The first time was when my first child, then ten months old, suffered from an anaphylactic allergic reaction to a food I had given to him. He broke out in hives, started vomiting profusely, and became lethargic. Although food allergies were completely new to me, I knew exactly what to do: I gave him Children's Benadryl and brought him to the Emergency Room. Within minutes of administering the medicine he was fine. I was still a wreck, but he was completely fine.
The second time I held a scary-sick baby was two years later, when my second baby was about eight months old. His cold had gotten worse over night. In the morning, his breathing seemed labored. While I waited on the phone with the pediatrician's office, I heard a distinct wheezing sound I had never heard before. He was still breathing, but I suddenly felt like I couldn't. I hung up the phone and drove to the pediatrician's office, instead. There, the nurse helped me to administer the first of what would be many nebulizer treatments of inhalant steroids that opened up his tiny and over-worked lungs so he could breathe. For the next three years, we used nebulizer treatments prophylactically to prevent respiratory distress and antibiotics to treat the recurrent bronchiolitis. And now, at nearly five, he hasn't had a respiratory infection in over a year. He's fine. Completely fine.
Both times, as I watched my babies suffer from a scary, sudden, acute illness, I felt my own throat constrict. I couldn't inhale deeply enough to feel like I was actually breathing, though I know I must have been because I was somehow able to care for them. And in both instances, my treatment plan for my sick babies demanded the same two things: Good medicine and Good doctors.
What would have happened, in either instance, had I not had access to one or both of the things I needed to heal my babies? What would have happened if there was no medicine? What if I couldn't get my babies to a doctor?
I can't think about it.
As a mom, even the shadow of a thought of pain or illness or...worse...befalling any of my children makes me feel sick to my stomach, literally.
My love for my children, my own physical ache for my children when they are sick, is not special. It's not a feeling reserved for a privileged class of mothers. It's not a facet of western parenting.
That feeling, a mother's love, is universal.
What isn't universal, though, is access to Good medicine and Good doctors when babies are sick.
What isn't universal is that babies will survive preventable illnesses and receive adequate nutrition.
What isn't universal is the likelihood that a child will survive beyond the age of five.
But Save the Children is trying to change that.
The United Nations outlined it's Millennium Development Goals and, while significant progress has been made in a number of areas (for example, compared to a generation ago, millions fewer are living in poverty and significantly more children are receiving at least a primary education) there is one area that demands immediate attention. Save the Children is working to increase attention to Millennium Development Goal 4: Reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate.
Today, 18,000 children will die from preventable causes including disease and malnutrition. Eighteen thousand babies. Eighteen thousand mothers' hearts, devastated. And tomorrow: 18,000 more.
One million babies will be stillborn or die before the end of their first day of life. A million babies. A million mother's hearts.
It's hard, sometimes, to wrap your head around numbers so staggering, so let's look, instead, at the faces:
These are the faces of the people who beat the odds. Who, today, survived.
So what is Save the Children trying to do?
To hold the world accountable for the promises made.
The UN set the ambitious goals to:
* Ensure that every mother, newborn, and child has access to high-quality healthcare, provided by highly-skilled health workers.
* Invest in women and girls to ensure their protection.
* Build stronger institutions and health systems with universal healthcare for all, not excluding the most vulnerable who live in areas of conflict, poverty, or rural regions.
And they promised to meet these goals by the end of 2015.
That's only 481 days away.
So I joined the movement. I'm lending my voice.
What can you do?
You can visit the website. You can become educated on the Millennium Development Goals. You can join the movement on social media (#MDGMomentum) to hold the world accountable for the promises made to reduce child deaths. You can make a donation to help make these goals a reality.
They're half a world away, but they're mothers and babies.
In our hearts, we're all the same.