A Call to Womanhood: Birthright

Study for Hope II by Gustav Klimt, 1907

I remember the first time I realized there was a “right way” to have a baby.

I was twenty-four year old shop girl with a belly that no longer fit into the clothes I had carried from college. The little girl inside of me had been wanted, sought and waited on. But the state of pregnancy was unnatural for me. I carried it apart from myself.  Other women rejoice over the journey of pregnancy. I felt it with bewilderment of a native population confronting the first onslaught of an occupying force. That baby asserted herself with nausea  and elbows and the stretched canvas of my body.

Every morning I breathed into the cold outside and reminded myself that my daughter, a spirit with a will and a hope and a way, would be found at the end of my nine month long commitment.

In my years of retail, I found that few things make people more impertinent or entitled than seeing another human being behind a cash register. Perhaps it is a desire to return to a British master/servant relationship? I mean, what is a society without a class of people that can take the abuse of its wealthier citizens? Amiright? The stories are numerous, hilarious and disturbing. (Like the time a woman used me as a sounding board while she talked about the sexual proclivities of a man she was with “three boyfriends before this one”. And then only bought a necklace that was marked half off.)

Never was this distasteful impudence more evident than the months I was pregnant. Men and women alike thought that my role as size retriever made them experts on me and the pregnancy I was gulping my way through. They told me what I should eat, what I should wear and the best exercises. One woman told me her husband had kept her from tearing during delivery because he had been so diligent about massaging and stretching her cervix. Al the while, he nodded enthusiastically beside her.

Ahem.

By far, the most advice I received had to do with the actual delivery of my baby. There were cash register screeds against elective c-sections, dressing room tirades against epidurals and shoe fitting soliloquies on the beauty of the at home water birth.  I was told time and time again that women were having their babies the wrong way. Hadn’t I seen the documentaries? Wasn’t I concerned about severing our mother-daughter bond before it even began?  Hospitals are traumatic, doctors evil and –gasp! – I could never have something as precious as my baby in a place that was built to make money!

Here is the thing, I didn’t think these women with their banners of self-righteousness thrust up in the air were all wrong. I still don’t. I can appreciate the beauty of the moments they gleamed on about as they tried on dresses. I think there are valid points to be made about necessary changes to the way our medical system approaches birth, death and everything in between. In between the lines of anger and smugness, I could see that these women were trying to gain control over a beautiful thing that has been threatened in one way or another for years. And honestly, at the end of the day you could decide to have your baby in a watermelon field under the new moon while druids dance around you. As long as it is what is best for mama and baby, I simply don’t care. (Although if you ever do that…please invite me. It has been so long since I enjoyed a frolic with real live pagans.)

I did (and do) have a problem with their certainty and condemnation. I listened to women slash at their sisters in motherhood. When discussing epidurals, one customer said casually, as if anyone with sense would agree, “How can a woman bond with her children if she didn’t even feel them come into the world?” Indeed.* They proclaimed the superiority of letting nature run its course throughout the duration of labor. Each one did her good deed in teaching this little shopgirl the wheres and whats of modern morality. Then they sauntered out of the store into their air conditioned cars which drove them to their educated children who they then took to a home full of food in a country with hope.

Choice, and the need to condemn the choices of others, is often a privilege reserved for the wealthy.

Wealth is not measured in valets and vacation homes. Wealth is having carpet on your floor instead of dirt, wealth is opportunity instead of necessity, wealth is speaking and not being silenced.

Our sisters in Zimbabwe are not wealthy, our sisters in Zimbabwe live from necessity to necessity – if they live at all, our sisters in Zimbabwe are being silenced.

Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world. Depending the the method you use, Zimbabwe’s average annual income ranges from $150 to $480. (One report put it as high as $2,180.) It costs $50 to have a baby in a hospital. Most women can’t afford to have their children in Zimbabwe’s inadequate hospitals. However, some scrape together the money and make it to the hospital, their bellies full of the baby ready to born.

“Why?”, the proselyting woman with the venti cup full of indignation cries, “Why would they take themselves from nature? Where are their birth pools and sense of womanhood? They don’t need all that intervention! All that clinical noise. Don’t they know any better?”

Currently the maternal mortality rate in Zimbabwe is 50% higher than the Sub-Saharan Africa average and three times higher than the global average. According to UNICEF, its infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births is 43. In a country rife with AIDS, corruption and ignorance, hospitals are most Zimbabwe women’s best worst chance of a healthy delivery. They don’t have the luxury of sanctified opinion.

A recent news story made a horrific and verified claim, a hospital in one of the country’s poorest regions was charging its female patients $5 per scream during child birth. The hospital called the incredible charge a punishment for “raising a false alarm”. The women that could not pay the fine were detained within the walls of the hospital until their families raised the money. Each day’s detainment added an additional fee to the initial charge.

This, my friends, this is womanhood under assault. This is the destruction of the natural order of things. This is evil and excess and corrupted profit. These are women betrayed into silence and fear. That is what it looks like when the core of who we are as women is belittled and violated.

The ills of one society should never blind us to the flaws of our own. We should each be outspoken about the changes we want in our home, town and nation. Our ability and desire to speak up, move out and motivate change is one of the things I most love about being a woman. But I can’t help but feel that in this moment, in this discussion of birthing rights, in this cause, some of that energy could be spent on behalf of women that have literally lost their voices.

Oh, mothers!

I admire each of you – the ones that labor at home, in the hospital, at birthing centers and in tubs, pools, standing up, laying down or crouched on all fours. No matter how you do it, birth is a beautiful, sacred, world moving thing. And my star in heaven, isn’t it amazing that so many of us are given the ability to choose how we will participate in the rite of giving life? That we get to gather knowledge and hopes and put them both to work? We should continue to educate and inform and enlighten. There can always be changes made for the better. But we have to leave the judgment, the anger, and the smug condemnation behind. Choice is a birthright of elevated circumstance.  Let’s begin to celebrate the choices of others and their right to make them.

And then, after the joy of discovering the diverse ways we achieve the same great hope, let us go to work. There are women and children waiting for us. They need us to yell and write and sweat on their behalf. They need us to make choice a matter of course, not a matter of circumstance. They need us to help them create a place where they scream life into this world. And, I hope soon, we will all discover that we need them, too. Our sisterhood of ideas, hope, inspiration and voice will be an echoing, incomplete thing until all are gathered in.

*I am the proud recipient of two smack my face and hand me a brownie epidurals. They were positively delicious. It did not affect the bond I have with my daughters one whit. I fully love them each at least half of the time.

How to help? There are so many ways. Just one? I think giving women economic freedom can go a long way to giving them complete freedom. Microfinance is one way to achieve that. Watch this documentary on it to learn more.

One microfinance institution that has been very well reviewed by Give Well is The Small Enterprise Foundation. They specialize in helping women.

 

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46 Comments


  1. This series may just be the most empowering thing on the internet right now. No joke.

    I’ve experienced some similar situations that you had while in retail: I work at a company that helps midwives get paid by insurance companies, so I’m surrounded by very “pro-natural” women constantly. While my perspective on birth has changed since working here, I have found it disturbing how quickly women, on both ends of the spectrum, are willing to judge and criticize others for their birthing choice. At a time when womanhood should be the most celebrated, it’s unsettling to realized that our sex is often our biggest opponent. I’m glad I’m not alone in this vein of thought; love this post!

    • My goodness, Jessica. Thank you.

      And yes, I love that we can educate ourselves, change our minds and define our choices. I don’t know why we are often our own biggest enemy. That concept is so unsettling and has so much history behind it, I am not sure that it will ever change. Can’t we all just get along (and then change the world)?

  2. Beautiful. Also, we should swap stories about unsolicited advice while pregnant. You couldn’t imagine how people love to open up about birthing tips face down and nude on the massage table. Jaw dropping.

  3. I think this is a cop out. Sorry that you couldn’t handle the truth when you were pregnant.

  4. I struggled and struggled with my womanhood with my first. I had a crazy hard pregnancy (kidney stones, losing 20 lbs, throwing up 5-10 times a day for 6 months then still being sick the rest of the time). People always made comments about how “they hate throwing up so they just didn’t” or they had a “high tolerance of pain.” Oh how much I cried to my husband about my weaknesses because I couldn’t work through my pregnancy like every other women. He would always tell me that only we knew what we were going through and everyone else could only guess. Then she was born through a c-section we opted to have (lack of progress and baby distress). People, even family, were so quick to tell us the terribleness of c-sections and how could we opt to have one. Only emergency c-sections were acceptable. But once again, my husband would remind me that no one was in the hospital room but us. No one could pray to God for help and guidance for us, but us. And now with our second, another c-section. (And I must say, I begged those nurses for a epidural the second I got to the hospital… both births) I feel a little more secure in our choices (and my “pain tolerance level”) but it hurts me that I even have to defend myself and my choices.

    This is a long way of saying I love when my friends defend everyone’s right to birth the way they chose and that we all can still love our children just as much as the next person. I love when my friends are open minded and loving. And I love how you brought it back to the fact that we are lucky to even have a choice and the ability to birth the way that we want to. Not only should we stand up for ourselves and our choices but others too.

    P.S. I am having a lot of writer envy. You write concisely, beautifully, with intelligence and research. No wonder so many people read your work. Well done, Meg, well done.

    • Oh, Alicia!

      Thank you for sharing your story here. It is a good story, an important story. I am so proud of you for being so strong.

      I always so love your insight.

      And don’t have writer envy. You are an amazing writer with so much to say. Lucky girl.

  5. Get it girl! I am so passionate about this subject. I agree with you 100%. As many first time moms, I heard it all too. The only thing I’d change about my birthing experience is letting the women that told me I was doing it wrong get into my head, because I know now that I did it all right. I did it right for me, and no amount of nay sayers will change that.

    I didn’t know why, but at the time I let the close minded women make me feel guilty. I heard all their opinions, and being a first time mom, I wondered if they were all true. Would my decisions really impact the bond with my baby? I remember being in the hospital and when I was asked if I was interested in an epidural, I said yes and felt both a wave of relief and guilt. Those women were getting in my head! At that point, I had been in labor for over 24 hours and had hardly progressed.

    Now looking back, I wish I would have only listened to myself. I know a lot of open minded, all natural gals and I have loved listening to their stories! But none of their stories are my story. I ended up being in labor for over 36 hours of labor. Then I pushed for over 3 hours and pushed a nine and a half pounder with a 15″ head into the world and it did a number to my body. I felt every moment of it. I didn’t feel the pain but I felt that bond forming that I was so worried about screwing up. I was awake and was ready to be this prince’s mom. Our bond was instant. He’s my boy, I’m his mom. No water birth, all-natural birth, c-section, epidural, or any other kind of birth will change that.

    The next time I have a baby, I’ll be making these decisions all over again. But next time, no matter what I choose, I’ll hold my head proud and do what I feel is right for me and my baby. Who knows! Maybe it’ll be a water birth!

    • Girlfriend, This. YES!

      I feel the same way. And I love that your take away was to be more sure of yourself and more open to the process…whatever that might mean.

      I really like you, sister.

  6. First: very nicely writ, Meg. I love your thoughtful, inclusive tone. And I like the idea that the rich kids in the global family need to stop whining about who has the best doll house and get on with the business of helping the poor kids.

    Second: In my day there was no “birth-plan” there was just “birth.”

    Besides, I’m convinced that angels attend every birth anyway, so your “God spoke to me while I delivered my baby at home” story is no more holy than my “God spoke to me while the obstetrician incised my uterus in the surgical suite” story. Seriously. Who cares?

    Third: I really do care. The divisiveness among women of this generation seems to be widening. Or maybe because of our ability to communicate with a wider range of women and our increased courage to be honest about our lives – we are just more aware of divisiveness that has always been there. I don’t know. But this post made me wonder about that. Whatever the reason, it’s a curious thing.

    Keep writing. Have a nice day.

    • P.S. “your” in that third paragraph refers to the universal “you.” I don’t know your birth story, Meg. But I’m sure it’s well-written.

    • Melody,

      I simply adore when you stop my little corner of the internet. And this comment! Yes! Yes! Yes! A thousand times over.

      I have been pondering the division between women, too and have not come up with very many answers I feel comfortable posting here. I will probably write it all up and post it soon…but then I will have to take a week off to hide from all the hate mail.

      I like that we are in a world where we are both writing. Makes me feel pretty good.

  7. Thank you for not being afraid to speak your mind! It infuriates me when people put women down for the way they choose to deliver their baby. I haven’t experienced what it’s like to give birth outside of a hospital, but I have gone through labor and deliver both with an epidural and without any pain medication. Let me just say there is no one right way from my experience! Both have their benefits and their downsides, but neither have affected my ability to bond with my children or deliver healthy babies. If only the judgmental people in our society could find something of true importance on which to focus their efforts…

    • I love this. There is no right way. Just the way that is right for YOU. Thank you so much for reading, Stacia! So great to see you here!

  8. Meg, I am sorry you feel judged. You are in the majority – the super-super majority – of American women choosing to birth in the hospital with an epidural.

    I found it fascinating that you felt like women who chose other birth options were condescending, rude and judgmental about your choices and I am truly sorry you felt that they were.

    Maybe they really just are that rude, but I don’t think all moms are that clueless. Could it be that actually, they were trying to share that there are other options? Perhaps they are just trying to find their tribe. People reach out with advice because – at least most of the time – they care and they want to be helpful. I won’t deny that more filtering would be appropriate.

    I can also tell you that women who choose options outside the societal norm feel everything you just described. Every single one, every single time. They are shamed and shunned and asked why they don’t love their babies. They are asked why they would trade their babies lives for an “experience.” As a midwife, I can tell you that I have calmed sobbing mamas who just could not take one more comment slamming her choice to birth with a midwife, at home, in a birthing pool. Or to breastfeed her adopted baby. Or to not vaccinate her babies.

    Pregnancy is a vulnerable time. It can be a period of great growth and introspection. It has the opportunity to brings us some of the highest highs and lowest lows that we will ever experience as women.

    You wrote: “We should continue to educate and inform and enlighten. There can always be changes made for the better. But we have to leave the judgment, the anger, and the smug condemnation behind. Choice is a birthright of elevated circumstance. Let’s begin to celebrate the choices of others and their right to make them.”

    Amen. Let’s just make sure it goes both ways, deal?

    • Holly,

      I actually think you and I are on the same page.

      First of all, we can all only write from personal experience. This was mine.

      I have been around women seeking their own tribe, had spirited and meaningful conversations with women that do things differently than me. That is always refreshing and enlightening.

      The circumstance discussed in this article was not one of those times. I didn’t “feel judged” as you put it, I WAS judged. These were strangers I didn’t know telling me how to do things when I hadn’t asked. There was no intimacy or back and forth. It was proclamation, pure and simple.

      You say I am in the super-super majority because I have an epidural and give birth in a hospital. Perhaps in America that is true. In my circles, in my community, I am in the minority. And every birth, need, process is so different I can’t see how being in a super-super majority is any consolation.

      I know that women who have home births do meet people that have reservations, this article was written on their behalf, too. This article is about all women. This article isn’t about whether one should get an epidural or give birth in a bath. As stated, I just don’t care. This article is about the joy of all those choices. I am not really sure how you left it feeling otherwise…and if I dare, I am going to have to quote myself just to get the point across. (You did it, so I can, too. ;0)

      “I admire each of you – the ones that labor at home, in the hospital, at birthing centers and in tubs, pools, standing up, laying down or crouched on all fours. No matter how you do it, birth is a beautiful, sacred, world moving thing. And my star in heaven, isn’t it amazing that so many of us are given the ability to choose how we will participate in the rite of giving life? That we get to gather knowledge and hopes and put them both to work?”

      But foremost, this article is about the fact that there are women in this world that do not have the luxury of choice. I want to hear more voices on their behalf and less voices bashing and defending the birthing choices of others, whatever they may be.

      This article is about those women. Let’s help those women, deal?

      Respectfully your sister in LTYM,

      meg

  9. As a future medical professional I thought this was incredibly enlightening. I have witnessed some incredible natural childbirths in Guatemala with very little medical car, and it was just as amazing as seeing a child born in a hospital with every bell and whistle imaginable. Thanks for your insight and for your way with words. It is always a pleasure to read.

    • Jason,

      Yes! Birth is so beautiful, frightening, fantastic no matter which way you approach it!

      I always love seeing you here. Hope everything is going so well at med school.

      meg

  10. I love this post!!!

    When I had my little girl, I also had an epidural. I’m too believe that everyone has a choice and mine was an epidural. As my baby was being born, the doctor looked up at me and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody push out a baby with a huge smile on their face.” I was able to see my baby enter this world because I was in no pain and could focus 100% on just my baby. The bond I formed with that baby from the pure joy of the experience of having her was unexplainable and nobody can tell me that I would have had a better bond with her if I had been in excruciating pain.

    As you stated in your article, everyone has their own birth story and every story is just as incredible as the next. The best part about each story is it’s personal in nature and nobody else will understand it fully as it’s not their story. It doesn’t matter how you get your child here. As long as both baby and mama are healthy and happy, life is grand!

    Love reading your posts meg! You are amazing!

    • Such good points. I wish you could have just written the article for me! I have to say my experience with my second child/second epidural was exactly the same. I literally laughed her out. It was such a joyous moment. And what is great is that it is that way for many women no matter how they give birth. (My first was NOT a joyous moment – the tearing! the postpartum depression! Oh my! – but more on that another time.)

      Love seeing you here. YOU ARE AMAZING!

  11. Oh, oh my. Bravo. Absolutely incredible.

  12. Amen.

    I love you.

    And I don’t even know you, really. I first stumbled on your blog a few months ago. I have been an irregular reader ever since. I love your writing and I love your stories and insights and perspectives. I feel better about myself after reading your blog, which I so appreciate. Then I found out you live in my friend’s old house!! See my other friend, Ruth (I love Ruth. We have been friends for 14 years. My hubby and I were Jerome’s sunbeam teachers), comes and does zumba with me sometimes. And she was telling me about youth conference and she mentioned the young men’s president Riley. Now there could be a million Riley’s in the world, but for some reason I asked if his wife writes a blog and we figured out Ruth knows YOU!! And I read this. And now I know why your house looked familiar! We spent so much time over there. Anyhow, it’s a small world. I love your blog. And thanks for bringing to light the plight of our sisters in Zimbabwe. We are so lucky to live where we live and to have the choices we have. From education, to religion, to vaccinations, to birthing options. We are very blessed with an ability to choose for ourselves. Reading this today, made me even more grateful. Thank you.

    • Kristin,

      My goodness, I loved this comment. And I love that you and Ruth and I are connected. Don’t you LOVE her??? Where do you guys do Zumba? I need to get in on that! Thank you so much for reading. It really means so, so very much.

      Meg

  13. Totally agree! I chose csection electively three times be ause I refused to let my vagina stretch out to the size of a Grand Canyon. Thank God for choices, right???

  14. Kimberly Çonley

    Perfectly, brilliantly said.

  15. Okay, so you know how passionate I am about anything birth. :) Thank you for writing this, though at times I did feel like the non-hospital, non-medicated birth group was a little bit attacked for their choices, because I hear all the time that women should just choose an epidural or go to the hospital to have a baby because it’s there (and even that if we were meant to give birth without drugs, God wouldn’t have given men the ability to invent them). I get plenty of backlash (even from my own family) about our birth choices. It’s really rough. I have had to choose to just not talk about it with some members of my family to avoid contention.

    I feel like we in the U.S. have made some strides in maternity care (no more “Twilight Sleep Era”), but we still have horrible maternity and infant mortality rates, considering we are such an advanced country.

    In bringing up the Zimbabwe situation, I do believe that how women are treated in hospital is absolutely wrong. This should not be met with a plea for those women to get epidurals just so they stop screaming (for the record, I never screamed during birth, but I did make tonal noises because it honestly empowered me to vocalize) and not get fined anymore. The problem lies with the system and the injustices that this and so many other countries thrust upon women (birth practices, female circumcision, etc.) in male dominated societies. The cost, honestly (epidurals cost around $1500 in the U.S.) is so great that I am not sure how those moms would afford it either. I also personally believe that some of the screaming might be due to reliving sexual abuse (a lot of evidence of sexual abuse can be seen when a woman gives birth because it is, well, sexual) and extreme fear.

    There are several examples of birth stories/videos where a woman who is confident in her ability to birth and feels safe where she is giving birth is calm and peaceful and maybe making some noise (we call it a “release of power” in Hypnobabies) but she is not afraid. Fear has been shoved down the throats of men and women alike regarding birth, and it’s just not right. Both should feel safe and confident in their birthing choices (and that they have choice). All women should feel protected and respected during their birthing time.

    I feel like so much has been taken away from women when birth has moved to such a medicalized environment. Yes, there should be someone to watch over as a “lifeguard” and to honor mom’s birth choices, but birth is a defining moment in a woman’s life. It impacts not only her reproductive life, but her overall existence because it is something that only SHE can do for her posterity.

    You are precisely right that something needs to be done. No woman should be expoited ANYWHERE in her care (prenatal or otherwise). All women need to feel cared for, respected, nurtured and trusted in her decisions.

    • Jamie,

      So great to have you here.

      I think that maybe you mistook MY choice to have an epidural as an endorsement that that should be the choice for everyone. That is the opposite of the intent of this article. My point about the women in Zimbabwe is not that they SHOULD have epidurals. My point is that they don’t get a choice. They don’t get to choose to have midwives with the correct education or tools either. We need to help create a world where we all are given the ability to choose.

      As for screaming, to each her own. I screamed with the first, did not with the second.

      Also “medicalized birth” as you term it,has been a great blessing in my life. It was sacred and hilarious and laughter and joy. Such a rush. I think that in discussions about birth as a defining moment in a woman’s life there needs to be room and acceptance of all types of moments. Not just the type that were defining for each of us individually.

      Always love to see you here.

      Meg

  16. I think some people are reading this as “EPIDURAL IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO.” When really, what is being said in this post is how you give birth is a personal choice, we are lucky to have that choice, and we should allow all to make their own choice without feeling attacked by those who chose another way.

    Personally, I think there is way too much pressure put on having the “perfect birth” (be that natural, epidural, or c-section) I think what comes after the birth is so much more important. My birth didn’t go as planned. (I sure did not plan on needing a c-section!) But guess what, it really didn’t matter in the end.

    What mattered, is a beautiful, healthy, baby girl that we loved just as much as we would have if we could have had our ideal birth.

  17. P.S. I think what that couple meant by “massaging” to prevent tearing was massaging her perineum, not her cervix, since massaging and stretching the cervix can induce labor. :)

    • They said cervix. And whether it was perineum or not, it was more information than I was requesting at that point. HA!

      • It is super weird what information people will volunteer during pregnancy, for sure. And what questions they’ll ask of a pregnant mom too. Kind of weird how our “private parts” become everyone else’s business once a woman is pregnant—or even married or in any kind of serious relationship where kids might become a result of it.

  18. Mmm, a bit misinformed there, Megan. I live in zimbabwe, was born in zimbabwe, average citizen, black, not white, if that matters. So I guess I qualify as the Zimbabwean sisters you’re referring to. Now, I don’t know which hospitals you’re referring to by the term “squalor”, because hospitals are generally clean places, not so? Yes, even our government hospitals are well, hospital clean. Now we do have private hospitals all around our country, and yes, more women than u think can afford them. Why? We have affordable health insurance here, even for lower level workers. It does NOT cost 50 dollars to give birth in a hospital. Most government hospitals are free, while private hospitals require a ten dollar maternity fee. And you mentioned an annual salary of 150 dollars? Are u serious? The lowest level of workers, say for example house maids or garden boys as they are called here, earn a minimum of 100 dollars a month. Not a year, maybe that was a typing error on your part I don’t know. Civil servants are considered the lowest paid professionals and they earn about 450 dollars a month. Very little admittedly, but certainly not reducing them to paupers. They send their children to school, drive cars, have health insurance etc. And what’s with all these comments about sisters in zimbabwe not having choices? Have any of u ever been, or all you know is what the media chooses to show you? We have choices to have birth plans, we have choices in religion, education etc. And just as a side not, Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa. About 90 percent. Its certainly not the poorest country, we have rich reserves of diamonds and other minerals which we export to the west. The greatest challenge in this country is unemployment, because we have too many graduates and too few jobs. All the other sympathetic “our sisters in zimbabwe” sentiments are quite off really. Now on the issue of epidurals, granted, if you’re not on health insurance you probably won’t afford them. But my dear you’re allowed to scream as loud and as often as u like in labour, I would really like the name of that hospital u mentioned which charges women for screams. That is nothing short of absurd. Pain relief has never been a big issue here as it is in the west, not only because of the price of the epidural but because childbirth is just something u do and get over with. You are bringing a baby into the world, through a tiny hole down there, Ofcourse it’s meant to hurt. Get over it. (I’m on health insurance but am doing it the way nature intended). What I saying is don’t feel bad about women who do it naturally. Whether u feel pain or not what matters is your baby comes out safely. And Noone should judge those who use pain relief either, because it’s their choice, like u said. Sorry for the long post, I was just defending the integrity of my country and fellow zim sisters which u seem to have misrepresented here. That section of your post was actually shared on a Zimbabwean news page on Facebook and caused an outrage, others believing it was politically motivated. Please do your research next time, or better still, pay us a visit, u might be surprised to learn that we don’t live in mud huts! (sarcasm) Chao!

    • Lovely to see you here, Susan.

      You are totally right. There is some debate about the average annual income in Zimbabwe. Transparency International puts it at $150, The Atlas Method (used by The World Bank) puts it at $480 and PPP has put it as high as $2,180. Transparency International did the initial investigation into the hospital and I used their figures.

      Zimbabwe did have one of the best health care systems in Sub-Saharan Africa for many years. But it basically collapsed in the 1980s when the country was beset by hyperinflation due to an economic crisis. This was then followed by years of chronic underinvestment in the sector. At that time an estimated 80 children under 5 died each day.

      Yes, in many parts of the country health care has been revitalized. Mainly due to a pledge through international donors that donated $435 million dollars to the health care industry from 2011 to 2015.

      Unfortunately, those improvements do not apply to facilities once you reach rural areas. A quote from a UNICEF report on the situation states,

      “The shortfalls become obvious as soon as one leaves Zimbabwe’s urban centres. At Chivi District Hospital in Masvingo province, Dr. Chagondah walks through echoing corridors, pointing out the conditions under which he has to run a facility that serves 174,000 people.

      Most days, there is no running water, and power outages are frequent, he says. Resuscitation machines and other life-saving equipment are broken.”

      • Good for you :) I love a woman that can back up her writing with research.

      • Well said, rural areas. Though yet again not all rural hospitals are destitute caves. I just acted to clear the air as u can see that these different international organisations have different opinions but the only people who can tell u the truth are those that live the experience. Thanks 4 clearing that up.

    • I don’t think the real question was about the actual average annual income in Zimbabwe. We can all agree that it is distressingly low. I think the question was why do we, who have so much, waste so much energy debating each other about our choices instead of working to assure that more people have more choices.

      Some insights as to what limits choice in Zimbabwe.

      An excerpt from a recent blog at
      http://www.rnw.nl/africa/article/zimbabwes-health-care-system-adding-insult-injury

      Pregnancy woes
      But the sorry state of affordable medical treatment in Zimbabwe doesn’t only affect people who fall victim to unforeseen circumstances.
      Not long ago, my pregnant friend Debra stops by. To my surprise, she arrives at my house with a small travel bag. Upon enquiring what’s inside, I see a small blanket and a warm tracksuit. Turns out, she had left her house at 4 a.m. to stand in a queue that would enable her to access prenatal care at the provincial hospital. Why did she leave so early, I wonder. She tells me that on any one day the nursing staff gives away ten maternal and neonatal health record cards. This document is what she’ll need to show for all her upcoming prenatal visits. Yet once the nursing staff have given out ten cards, they will stop issuing them and turn to other maternity cases, such as check-ups.
      Although the government said they scrapped maternity fees at all government institutions, some clinics still charge consultation fees. Others require expectant mothers to come in with their own cotton wool and methylated spirit. In some reports, pregnant women have had to bring along a 25-litre container of water and candles; hospitals are not immune to water cuts and power outages have become somewhat of a norm in Zimbabwe.

      No doctors no choices. See http://www.our-africa.org/zimbabwe/poverty-healthcare
      During 2000-2010, Zimbabwe had fewer than two doctors for every 10,000 people according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A recent report has also highlighted that around 80% of posts for midwives remain vacant in the public sector.

      No money no choices. A country with no currency. An excellent article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/world/africa/19zimbabwe.html
      The hospital, along with countless Zimbabweans, turned to barter in earnest in 2008 when inflation peaked at what the International Monetary Fund estimates was an astonishing 500 billion percent, wiping out life savings, making even trillion-dollar notes worthless and propelling the health and education systems into a vertiginous collapse.

      Bad government bad choices. Most care providers will not accept peanuts. See http://www.figo.org/news/zimbabwe-may-need-scrap-free-maternity-care-plans-0010889
      Fees have been identified as one of the obstacles which are discouraging pregnant women from going to health institutions to give birth.
      According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey, the country currently has a maternal mortality rate of 990 deaths per every 100,000 live births and it is thought that the majority of these deaths are caused by complications during delivery.

  19. I loved this article so much! (As I do all of your stuff!!) for me 2 points were so clear. 1 – Why do women (people really, but I feel especially women) feel like they know what is best for other people’s situation? The first part of this article could be about many women’s issues, breast feeding vs bottle feeding, working mom vs stay-at-home mom etc. Let’s all be passionate, informative, but not judgemental and pushy!
    2 – Because we have the blessings and privilege of convenience and choice we often forget about those who don’t! Let’s get out and help those with less choice, or none at all

    Thanks so much!!

    • Mame! Thank you! Yes, I love this comment. Let’s be passionate, let’s be informed, let’s help. So perfectly concise and perfectly true. (You should have written the article!)

      Love seeing you here!

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