Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around I try to think of small ways to honor the amazing journey and sacrifice my mother embarked on when she brought me into this world. When I was little I used to make her toast in the morning and bring it to her in bed with a sloppy, yet heartfelt, handmade card on which I did my best to express my love and appreciation. As I grew up, I progressed to giving her small pampering gifts, the kind that no one really needs but everyone is excited to get: scented candles, a footbath, sparkly lotion, or fuzzy slippers. When I reached my teenage years (not the angry sullen ones, but the ones where I started to become a real person—a functional part of society) I realized that no matter what I got my mom, it would never be enough. There was no way I could ever repay her for the years and years of arranging her life around me, providing for me, and dealing with my flaws and quirks.
This Mother’s Day, as I struggle to think of the right way to honor my mom and all she has done for me, I am also gaining a new perspective on the holiday itself. In January I began a full time, six month internship with a nonprofit organization called Pathfinder International. Pathfinder works all over the world to ensure that people have access to reproductive health care services and that they are allowed to exercise their right to live a healthy, happy reproductive life. Reproductive health is a broad field that includes everything from providing contraceptives and preventing the spread of HIV to improving maternal and newborn health care services.
For Pathfinder staff, Mother’s Day is about more than each of our own individual mothers. It is about mothers everywhere; mothers who may not live to provide for their children and enjoy watching them grow as my mother was able to. Pathfinder has established programs in more than 25 countries to attempt to decrease maternal mortality rates. These projects include addressing postpartum hemorrhage—the leading cause of maternal deaths, preventing and treating obstetric fistula, preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and much more. While these programs have had phenomenal results, there is only so much Pathfinder can do on a limited budget.
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, Pathfinder has partnered with a number of other organizations to form a petition asking the Obama Administration to increase funding for maternal and newborn health services as well as family planning and reproductive health programs. As a Pathfinder employee I obviously feel strongly about this issue and I readily signed the petition. But in doing so, the reality of what it is asking for began to sink in. More money to save mothers’ lives. This money could be used to fund everything from prenatal care visits and vitamin supplements to ambulance transportation and emergency medical interventions. Why would anyone not want that? How could anyone not readily sign?
So this year, my Mother’s Day gift to my mom will be spreading the word about the importance of quality maternal and newborn care. By signing the petition and sharing it with as many people as I can, I hope to provide women around the globe with the opportunity to enjoy the adventure that is motherhood, just as my mother did and continues to do.
I know she will understand that this is not my way of getting off the hook for buying a gift because I’m a broke college student—but instead it is the best way I could think of to show my appreciation for everything she has done for me as a mom. I will never be able to repay her but hopefully a gift on a global scale of sorts will be a start. Although I’ll probably end up buying her some bath salts to go along with it.eMagazine: Maternal Health