“You hold your soul and I hold mine.”
– Maasai saying
This is the first thing a mother says to her child, at the moment the umbilical cord is cut. It means that mother and baby are no longer one being.
For Fridah Mwari, her first experience of childbirth was scary – nobody told her what it would be like. Her first pregnancy was difficult; she gave birth at home without medical care, meaning daughter Amanda was underweight and frequently ill.
To make matters worse, in the central Kenyan village she and her husband Gerald Kimai live, pregnancy and childbirth weren’t openly discussed. Feeling frustrated and alone, Gerald had no one to turn to for advice; he pushed his family away, barely speaking to Fridah.
A second chance
When Fridah fell pregnant for a second time, a nurse suggested she join a mother-to-mother support group.
As part of the PPA Health project (supported by Christian Aid funds), the group was started by our partner the Anglican Development Service Mount Kenya East (ADSMKE), and run by Nurse Alice Karoki.
Meanwhile, Gerald was invited to a father’s support group. He told us that “the father-to-father group helped me a lot because before I didn’t know things about the family, about taking care of my children and loving my wife and providing for them. It’s very nice to be close to my children.”
Fridah attended regular antenatal check-ups at the mobile health clinic. She discovered she had pre-enclampsia (a pregnancy complication) – then she went into labour four weeks early.
In mid-2013 Steve was delivered by Caesarean section, and spent his first month in an incubator.
A difficult delivery could have had a tragic outcome if it wasn't for having access to the health clinic.
A happy, healthy and united family
Little Steve is thriving; Gerald relates much better to Fridah, Amanda and Steve.
Fridah supports her family with the vegetables she grows and the chickens she keeps in her kitchen garden – all thanks to the mothers' group. She's very thankful for their support, and for the support of Nurse Alice.
For his part, Gerald will pass on some fatherly wisdom to Steve:
“When he grows up, I will sit down with him and tell him what I was taught. I will tell him: love your children and love your wife. It’s your choice.”
Community health workers and traditional birth attendants collect health information about pregnant women in the community.
ADSMKE supports them, and, among other projects, works to challenge gender and power imbalances by setting up self-finance groups for women. This work has helped improve access to maternal health services.