“I lost my wife six days after the birth of our first child.” – Ryan Hansen, maternal health advocate
– By Ryan Hansen
The statistics are staggering and frightening. In the U.S., a woman dies every 10 minutes from childbirth birth or pregnancy related complications. Although the global number of maternal deaths has decreased by 44% since 1990, the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth in the U.S. has increased during the same time period. We rank 46th worldwide when it comes to maternal morbidity – significantly higher than other developed countries.
To say this knowledge would have a dramatic effect on expecting parents would be an understatement. But imagine being the statistic. Imagine your wife or partner had only 36 hours with her newborn. Imagine raising a baby with your parents and not your spouse, knowing one day that child would ask you about his or her mother.
Unfortunately, I don’t have to imagine this, I’ve lived it. In March 2011, I lost my wife, Tara, to complications associated with the birth of our first child. That plan we made over those fateful nine months, and that life we envisioned of raising Brandon and starting a family was completely shattered. Stolen over a period of six days as my wife succumbed to an infection that went unnoticed and uncontrolled.
Before Tara’s passing, I had no idea that this was a possibility. In my world, women didn’t die in childbirth, in America, in the 21st century. We were surrounded by modern medicine and we had what was considered to be good healthcare. I just remember thinking over and over, how could this happen?
What I came to find out is that it happens more often than we know. Women are dying at an alarming rate in America due to complications associated with childbirth.
After learning about the impact of maternal mortality right here in our country, I became inspired to help raise awareness of pregnancy complications because no woman should die giving life. By partnering with organizations like Merck for Mothers – Merck’s 10-year, $500 million initiative to reduce maternal mortality worldwide – I to hope to shine a light on the growing problem in the U.S., especially during the critical post-birth period.
It has been five years since I lost my wife. During that time I remarried, a fellow widow, Mary. We recently welcomed Dylan, a healthy baby boy, into the world. The only difference this time around, I was ready for anything, and so were our physicians.
Throughout Mary’s pregnancy, as with Tara’s, I attended all but one appointment with my wife. This time around, I told the doctors who I was, what happened to my first wife and made sure they were aware of our circumstances. Seven doctors, seven introductions. It wasn’t easy, but I felt it had to be done.
The months leading up to Dylan’s birth were some of the most stressful of my life. I kept relating things back to my first experience and wondering what if. What if, after everything I have been through, I lost another woman to this tragedy? What if I had to explain to another child who his mother was? I shed a lot of tears over those nine months for various reasons.
On October 25, 2015, Dylan made his arrival via emergency caesarean section. During the entire birth experience I felt there was open and ongoing communication amongst everyone who was involved in the safe and successful delivery of our child. Something Mary and I worked hard to establish with our team from Day One. Whenever we had a question the physicians worked to answer it. Our opinion on everything was listened to and respected, and Mary’s voice was empowered and heard by all she asked to listen to her – This was something very different from those fateful days in 2011.
I remember the last thing I said to our doctor in the early morning hours as we all settled into recovery after a very long day.
“Please, just don’t forget about her.” She responded “I won’t,” and they didn’t.