Running so mothers don’t have to

Amira Salaam runs for Every Mother Counts, so that mother’s don’t have to when accessing basic or lifesaving maternal healthcare. 
Next week, Every Mother Counts’ founder, Christy Turlington Burns, is traveling to London to run in the Virgin Money London Marathon. With every step she takes for 26.2 miles, she’ll be running to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Christy is joined by a growing global network of Team EMC runners who are pounding out their own races and raising awareness and funds to support our work. 

Every Mother Counts’ motto, “We run so other mothers don’t have to,” is more than just inspirational. It’s practical, because it helps raise awareness and funds. It’s emotional because it provides direct support for mothers whose lives are at risk. And for each and every runner, like Amira Salaam, who takes part in a run, whether it’s a daily jog, 5K, 10K, half-marathon or a full marathon on our behalf — it’s personal.

Amira’s story:

When Amira decided to run the New York Half Marathon last month, she sent an email asking friends and family to sponsor her and she shared a heartbreaking story about why she was running for EMC.

I married young and got pregnant right away. I’ve always been active and healthy and I had a very low-risk, stress-free, easy pregnancy. Every test was normal and I exercised and did yoga throughout my pregnancy. In fact, it was at the end of one class, during savasana (a resting pose) that I noticed my baby wasn’t moving. I thought it was strange, but it never occurred to me that anything bad could’ve happened. I called my husband and doctor and went for an ultrasound. That’s when they gave me the terrible news that my baby had died at 38 weeks, just two weeks before my due date. She would have been born on Valentine’s Day. My world collapsed.

My doctor convinced me to have the baby vaginally, rather than by C-section because she said the scar it would leave on my uterus might impact my future pregnancies. I got Pitocin to start my labor and an epidural so there was no pain and I delivered my daughter quickly.

In the past, mothers were put to sleep when they delivered a stillborn and the baby was taken away before they woke up. They never knew where the baby was. For closure, my nurse said it was important for me to hold my baby. My family had different perspectives and they worried that would be too difficult. In the end, though, I held my daughter and then… I passed out. I’d suffered a serious laceration during her birth and I hemorrhaged. I was taken to an emergency procedure room where they repaired it and gave me blood transfusions. I woke up a few hours later. I was alive, but my daughter…

They ran tests on my baby girl and other than a club foot, there was nothing wrong with her. They found no cause of death. They said it was just a freak event, like getting struck by lightening. They tested my placenta and found a clot and tested my blood and found I had protein S deficiency, which puts me at risk for clot development. They’re still not sure if that’s what caused her death.

That was 10 years ago. Going back into the real world without a baby was hard. I was 26 and hadn’t lived through anything traumatic. I’m a type A person and when your body doesn’t do what you want, it’s confusing. You go through life getting what you want and you learn it’s not under our control. After a period of depression, I knew I needed hope so four months later I got pregnant again. It was a very anxiety-filled second pregnancy that ended up with a healthy baby boy. Later, I had another miscarriage and later still, I had my second son. That’s why I run for EMC. I just feel so fortunate.

I was 16 when I decided to try running. I loved the freedom. I’d put on my Walkman and go and I’ve been running ever since. Now, I bring my sneakers wherever I go travel. Running is natural to me now and that’s why I decided to run the New York Half-Marathon to honor the 10-year anniversary of my daughter’s stillbirth.

I sent an email to my friends and family and people who knew me ten years ago and also to people I’ve supported in their own races and fundraisers. Many people I emailed hadn’t known about what my husband I went through, but I shared our story and asked them to help me raise money for Every Mother Counts. I believe in EMC’s mission to help women all over the world receive adequate maternal health care to prevent maternal death and life threatening complications. I know that if I hadn’t had the healthcare I did, ten years ago, I very likely would not be here today. I know I wouldn’t have my two healthy sons. That’s why I told my supporters, ‘I will be running for all the mothers who have not been as lucky as so many of us. And every mile of the 13.1 miles I run, I will be filled with gratitude for each of you who have helped me become, once again, a confident, strong woman and mother.’

Amira raised more than $18,000 for Every Mother Counts and every dollar goes to programs we support that improve maternal health conditions for mothers both here in the U.S. and globally. When Christy runs in London next week, she’ll be keeping Amira in mind along with thousands of others who run so that other mothers don’t have to. Click here to learn more about how you can join Team-EMC and run with us.

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