It’s appropriate that Memorial Day comes only a few weeks after Mother’s Day because war veterans and mothers have a lot in common. Childbirth and the battlefield are bloody, painful, dangerous, stressful, life-altering experiences. But for their suffering, vets get the honor guard, parades, statues, monuments, and several national holidays, while mothers get a once-a-year reprieve from household chores (if they are lucky) and a basket of flowers. Don’t get me wrong, vets deserve the credit, but it seems somehow off balance the amount of respect we pay to wars and killing, and the short shrift we give to the work of birthing new people and raising them to adulthood.
Each year hundreds of thousands of women die from childbirth or pregnancy-related causes. That number has been decreasing worldwide, in part because of efforts initiated by the United Nations Millenium Development Goal #5: Improve maternal health. However, according to Amnesty International, maternal mortality is rising in the United States. The Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011, currently before Congress, would mandate reporting and research initiatives around this issue. Unfortunately, the bill only funds information-gathering, not actual programs, but it’s a start. You can support the bill by going to momsrising.org or opencongress.org to let your representative know that fighting maternal mortality is important to you. Get involved with the global fight by contributing to organizations that are working to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and newborns around the world. Organizations like: the White Ribbon Alliance, Every Mother Counts, Amnesty International, Unicef, Women Deliver, and many others.
Like soldiers, mothers need moral and material support for the work they do. As Memorial Day approaches, let’s talk about honoring women who have died in their battle to bring new life into the world, and let’s look for ways to reduce those casualties in the years to come.