In the run up to Father’s Day we ask some UK based Daddy Bloggers to write a guest blog for Save the Children.
Ben Wakeling: http://blog.benwakeling.co.uk/about/
Ben is a husband to one and father of two living in Warwickshire, England. When he’s not crunching numbers for a leading UK housebuilder or changing dirty nappies, he spends his time writing about parenting and fatherhood for a number of publications, as well as updating his own blog about being a dad during pregnancy.
It’s ten o’clock in the evening, and you’re exasperated. In fact, that’s an understatement. You’ve only just managed to settle your three-year-old after a day of him being as mischievous and naughty as he possibly can, including smearing his antiseptic cream all over his bedding.
You settle into bed, almost salivating at the prospect of a few short hours of sleep, when the sound of your four-week-old daughter sniffing awake crackles through the static of the baby monitor. You wait for the inevitable, and it comes: a sharp, piercing cry that resonates within your skull. You traipse into the nursery and almost break down in tears as you see that, once again, she has been sick.
This has been going on all day, and your shoulders slump as you realise that you will have to get dressed and head down to the local hospital in the dead of night to wait hours for treatment.
You don’t know how lucky you are.
Meet Mera, of Rajasthan in north-western India. Her son, Parmesh, could play up at times, sure. Some days, he was so naughty he brought her to the end of her tether. But now, as she fondly touches the leather of his school bag with calloused fingertips, her memories of him are sweet: a boy who wanted to make something of himself, so that he could buy her a new sari when he was older.
She remembers how pleased she was when he learned to talk Hindi, and proudly points to a scrawl on the stone wall of their home where he wrote his own name. Now, the same hands that once held her son wipe away tears for a boy she no longer has.
At the age of four, Parmesh developed diarrhoea, a condition cured by a few pills in the Western world but fatal in developed countries. Within hours, his health had deteriorated. In a day, he was dead. Now, his sisters cry when they see another boy his age. Mera is so wracked with grief she wishes she could end her own life.
Again, meet Suhaibu, from Nigeria – a country with one of the worst child mortality rates in the world. For nine months, he and his pregnant wife looked forward to the arrival of their baby. Finally, the day arrived, and he carried out his Islamic traditions as she progressed through labour.
He recalls the birth as being a quick one, but tragedy struck: the baby was stillborn. Stricken with grief, he tenderly washed the body of his child and buried it in the local cemetery. On the journey back to his wife, he was met by a messenger, who brought further bad news: his wife was bleeding heavily. Suhaibu rushed home and carried his wife to the hospital, where the doctors desperately tried to give her a blood transfusion. It didn’t work. She was 35 years old.
It has been ten weeks since Suhaibu lost his wife and child in the space of a day, and he is still deeply affected. His faith is his crutch, guiding him through his grief. His time is spent looking after his three children, who mourn the loss of their mother. He recalls fondly how she had cooked for the family on the day of her death, and longs for her kiss, her touch, her smile. He bitterly misses the child he held for just a few hours, the baby who could have been but tragically never was.
Infant deaths through basic illnesses was wiped out in developed worlds over a century ago. Yet every day 24,000 children in poor countries die of these same preventable diseases. Save the Children aims to double its investment in child survival programmes to help reach 50 million women and children by 2015, as well as hold governments to account for their promise to cut the number of children under five who die by two-thirds. To do this, they need your commitment, and your help.
So the next time your child makes your blood boil, or you find it an inconvenience to wait for a few hours in a hospital waiting room, just think about how nice it is to feel their fingers in yours, their kiss on your cheek, their excitement at a new achievement.
Mera and Suhaibu can’t stop thinking about it, and would give anything to be in your shoes.