The best place to be a Mother

So, the best place to be a mother is Norway. If you’re in Australia and Iceland, don’t panic, you’re equal second. Britain, you’re number 10, Canada comes in 20th and America, how times have changed, America, you’re number 31. According to a study released this week, from the 12th Annual Save the Children’s Mothers index, which measures the well-being of mothers and babies.

It seems it pays to be Nordic. Not just because you will no doubt be blessed with long, honey coloured legs and glossy blonde hair, surrounded by Bjorn Borg look-a-likes called Sven, but also because your countries fall in the top ten on the list. After hearing my friend from the Netherlands tell me about her midwife who came to her house after the birth and did her washing and ironing, I’m really not all that surprised.

My current home, Qatar, is on a different list and comes in at number 38, which surprises me as the majority of birth stories here are happy ones. I think they must have spoken to the nurse who gave my friend an epidural and told her it would be “much easier to get this in, if you weren’t so fat”. She wasn’t high on the happiness index of Motherhood at that stage of her 15 hour labour.

I’ve had four babies in four different countries, all were vastly different circumstances, but all had the same outcome. A healthy and occasionally huge baby. The experiences varied from being surrounded by friends and family in Australia, having the woman who cleaned the floor also checking my blood pressure in Malaysia, Mediterranean views in Malta and a small fire breaking out in our overflowing public hospital in Canada.

During every pregnancy and after each birth I have shared stories with fellow Mothers. As parents we speak fondly of the amazing midwife, maybe grumble about the arrogant doctor, the anesthetist that arrived to late, the inedible food. We debate the difference between Private and Public Health or perhaps, depending on where you live, the complete lack of choice.

I’ve discussed whether I’ve had to provide my own nappies/diapers and clothes at the hospital. I’ve become frustrated with contradictory breast feeding advice.  There’s been the comparison between the male and female OBGYN (the women have much smaller hands). I feel like I’ve pretty well covered everything, but I haven’t. Not by a long shot.

I have never had to discuss the two day journey that was made walking to the hospital. The fistula I developed after the heartbreaking four day labour and stillborn birth. I’ve never had to think about getting through labour on my own, no doctor, midwife or even someone remotely qualified to help. I’ve never given birth in a camp or walked across a war zone and had a bullet that was three inches away from my womb removed, like a woman in Afghanistan did late last year.

Having a baby can be a terrifying thing the first time around. We worry about so many things that could go wrong, it’s easy to forget that statistically, if we are educated and living in what is commonly known as a “developed country” the odds are in our favour to deliver a healthy, happy baby.

So what’s the difference between coming first, which is Norway, or being last on the list, which is Afghanistan.

Skilled health professionals are present at virtually every birth in Norway, while only 14 percent of births are attended in Afghanistan. Eighty two percent of women in Norway use modern contraception, with Afghan women it drops to less than 16 percent. Women in Norway live to an average age of 83, for women in Afghanistan it’s 45. If I was in Afghanistan, I’d be gone in a few years. How much longer would you have left?

A girlfriend of mine, who is currently working in Afghanistan, told last week of meeting an Afghan MP who explained that some baby girls go nameless for two years after their birth, because of the disappointment.

When I think about the births of all of my children, as much as there was sometimes fear and trepidation, I was so incredibly lucky, there was never despair.

The Save the Children Organization releases its report each year before Mothers Day (the women in the UK have already had their Mothers Day but I think they should push for two). The hope is that we will honor our mothers and maybe think about how lucky we are to be born where we were. If you’d like to donate there are many wonderful and inexpensive ways to do so. Here’s a link…


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