to think on.

  13. The campaign is quite odd. Also, Dooce's hair is looking terrible ;) HOWEVER! This is a great Mothers Day post. I have to admit I skimmed past nearly all the Mothers Day posts in my reader, including my own! But not this one. The thought of going though a regular childbirth in my grandmother's generation, in my home country of Australia, is terrifying because there were no drugs and one was attended by nuns. It doesn't compare to what such a large part of the world goes through still today in childbirth. We're so lucky.

  14. I don't understand the silence aspect, either. I would think that Mother's day would be the perfect time for mothers to call attention to other mothers who aren't as fortunate. As I read the "don't answer the phone" part, I thought of my adult son who lives in another state. I don't get to see him every day nor get to spend an hour talking to him. We're both busy. I would be crushed and I'm sure he would be disappointed if I ignored him when he called me to wish me a Happy Mother's Day. I'm not all that comfortable in disappointing my son just to raise awareness for a cause.

    I think you've done a good job raising awareness on your own.

  15. Um yeah, let's get the word out - everybody say NOTHING! Hopefully someone will point out the obvious to them in what had the potential to be a very effective campaign. I'm so glad you chose to post on this though. Living where maternal morbidity in childbirth is uncommon, we need that reminder to be thankful and to show our thankfulness by helping others in whatever way we can.

  16. Thank you for putting this into excellent clarity. I was thinking something similar when I heard about it - except I stopped at "That makes no sense." You've managed to create ACTIVISM out of (what I think is) a misguided attempt.


  17. I love this idea. There is no gift I can afford to buy that would ever express to my mother how grateful I am for her. This would be so much better than the "token" gift I end up getting her.

  18. i'm so glad you linked this! this is an issue that deserves to be read every day but ESPECIALLY mother's day. thank you.

  19. Great post,mthanks for sharing this important cause!

  20. Stay silent? Interesting form of advocacy in this case. Good thing you didn't!

  21. This is an issue that's been on my radar since I was pregnant with my first child. Thanks for bringing some (actual) awareness to it, and for all the links. Well said.

  22. Thank you so much for actually raising awareness to this issue. I agree; that campaign's good intentions were hidden behind doing nothing, a tactic that does not work.

  23. Very strange course of action. Aren't the majority of people already (albeit unintentionally) doing nothing?

  24. Excellent post, Kim, and incredibly well argued.