In Honor of Mother's Day

Mothers in Bangladesh. © 2013 Gloria Das/World Vision

Mothers in Bangladesh.
© 2013 Gloria Das/World Vision

This week we celebrated Mother’s Day in our home. We celebrated my grandmother, my mom, and also me. It feels strange to be a mother. This is only my second Mother’s Day ever, having given birth to my son Ryan last February. The first Mother’s Day was a blur of diapers and sleeplessness. My mom and my mother-in-law made an adorable gift for me by painting Ryan’s feet purple and imprinting them on a card. I have no idea (and don’t really want to know) how they managed that with a three month old. It did explain why I found purple crust in between his toes one night at bath time. I was relieved when they presented me with the card because I had been concerned he had contracted some strange skin disease.

It has been one of the best and most challenging years of my life. People don’t really tell you all the ups and downs of the first year of being a mom. It’s miraculous. It’s exhausting. It changes every single part of you. There have been plenty of days when I have wondered if I’m doing a good job, if I’m feeding him the right foods, if I’m being too strict or too lenient. There have been days when I’ve wondered if he even likes me. And he can’t even talk yet!

But the days are filled with moments that have forever shaped who I am. Like tonight when I was spinning him around in the kitchen and he was laughing so hard it sounded like he was gargling mouthwash. Or the moments when he looks at me, points his finger, smiles and says, Dada! Ok, so he’s still a little confused on that one. I love how whenever the song, Old MacDonald gets played anywhere, from a toy or the TV or even if I am absent-mindedly singing it, he stops in his tracks, drops whatever he is doing and starts bobbing at the knees to the beat. Coldplay, Bublé, even his daddy who is also a musician, have no such effect on him. He appreciates them, yes, but they are no Old MacDonald.

We’ve changed our entire house around, from top to bottom, in an attempt to toddler-proof it, and this is only part of the bigger lifestyle changes that have come along with having our first child. Bedtime is a little earlier nowadays, and not just for the baby. We’ve made changes in our fridge, changes in the way we travel, job changes, and financial changes.

Changing one’s lifestyle to accommodate a child, however, is a luxury. This Mother’s Day, I’m acutely aware that most women in the world don’t spend their time agonizing over which daycare their children will attend or which carseat they will ride in. Unfortunately, most women worry about their child’s next meal. Or that their child won’t live to see their first birthday.

When I was pregnant I worried about silly things like which vitamins to take, but I also worried about terrible things like stillbirth. In the back of my mind, though, I was comforted by knowing that I had a great medical system to use in case of an emergency. I had skilled doctors who saw me regularly throughout pregnancy, talented nurses who helped deliver my baby. For many women all over the world, stillbirth is not just a nightmare but a reality that some have experienced multiple times. When there is no access to maternal care, there is no comfort and there is no hope.

As an obstetrician, I have been in situations in other countries where I’ve faced the excruciating realization that a baby I could not save would have been saved in the appropriate medical setting. I have seen mothers with birth complications that would have been avoided with the proper care and attention.

This Mother’s Day has so much riding on it. I am a mother for the first time, but I am also now part of a sisterhood that encompasses women of all situations around the globe. The woman I saw today in the grocery store with her three young children, keeping them all in check while I was barely able to handle my one, is part of that sisterhood. When I saw what a great job she was doing, my first thought was admiration, and my second thought was, wow, I am a mother too. What a privilege to be part of this group. The women whom I’ve coached through long hours of labor and delivery, they too are part of this sisterhood I admire so much. The woman who is sacrificing it all to get food for her family, the one who is losing blood on the operating room table without the hope of a transfusion, the one who is fighting infection while her baby struggles to survive prematurity cradled beside her: they are all worthy of admiration. But this Mother’s Day and for all of those to come, let’s not just celebrate them. Let’s prioritize them and their fight. Let’s make it ours, together.

Kate Celauro is an obstetrician based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her passion for maternal health, however, extends far beyond the hospital where she works. She has been an advocate for women’s health for many years, beginning in college when she saw first hand the differences between healthcare for women in the U.S. and in rural South America where she was working on a thesis. Since that time she has traveled all over the world with her husband, a World Vision Artist, and has become more involved in championing the causes of women.

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