For many of us, our maternity bags are fit to burst with so-called essential supplies: sentimental pleasures like a favourite comfy t-shirt, or a receiving blanket embroidered by Grandma; a generous store of pain relief (or at least some placebic distractions); snacks; mindless entertainment to while away the boredom between contractions…and that all-important bottle of massage oil with which to put your partner to work when his thumb-twiddling becomes unbearable.
Seemingly contrary contents of our hospital luggage aside, birth is obviously no picnic — but a simple glance at the absolute bare necessities that constitute a ‘maternity bag’ on the other side of the world grants some serious perspective.
For first-worlder, first-time mums, the prospect of birth may be daunting, but planning for the event is nevertheless lavish with convenient, personalised options, all of which are insulated inside a bubble of medicalised safety.
But the scenario is not quite the same for women elsewhere.
Every minute a newborn baby dies from infection caused by a lack of safe water and an unclean environment.
A look at the stark difference between what various mums-to-be around the globe pack for labour highlights the dire rarity of a resource we so easily take for granted.
Take a moment from deliberating on which sports bottle to take along for the big day, and see the photos captured as part of Water Aid’s Deliver Life appeal – which is trying to raise enough money to deliver safe water to 130,000 mums worldwide:
It sounds worlds apart from the whitewashed, sanitised wards of our local hospitals, but the reality in many places is that without safe water, midwives struggle to wash their hands between deliveries and battle to keep medical instruments and bedding clean.
With no safe water at the clinic where she’ll be giving birth in Monze district, Hazel has packed a basin to wash with, as well as black plastic to lay on during her delivery – a barrier between her and unclean sheets.
“We have a borehole at the clinic but there’s no running water in the maternity ward,” Hazel says.
Zaituni arrived at Kiomboi hospital on a motorcycle her husband rented. She was carrying a basin, a bucket and some clothes for herself to wear.
“The baby has no clothes. We are just wrapping her with cloths. When they are dirty, my sister washes them.” But Zaituni adds: “The water is not safe. It looks milky.”
After a complicated delivery, Zaituni developed sepsis, a potentially deadly infection that can be caused by unclean water. Antibiotics and a drug infusion helped her recover.
Along with fresh underwear, a loose dress and a cotton throw, Se’ada’s spartan maternity bag contains fabric she can use as a nappy and a towel she can hold her new baby in. She admits she’s a little scared.
“At home, we share the tap and toilet with our landlords. The toilet looks like it could collapse any minute,” she says. “But I managed somehow.”
Hoping to give birth naturally, Deanna’s bag is packed with of items to help her deal with the pain – including a music player, coconut and lavender oils and Arnica Gel.
United Kingdom (main image)
In the UK, Joanna says her maternity bag is like a “welcome gift”, giving her baby the best start.
“The most important thing in the bag is the blanket. It’s the same one my mum brought me home in,” Joanna says.
“My sister suggested bringing something to make it easier to drink water during the labour, so I have packed a water bottle. I will bring it empty — I’m assuming the hospital will have somewhere I can fill it.”
The Deliver Life project is on track to raise more than 5 million pounds through donations. Find out how you can help HERE.