Difficult labor is the cause of prolapse and fistula conditions, yet a rural woman’s purpose in Ethiopia is to get pregnant and raise her children. Over the years, her body will bear the brunt of extreme pressures, and she rarely is offered the choice to not have more children. We find that many women who come in for prolapse surgery also want to have their uterus taken out as a contraceptive option. Abortion does exist in shady corners utilizing sticks and other sharp objects, and some young girls will abandon an unwanted baby. But for the most part, it is a great honor to bear a child and nurture it with vigorous focus and determination.
To witness a woman struggling so very hard to stay well enough to feed her children here is very disheartening. A human life is precious, and when I look into each child’s face I encounter – whether found wandering on the streets, or in the arms of a loving mother, or working hard to shepherd a herd of cows – I feel a sense of awe in that they are able to survive at all despite so many obstacles. And yet, they continuously find reasons to express an easy smile.
As I contemplate what might be needed to help this country, I think of several things right away: establishing reproductive and health education, getting more doctors and midwives to be willing to work in rural areas, building more rural hospitals, obtaining sources for clean water, and developing better transportation options for those who are ill.
Yes, it can be overwhelming to see so many problems intertwined and having a domino effect upon each other. But for some reason the thought of new Spring growth comes to mind: is the crocus intimidated by the cold, hard, winter packed Earth? No, the fragile flower transforms into new life by slowly pushing a tiny bit of dirt away at a time in order to make its way to its fullest expression. If we really think about it, how does that flower break through the heavy Earth?
Perhaps this is how we can all work together to help a woman in Ethiopia: one small gesture at a time.