Mothers and Babies

Here's a helpful hint... Mother's Day is May 13. That's right, you still have time. Bearing that in mind, I have a few words for you about mothers and babies.

Kenya is a difficult place to be a baby. 78 out of a thousand babies die here before they get to their first birthday.  That's almost 1 in 10.

Losing so many babies means that Kenya is also a difficult place to be a mother. These mothers lose 1 in 10 of their babies, and childbirth is a very dangerous time for them too. Far too many of the mothers come close to death or even die. And most of these lost babies and lost mothers die from things that we absolutely know how to fix.  We lose them because they cannot get to a hospital or get to a doctor when something goes wrong during delivery. We lose babies because we have not had the basic equipment to give them the medicines and warmth and oxygen they need.

Before the new Riley Mother and Baby Hospital opened up at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in western Kenya, we tried our best to take care of these babies in a single room that was about 12 feet by 12 feet.  The babies rested in wooden "cubicles" and we had a few oxygen connections.  The entire room was kept as blazingly hot as possible since there were not individual isolettes or incubators to keep the babies warm.  We saved some babies there, but we lost a lot too.  At the most, we could fit 20 babies in that room - the sickest and smallest of the babies.

I remember one mother and baby especially. There was a very little baby girl who was born 8 weeks too early. In Kenya, babies who are born early very often don't survive. This baby's mother was so convinced that her baby was going to die that she couldn't bring herself to see the baby as we tried to keep the baby warm and tried to keep her breathing. She was so afraid. Thankfully, that little girl did survive, and her mother named her Rose. This is a picture of me holding her. I remember Rose so well because I remember needing to stand next to her little bed and rub her chest over and over again to restart her breathing when she stopped breathing. I was afraid we were going to lose this one, but thankfully Rose held in there.

But now, thanks to the generosity of many donors, we have a much better option for these mothers and babies.  We can help many more babies conquer their mothers' fears and all of the odds against them. I breathe a silent prayer of gratitude every time I walk by the Riley Mother and Baby Hospital. I am grateful for all the people, most of whom were far away in Indiana, who gave money to make this place possible.

10,000 babies a year are now delivered in this hospital. This beautiful facility has truly made the world different for thousands of mothers and babies in Kenya. And I hope you can see in the faces of these mothers and nurses how much pride they have in being in this hospital.  They are so thrilled to have this building, this equipment, this place to deliver their babies in, this place that can really take care of babies even when things go wrong.

A Kenyan I know well, someone I have worked with, became pregnant in the year before the Riley Mother and Baby Hospital opened. Unfortunately, her water broke very early and she ended up needing to deliver her baby prematurely. Her son was born at just 28 weeks of gestation (that's 12 weeks early), one of the first deliveries in the new hospital. He weighed less than 3 pounds, and he was brought to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (the NICU).  I worried about them. Most babies born this early do not survive in Kenya. I will never forget how this little one, with good care in the brand-new NICU, managed to grow and survive. My friend and her husband gave him a name that means "God is with us", and she told me that they felt like God was with them by enabling the baby to be born at this new hospital and for him to be able to receive care there.

So, here's the Mother's Day part. One of the very best Mother's Day presents that I can think is to give money in honor of your mother for the training and equipment needed to keep this hospital saving babies' lives. This has become my Mother's Day tradition. I thank my mother for giving me life by helping to save other babies' lives. Now, you certainly don't have to do exactly the same, but I would encourage you to stop and think about what actions or gifts you might undertake on behalf of the mothers of the world for this Mother's Day. I'm sure we can all find new ways to honor our mothers -- and the world's mothers -- with our loving actions and gifts.





Posted at 15:07


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