While we discuss ways to improve maternity care in the United States, the reality is that American women do not have to worry about rocket fire or ground combat barring access to hospitals or impeding the travel of a midwife to their home. The latest reports show that at least fifteen Hamas rockets hit southern Israel with no known casualties.
For today, I’m putting the drafts aside that I’ve written on a variety of topics to share a few reports on pregnant women in Gaza. As more rockets are fired into Israeli towns, reports of more civilians unable to access medical and emergency services will most likely emerge as well.
The L.A. Times reported:
The situation is perilous even for those seeking maternity care in Gaza's overloaded hospitals. Pregnant women face the decision of whether to deliver at home or risk trying to reach a medical facility, where critically injured patients take priority. Gaza City's main Shifa Hospital emptied its maternity ward on the first day of the Israeli air assault.
The Independent featured an entry from Fares Akram’s Gaza Diary:
Personally I've had a big decision to make. I've had to evacuate Alaa from our family home. It's just too risky for a woman who is due to give birth shortly, to stay here in our apartment which is quite a distance from the nearest hospital. I managed to find a taxi driver willing to make the journey, and moved her to stay at her parents' house in Al Masser near the Beach refugee camp which at least is closer to a small clinic. Alaa packed up all the things for the baby – the first aid kit, some diapers, her own clothes. She didn't want to go.
I can't describe how sad it is to be apart from your wife in these circumstances. I want to be with her, but I also have the responsibility of my younger brothers, my sisters and their kids and my mother, especially after what happened to our father, who was killed by an Israeli air strike on our farm in northern Gaza on Saturday. Emotionally my mother has been very strong. But I saw tears in her eyes when Alaa was leaving.
Reuters reports that pregnant women in need of emergency services are not able to reach hospitals in “Aid agencies say Gaza needs food, medicine -- and body bags”
Work on the ground was also perilous for medics. Three paramedics and three volunteers have been killed so far and planes have bombed the Health Care Union in Gaza City and destroyed four ambulances, Palestinian medical officials said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said the combat had prevented ambulance staff from responding to many calls.
On Sunday, a pregnant woman in Zeitoun in northern Gaza had to be taken to hospital on a donkey cart but did not make it in time. The baby was stillborn and she suffered a ruptured uterus.
Documentary filmmaker and human rights activist Jen Marlowe relays her conversation with her pregnant friend, Abeer, to The Chestnut Hill Local:
Abeer was excited when I called her today.
“It’s my time, Jen!” she told me breathlessly. “The baby might come today or tomorrow –any moment now!”
Last time I saw Abeer, a year ago, she had shown me pictures of her fiancéé, a teacher, and the last time we spoke, months ago, she told me she was pregnant. But I had no idea how far along she was and that she was about to give birth now.
Now, of all times.
Abeer lives in the Gaza Strip. She has been waiting for her water to break the last four days as missiles rained down, killing more than 380 Palestinians.
I wanted to express wholehearted joy. This will be Abeer’s first child, her parents’ first grandchild. But I felt panic at the news. Gaza is enduring the bloodiest, most vicious attack in more than 40 years of Israeli occupation. I couldn’t imagine Abeer, whom I’ve known since she was 15 years old and visited many times in her cramped home in the Khan Younes refugee camp, giving birth to the sound of explosions in the background.
Abeer expressed some trepidation herself.
“I’m frightened,” she told me. “The situation in Gaza is really terrible. And bringing a child into the world is such a huge responsibility. How can I guarantee my baby’s safety?”
This wouldn’t be the first baby in the world born with bomb blasts in the background. It certainly wouldn’t be the first baby born with no guarantee of medical care for baby or mother during or after delivery. Chances are, Abeer will give birth to a healthy baby and be fine herself.
The reality Abeer knows she’s bringing her child into – that’s the truly terrifying thought. The potentially life-threatening shortages of food, electricity, water, cooking gas, car fuel, and — on top of it all — relentless, inescapable, pointless violence. Abeer is right. She cannot guarantee her baby’s safety. No place in Gaza is safe.