"We Would Have Been More Prepared": Stories from Nepal

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Parbati, a pregnant Nepalese woman, rode a long distance in an oxen-pulled cart to the hospital, accompanied by her mother, her husband, and a traditional birth attendant. She was clearly in significant distress as she was helped from the cart into the delivery room.

Parbati was laid down on a bare metal slab and left. After some time, the health worker diagnosed her with possible placenta previa or eclampsia. The health worker threw her hands in the air and said, “There is nothing that we can do for you here. You will have to go to the district hospital.” 

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I watched as Parbati's mother and birth attendant assisted her out of the hospital and loaded her into the three-wheeled vehicle for the long journey that lay ahead. Women often die during childbirth due to delays such as these and a lack of money or transport.

I was moved by the sight of Parbati's brother-in-law crying. He told me, “If only people had told us that pregnancy could be dangerous and birth so difficult, we would have been more prepared.” It is stories like Parbati's that motivate me to continue educating and empowering women and families and working towards a world where every pregnancy and birth is safe and everyone’s wellbeing is valued.

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Nancy Durrell McKenna is the founder director of SafeHands for Mothers. An award-winning photographer and film-maker, she has spent most of her professional life documenting the lives, traditions, and rituals of women and families around the world. 

© Nancy Durrell McKenna