Your due date is looming. Your bag’s packed. Your birth plan is ready to go. But as we all know, sometimes things don’t go to plan.
In the UK, we have the NHS to look after us when things go wrong. Statistics show that a quarter of all births in the UK are via caesarean section(1), of which almost one in five are emergency operations (i.e. not planned ahead of the birth and can often be lifesaving).
Where you have experience birth or not, imagine what it would be like if you had to go through what can be a hugely scary experience alone at home, with no electricity or running water… and then there was a problem. What might have happened if you hadn’t had antenatal checks, or medical support before, during or after the birth? Would you both have survived?
Pregnancy and birth without medical support is a reality for millions of women living in poverty around the world. But with the help of the charity Compassion UK, many of them are now being given access to medical care for the very first time through their ‘Child Survival Programme’. Currently, 16,067 babies and 15,954 mothers are receiving help through the programme world wide.
Mark Preston, Director of Philanthropy at Compassion UK said “Our child survival programme was set up in 2003 for women across the globe living in poverty. Mums (pre and post birth) can visit their local Compassion project for assistance with mentoring, child birth and pre- and post-natal check-ups with a qualified midwife and immunisations. We aim to give women and babies in some of the poorest parts of the world a more positive birth and early life experience”
In the final three months of 2017, there were 2,128 births at Compassion Projects. Although many of these women live in extreme poverty, a staggering 91.7% of the babies born were of a normal birth weight, thanks to the nutritional, health and emotional support of Compassion.
Recently Compassion UK are shared four inspirational stories about mothers and babies who’ve benefited from their life-saving Child Survival programmes.
Murielle and Wood Kelly, Haiti
Murielle had a very difficult childhood, but when she married her childhood sweetheart at 28, she had high hopes her luck was about to change.
The couple were overjoyed when she fell pregnant, but sadly, she suffered a miscarriage after several months. Murielle said she felt “ruined by that loss, ashamed and broken.” A year later, she fell pregnant again, but miscarried a second time. The couple had little money and were unable to get medical advice about their problems.
Murielle was devastated, particularly because some of her neighbors viewed infertility as a sign that God was punishing her. She became afraid to leave the house.
It was during this time that she heard about a local Compassion project, and she rushed there to register. Murielle was taken to hospital by its staff, and it was there that tests revealed that fibromas in her womb, combined with malnutrition, were causing the pregnancy losses.
Murielle began a program of treatment, and within four months, the fibromas had gone. The Compassion project also provided her with healthy food so that she could become stronger.
A few months later, Murielle was overjoyed to find she was pregnant for a third time, and this time, her baby survived.
She named him Wood Kelly, and he’s now three – and she went on to have another boy 20 months later, a boy called Wood Dally.
She says that her children have given her “peace and abundant joy.”
Aster and Mihret, Ethiopia
When Aster discovered she was pregnant, her life was bleak. She and her husband had been forced to give up their first two children because they were homeless, and their third child, a boy, had died soon after birth. When she found out she was pregnant again, she was depressed and without hope. She worried this baby might die, too.
Doctors had told her that injections to deal with rhesus problems caused by the couple’s blood types would save the baby. But the treatment regime they recommended was far too expensive.
Fortunately, it was around this time that Aster registered with her local Compassion Survival Programme and at 28 weeks pregnant, she finally received the treatment she needed. She was also given regular check-ups and counselling to help deal with her grief.
Her baby girl, Mihret, is now 2 years’ old and is happy and thriving. Aster has started up a business making and selling flatbread and maize, and the family’s life has been transformed.
Aster now hopes to bring her two other children back home soon so that the whole family can be reunited.
Chernaypaw and Patnaree, Thailand
38-year-old Chernaypaw was almost at her due date when she got some worrying news.
A doctor said her unborn baby had a stomach malformation which would require medical attention after birth. He told her she needed to give birth in hospital, but there was a problem – the hospital wouldn’t treat her.
This is because Patnaree is a Karen, a tribal minority group in Thailand. As migrants from Myanmar, the Karen people are looked down upon and discriminated against.
It was only when a Compassion worker accompanied Chernaypaw and her husband to the hospital that they agreed to deliver the little girl via caesarean section.
Little Patnaree was born seemingly healthy and could go home a few days afterwards. However, a lump of flesh began to stick out of her tummy two months later and she had surgery on it, again at the insistence of the charity.
At five months, Patnaree is much better, but not completely healed. She is still to receive a proper diagnosis and is still in pain. She needs to go to a major hospital to see a specialist, but Compassion staff are waiting for her to gain strength and weight before they make the journey.
Patnaree’s struggles are not over, but it’s certain that she would not have survived infancy without the medical care she has been given.
Marilu and Carlitos, Honduras
Marilu lives with her partner on the embankment of a river in Honduras. The family have no access to drinking water or drainage, and very little money for their health needs.
Marilu registered for a Compassion Survival Programme when she was pregnant with her third child, a little boy she decided to call Carlitos.
All seemed to go well during her pregnancy, but she was shocked to discover soon after he was born that he had a serious, life-threatening condition. Carlitos had been born with a birth defect called an Imperforate Anus, and doctors said he needed an operation to survive.
“I was shocked and found myself helpless when the doctors gave me the sad news. I couldn’t afford a surgery and felt like my son wasn’t going to make it” she says.
Thankfully, Compassion stepped forward to pay all his hospital fees, and Carlitos made a good recovery. Now two, Carlitos still has faces two more operations to fix the birth defect, but he is a happy, playful child. “I’m so happy to be his mother,” she says.
If you would like to hear more about the work compassion do you can visit www.compassionuk.org.