May We Continue to Pursue Peace.

Together, we celebrate what it means to be alive, to be living and working together; one team made up of many nations. Although our backgrounds are very different, we are-brought together by our shared experience of living in Agok and of caring for and serving our patients. Together, we celebrate the newest country in the world. It is an atmosphere pregnant with hopes, longings and anticipation; all finely balanced upon a fragility, which speaks of defeat, loss and the exhaustion that comes with being resigned to a life of war.

Everyone has Stories

Even when we live together, we segregate ourselves. We form our little groups, find our place of comfort and all too often forget that there is much to be learned from the very people who we find ourselves judging. We miss out on this deep well of great beauty when we fail to take the time to hear people’s stories. I don’t say this as an admonishment. These words are for me as much as they are for you.

First Impressions.

After 7 flights and almost 6 days of travel, I have finally arrived in Agok. I took a small, 8-10 seater World Food Program plane to get here and arrived on a dirt landing strip covered with children who barely made it out of the way before the wheels made contact with the earth.

Spending so much time with pregnant woman here in the settlement and being so close to life and death on a daily bases has caused me to do a great deal of thinking, specifically about the differences between delivery in a country such as Uganda and the U.S; the differences not only in the delivery itself but also in the preparation leading up to the birth. Back home, we have the power and the knowledge to be in charge of our bodies (in most cases) from pre-conception to post-delivery. We can plan whether or not to become pregnant and after our urine dipsticks display a '+', we have nine months to fully prepare for the coming child. We order parenting 'how to' books, attend parenting classes and workshops, practice prenatal Yoga, consult with our friends who have gone before us, outfit the baby's room and line up friends who can deliver meals. Once the delivery gets closer we go to work in our search for the perfect  midwife and if we are lucky,  a doula as well. We visit birthing centers and hospitals and start choosing how and where we will bring new life into the world. Through every step of the process we are receiving routine antenatal care, which includes ultrasounds to tell us whether all is well inside the womb. In Africa, and many other areas of the world, women are never consulted about the decision of whether to get pregnant. Theirs is a life of subservience and reproductive surrender. There are no books for them to read or classes to attend on how to be a good parent, there is no one telling them what they should or shouldn't eat as the baby begins to grow inside their wombs. As their gestation period winds to an end, there are no ultrasounds, no fancy birthing suites and no pain medications. They do what their ancestors have been doing for millenia before them. They squat on a dirt or concrete floor and bring new life into the world. Their bodies know what to do and for many, both baby and mom come out of the experience healthy. The problem however, is that for the majority of women, this is not their story. According to the WHO, almost 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day, with 99% of maternal deaths occurring in developing countries (primarily Africa and areas of Asia and the Middle East).