Our illustrious prime minister hosted a big conference in Toronto this week. The subject? Maternal and infant health -- not in Canada, but on a global scale. (Apparently, in PM's definition, "maternal health" does not include family planning or abortion services... but that is not the subject of this particular rant.)
The PM pledged a further $3.5 billion in funding for an initiative first announced in 2010 at the G-20 & G-8 summits in Toronto & Muskoka. Luminaries such as Melinda Gates and Queen Rania of Jordan appeared at the PM's side in support. The tagline was "Saving every woman, every child."
While the program's goals are noble, and there is certainly an urgent need for better maternal & child health programs in developing countries (please don't get me wrong) -- I just wish someone would at least acknowledge in passing that there are (still) mothers and babies who need saving in our own country.
I have read a number of news articles and seen a number of TV reports about this initiative over the last few days, which detail the sad state of affairs in the developing world and quote global maternal & infant mortality statistics and stillbirths -- but I have not seen ONE mention of the state of maternal and infant health in Canada, and the statistics for child and maternal mortality and stillbirth here.
The other morning, I listened to a radio interview with a doctor involved in one of the program initiatives, talking about the huge numbers of women and babies around the world who die during pregnancy, childbirth or the first months of life. The dr told the story of a complicated delivery here in Canada, which would certainly have ended in tragedy in the mother's home country. The host brought it up again around the 4:30 mark: "[In Canada) There could be some complications, it happens, but everybody is healthy & well." (Ummm, EVERYBODY??)
And then, at the very end (around 5:50) in a tone of surprise: "Around the world, 2.6 million babies are stillborn every year... and a large majority of those are because the mother wasn't cared for."
Well, golly gee, babies are stillborn? In this day & age? -- imagine that. :p
During my pregnancy, I was cared for at one of the top hospitals in my city, one of the best in Canada. And my baby still died.
(And just because we live in Canada doesn't mean that care could not be improved. I heard a few hair-raising stories, as a perinatal loss support group facilitator, that were lawsuit worthy.)(Some of these parents did pursue legal action. Most were unsuccessful.)
Yes, the numbers of maternal & infant deaths and stillbirths here are, thankfully, much, much lower when compared to developing countries. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen here. It does. I am proof. And I know I am far from alone.
The hard, cold fact is that sometimes, even in first-world countries like Canada and the United States with the most excellent care, babies (and even some mothers) still die -- some for no apparent reason.
And I think what bothers me the most is that coverage like this, which focuses on the developing world (because things are just great at home and we are SO much more advanced...) just reinforces the illusion held by most people -- those lucky enough not to have experienced perinatal loss in their own families -- that stillbirth, neonatal death and, yes, maternal death during or shortly after childbirth, are things happen elsewhere -- in third world countries. Certainly not in Canada, or the United States. Right?
And commonly held misconceptions like that only increase the feelings of shock and guilt and isolation that parents feel when they DO experience a loss.
What do you think?