After nine long months, it is finally go time for you and your baby, and your maternity bag is stocked. Do you have your newborn's first outfit? Check. Your nipple pads and ointment? Check. Your flashlight since your hospital facility does not have electricity and your bucket since the hospital also doesn't have running water? If you are one of the millions of women in developing countries around the world, preparing for baby's arrival and the basic necessities for labor and delivery may look significantly different. WaterAid paired up with expectant mothers and photographers around the globe to give a glimpse into what women are packing as they prepare to bring home baby. And you'll be downright shocked to learn what some moms-to-be have to tote to the hospital to give birth. Note: The contents above are what are in Ellen Phiri's maternity bag. She lives in Malawi.
The startling contrasts between the maternity bags from the United States, Australia, and the U.K., and those from Malawi, Madagascar, and Zambia highlight the need for clean and readily available water sources. For Hazel, who will deliver in a maternity ward in Zambia that does not have running water (and whose bag is featured above), it is necessary to pack a plastic covering for the delivery bed and a water basin for cleaning. Agnes, who is expecting her third child and who lives in Tanzania, will deliver in a facility without a shower and with only one broken toilet — which is also used for washing medical equipment. Woman are often responsible for bringing their own water to the hospital, a physically strenuous task as well as a dangerous one when there are no readily available sources of clean water nearby. The women also bring certain cleaning supplies such as alcohol to wipe down delivery beds that haven’t been cleaned between uses — and even razor blades and string to cut and tie the umbilical cord.
In contrast, the focus in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom appear to be the mother’s comfort, since the basics are almost always available at the hospital. Items include a sound system to play music during the delivery, massage oils, and toiletries as well as several outfit changes for baby.
Becoming a mother is life-changing wherever in the world it occurs, and WaterAid is currently raising funds through the Deliver Life campaign to ensure more babies are delivered safely with the help of clean water sources. As anyone who has labored and delivered a baby can attest, it’s an experience often full of blood, sweat, and tears. Accessibility to water diminishes infections for both moms and babies, and it allows families to focus on the important firsts of welcoming a new baby into the family, instead of worrying over and scrounging for safe sources of clean water. As Katy, an expectant mom in Australia said, “Even carrying the maternity bag is too heavy for me; I couldn’t imagine how I would cope if I had to carry 25 liters of water over a distance. Physically, I don’t know if I would be able to do it even before I was pregnant.”
Lead image ©WaterAid/Anna Kari