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
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
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