I've been a mother for nearly two months now. I've had a lot of good days, and some rough days, and lots somewhere in between. My Cambodian neighbors have shrieked in delight when I've taken Declan for walks and handed him over for auntie time. A mother across the street with a two month old has held up her daughter for comparison with my son, pointing out that, while her daughter has hair everywhere, my son is as bald as a pig.
It's easy for me to think I have a comparable life to the Cambodian mothers I know. But when we talk about our children's births, I realize that's not really true.
I'm reminded that because of my language, my husband's job, and my income, I had a vastly different experience.
I traveled to Bangkok and received prenatal care from an American-trained Thai physician, fluent in English. Samitivej Hospital, where I delivered, is certified by the Joint Commission - the same agency that certifies hospitals in the United States. My birth was attended by a doula, who provided intense emotional support to my husband and I. My entire three-day hospital stay was about one-fifth the cost of similar care in America - but equal to three years' salary for the average Cambodian. And even those costs are covered by medical insurance through my husband's job - a benefit unheard of by most people here.
When I examine the details of my pregnancy and birth experience, the disparity between it and that of the average Cambodian woman glares back at me.
Women in Cambodia are literally risking their lives every time they bring a new child into the world.
That is a hard truth that is difficult to swallow when I want to feel like I am equal with my friends and neighbors here - knowing that, in some ways, life will never be equal for us.
It's easy to ignore stories and statistics like these when I'm not seeing the faces that could be behind them every day. I hope these stories motivate you to seek out ways to help others who don't have the same choices you do - whether due to location, finances, or prejudice.