THE BLOG

No Mother Should Have to Endure the Pain of Burying Three Babies

05/03/2015 10:13 GMT | Updated 04/05/2015 10:59 BST

I consider myself to be a very lucky woman. I have four beautiful children, a great home, I enjoy my job and love my husband.

My life however has not always been this simple.

I live in a place called Iyolwa in Eastern Uganda. It's a rural setting with bad roads and limited local facilities. Western eyes may consider my life hard, but it is the only life I have known. Walking over a mile each day to fetch water is just a daily occurrence that I undertake in the way that people in the UK commute to work. It's just one of those things that has to be done.

The biggest problem we faced as a community was access to adequate medical support and education. We are serviced by the clinic in Iyolwa, which up until the start of the year was two old buildings, still standing, but only by sheer good luck! The roof leaked, the floors were smashed, there was no toilet or hand washing facilities, it was smelly, unhygienic and unsanitary. This is the place I was forced to go to during the three most traumatic moments of my life.

The first time I was pregnant I went full term and headed over to the clinic as soon as I knew I was in labour. Unfortunately my daughter was not in a good position to be delivered and her hand came out first, causing her to get stuck. I could see that something was going wrong. My husband was called and it was decided that I needed to be referred to the main hospital as quickly as possible because there were no facilities in the rundown clinic to deal with this complication.

At the time we did not have money to pay for the ambulance, we didn't even have enough to pay for the bus. The only available means of transport was our bicycle. The midwife tried to push my daughter's hand in and make me as comfortable as possible, then with the help of my husband they lifted me on to his bike.

The hospital is about 25km away, half of which is on a bumpy, dusty country road. By this time it was pitch black. It is hard for me to say what I was feeling as I was concentrating on holding on and praying that my baby remained safe. It took nearly two hours to get to the hospital and our baby did not survive the journey. After an operation my daughter was given to my husband in a bag for him to take home and bury in the back garden.

Her tiny grave remains a constant reminder of how dangerous childbirth in rural Uganda can be and unfortunately she is not alone. There are now three small headstones in the same spot.

My heartache was repeated a second and third time. Although my next child was delivered successfully, breathing difficulties were again beyond the capabilities of the local health facility and another referral was in order. Again our daughter did not survive the journey. My third pregnancy was stillborn, our first son.

It is impossible to say if the outcomes would have been different if transport and staff training had been better. It's a 'what if' game that I never allow myself to play. I will however do all that I can to make sure other women don't have the same horrific experience as me. No mother should have to endure the pain of burying three babies.

This is all the motivation I needed to become a member of the volunteer health team. I work closely with Iyolwa Clinic to make sure pregnant women in the community are identified early and all possible precautions are taken to ensure a safe delivery. I make sure the women attend their prenatal appointments, get regular check-ups and take their medication.

'Operation Health for Comic Relief' has just made my job a whole lot easier. Iyolwa Clinic has been chosen to undergo a complete refurbishment. Gone is the suffocating, airless, delivery room no bigger than a cupboard and in its place will be a fully equipped, modern delivery suite with electricity and running water, alongside a seven bed maternity ward for women to rest and recuperate. The new facility is not yet open but it's all the village can talk about. Women will be happy to attend pre and post natal appointments and are relieved that safety and training will be improved in the local area. Thanks to the generosity of people in the UK a transport savings scheme is also being introduced to give people a means of paying for emergency transport should the need arise.

As I said, I am one of the lucky ones. I now have four beautiful and healthy children. With your help this Red Nose Day even more women may be able to say the same.

Tune in to The One Show tonight at 7pm on BBC One to see Lenny Henry reporting live from 'Operation Health for Comic Relief' in Uganda. For more information about 'Operation Health' or to make a donation, visit rednoseday.com/operationhealth