It was reading Jebbeh’s story that inspired me to walk the 11 miles from Clitheroe to Blackburn Birth Centre. This is the distance that many women have to walk to access maternity care in Sierra Leone and I wanted to have some idea of what that felt like.
I could only imagine what it would be like for a pregnant woman, and probably one for whom labour was already becoming problematic.
I knew that, once I arrived at the centre, I would find enough beds, fully-trained midwives, a roof that didn’t leak, and efficient care if things didn’t go to plan.
Mums like Jebbeh don’t always have that assurance, even if they make it to a hospital. Jebbeh and her sister had to walk for three hours, under the burning sun, to reach hospital and give birth.
For me, the 11-mile walk was a joy and a privilege. The day was bright and sunny with magnificent views across the Ribble Valley. We stopped for coffee, snacks, and frequent toilet stops (like expectant mothers!) and chatted along the way.
The topics were varied, covering our families, the beautiful area we live in, the use of our churches to serve the community, our faith… and frequently our thoughts were about how hard, painful, and frightening this journey would be for a woman in labour.
A reporter from Radio Lancashire came out and walked with us for a short distance, giving us the chance to explain what we were doing and about the work of Christian Aid.
We visited two churches en route. At St Gabriel’s, Brownhill, where we were welcomed by the churchwardens with a very much appreciated cup of tea, biscuits and the chance to take our boots off!
We finished the last mile uphill, with a darkening sky, to arrive at the Birth Centre, to a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the staff. A midwife showed us round the facilities. Rooms were equipped with beds, cots, a birthing pool, and it overlooked beautifully-kept gardens, with a palpable atmosphere of calm and professionalism.
It is my hope that all mothers, wherever they may live, might have access to that same warmth, safety and expertise, and know the joy of a healthy baby in their arms.
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