I had been doing research on the status of women around the world for several years when my partner Janille experienced a heavy hemorrhage risk during delivery. Thankfully both she and our baby were safe, but that experience changed my perspective on maternal health risks.
This experience brought back to my mind that years ago I had a client who died due to complications in child birth. I remembered that no one knew how to morn with this family. It was such a sad, tragic and ultimately private affair. About the time of Janille’s experience I discovered through my research that as many women had died in child birth as men in war. This shocked me. No one thinks about maternal health risks this way.
We have the public vocabulary to honor and support those who lose families to war – but as a country we lack the collective language and symbols to help us mourn with those who lose a loved one in childbirth. This is not just a problem for personal level comfort. Because this is not seen as a public problem, we do not feel compelled to invest the resources necessary to reduce the risks women face. I founded Mother’s Monument in an effort to change the language and the nature of the dialog surrounding maternal mortality and bring it into the public sphere where we can all support each other better, and develop a more comprehensive language of sacrifice that includes more than just the value of war loss as deserving of public support.
Beyond my activist work I am one of the Principal Investigators for the WomanStats Database Project. I am currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Ohio State University. My research interests are comparative in nature and focus on gender, social movements, health and religion.
Janille and Matthew are the parents of four children and currently reside in Columbus, Ohio.