I am a woman.
I am a daughter.
I am a wife.
I am a mother.
As a mother you will do everything to protect your children from anything that may harm them. And in return you are rewarded with the chance to have your child meet milestones that are often anticipated well before they are even born.
But for mothers who can’t protect their babies from everything, they are robbed of these milestones and opportunities to watch their own children grow. I am a mother who lived in the mirage of milestones – the distant image of what might be ahead that dissolves into thin air when you get too close.
In 2009 I had a miscarriage 12 weeks into my pregnancy. This was our first baby. By twelve weeks we had told our family and friends, because we were now in the “safe zone” of pregnancy and I was already wondering who he/she would look like and what color eyes they might have. I was thinking of names. I was imagining holding them in my arms. But those mommy milestones were just a mirage. Dissolved before I even got the chance to experience them for myself. There isn’t a year that goes by that February 17 doesn’t remind me that this would have been his/her potential birthday.
If you can imagine how hard it was for me to deal with the tragedy of losing a child before I met him/her…I want you to now imagine being the mother who names her baby, loves her baby, watches that first smile erupt on that little baby face, take those first precious steps and give bear hugs bigger than any bear could give to that mom. Now imagine her losing that baby to a fully preventable disease like rotavirus (aka diarrhea) before her baby reaches that next milestone on her list. This is not a mirage…it is a reality.
1 in 5 children do not have access to life-saving vaccines in developing countries. Imagine if nearly half the children enrolling in kindergarten this year in the United States were to die of diseases that can be prevented by a vaccine. That’s how many children die each year in developing countries because they don’t get the immunizations they need. This is real.
The children dying in developing countries seem a world away, but they aren’t much different from children in our own lives. Their mothers have the same hopes and dreams as my own children. They celebrate the milestones that every mother wants to see – just like me.
This is why I serve as a champion for the Shot@Life Campaign. The UN Foundation Shot@Life campaign raises awareness and funding in the US to ensure that children in developing countries have access to life-saving vaccines. Immunizations give children around the world a shot at more “firsts”. Vaccines open the door for a child’s growth and development – first steps, first words, first day of school. Immunized children are more likely to celebrate their fifth birthday, do well in school and go on to be productive, healthy adults.
This is not a mirage…it is real. We have the ability to prevent 1.7 million deaths each year – we just need to get the vaccines to the children who need them. Together we can save a child’s life every 20 seconds by expanding access to vaccines.
I feel very lucky. I have two healthy children who I have been routinely vaccinated with no concern on whether we will get a single vaccine or not. Although, when my son was 9 months old and an outbreak of a new strain of flu started to spread, there was a vaccine developed but quantities were limited. The suggested recipients included children under the age of one with breathing issues. My son, who suffered from viral induced asthma was the prime candidate…however, our doctor could not get the vaccine and we therefore were not in line for protection for our son. Until the day that I got word that the county offices were holding a vaccine clinic for anyone in the area. But it was first come, first serve…so I bundled up my kids, then ages 3 years and 9 months, and drug them to the county office building in the next town over to stand in line for more than 3 hours to receive one of the last 5 shots they had to distribute that day. There were more than 100 people in line behind me who did not get the shot and more than 800 that were in front of me that did.
While my short recap of standing in line for a shot, for 3 whole hours, doesn’t seem nearly as extreme as carrying my baby on my back and walking more than 15 miles to stand in line for a life saving shot for my baby, it is real in both places. Many mothers walk more than 15 miles for access to vaccines in developing countries. They go to great lengths to protect their children and keep them safe…just like you and me.
So I ask you…at the start of World Immunization Week…to join me in helping to give a child a lifetime of immunity from deadly diseases and a shot at more bear hugs, butterfly kisses, best friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
I am a woman.
I am a daughter
I am a wife.
I am a mother.
I am a Champion.
Will you join me?