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Saving Women’s Lives -and- Blurry Shots of Supermodels

Last week, I squeezed my Spanx-sheathed arse into a size 6 Armani dress from 10 years ago (postpartum triumph!) and prayed that no one would notice the length was all wrong. I was headed to the 4th Important Dinner for Women at Cipriani 42nd Street.

“I think I am the only one here wearing shorts,” Helena Christiansen said, pointing to her trendariffic outfit, as we made our way to our tables after cocktails.

“That’s funny,” I answered. “I just joked that I’m the only one here with a Metrocard in my purse.”

She laughed. Then stopped short.

“Wait…did you say a MasterCard?”

I thanked her for making my point.

I would describe the event as a gathering of 300 incredibly important and influential women from around the world, all to support the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and CARE. Or rather, a roomful of 299 incredibly important and influential women.

Or as Cindy Adams, the gossip columnist, said to me, Wait, there are BLOOOOOOGGERS here?

No. Just me.
And don’t test your Botox trying to raise those eyebrows so high, Cindy.

(I kid. She actually looks awesome for 108.)

You couldn’t swing a New York Post without hitting a boldfaced name in that room. I took a picture of the bar and realized Martha Stewart was in the shot. I randomly aimed my iPhone at the crowd and whoa, there’s Diane Von Furstenburg chatting with Sarah Ferguson. It was that kind of night.

And it was just my luck to be seated at the table next to all the supermodels. Like, first name super models, all of whom continue to look awesome: Helena. Christy. Iman. And on the other side of of me, Melania. Wearing a ring that was bigger than my children when they were born. To my left was the event’s hostess and Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi with Trudie Styler. A few tables away I could spot Nicole Kidman. In front of me was Andrea Mitchell and then a little to the right, Naomi Campbell. Plus a few dozen gorgeous African women in simply spectacular outfits.

South African pop star Yvonne Chaka Chaka, contender for best name ever, with the voice to match. On the right, Melania Trump. Not ugly.

At that point, I decided what the heck, no one was there to look at me. I was going to eat the bread on the table, order the pasta, and have the dessert. Two desserts. Yeah.

I did thank goodness I was seated next to the one other tech-type person in the room, the uber-cool Rebecca Handler of Wikipedia who also ate the dessert. And kept me laughing. And was generally awesome. And then Rebecca pointed out Gayle. You know, Oprah’s Gayle. Standing right next to us and looking swanky in silver.

My blogging friend went to Cipriani’s and all I got was this lousy picture of Gayle’s shoes.

All the while I keep thinking, hi! It’s me, Liz! Maybe you’ve heard of me? I was in the 1984 Mamaroneck High School production of Guys and Dolls – Hotbox Girl #2? I’m sure you remember.

What was actually cool about the event was that it wasn’t all about the gawking and me taking embarrassingly bad pictures on my iPhone. The women there were genuinely, profoundly interested in committing themselves to the cause of reducing global maternal mortality rates, as long as childbirth remains the leading cause of death of young women around the world.

(Think about that. That’s insane.)

I was incredibly moved by the speeches from the hosts – Wendy Murdoch whose own grandmother died in childbirth, Indra Nooyi, Queen Rania of Jordan, Diana Taylor, and the remarkable First Lady of the UK, Sarah Brown who wowed me when she said, “If women hold up half the sky, shouldn’t men hold up the other half?”

It’s true; this is not just a woman’s issue. This is a humanity issue.

[edited to add: Looking back at my notes, that was Indra Nooyi's line not Sarah Brown's. Both women wowed me. There was a lot of wowing. It was easy to be confused by it all.]

And all while that they discussed the factors affecting women around the world, I kept thinking, I’m here for a reason. I was sent here for a reason. I know it’s not some cosmic fluke that I am here right now.

Last week was a tough week. On top of a grueling schedule and the first week of school, the universe conspired to throw me some curve balls that taxed my emotions and forced me to devote way too much energy towards the planet’s lesser life forms who like to frequent these here internets.

But then, the universe works in mysterious ways. And it somehow scored me a seat at the table for this amazing event to remind me that there are issues that warrant my attention far more than internet bullies and crackpot trolls. There are 500,000 women every year dying. Dying. Because they don’t have birth control. Because they don’t have education. Because they simply don’t have doctors when they deliver and so they bleed to death.

Sometimes their babies die too.

10 million more women end up disabled or with chronic, debilitating illnesses.

Forever.


Mothers Day Every Day: The Campaign for Healthy Moms and Newborns is an effort worth learning more about. And if it takes celebrities to get people to stand up and take notice, so be it.

The aim is to reduce the mortality rate by 75% by 2015 through political will and low-cost interventions.

So here’s what you can do, if you’re so inclined.

1. You can donate money. It was suggested that the very next purchase you make, donate the equivalent to the cause.

2. If you can’t donate money, you can put up a button on your blog like this one, and maybe reach someone who can donate money.

3. Otherwise, I don’t know, you’re creative – What do you think you could do? Lemonade stand? Bake sale? Performance art? Blog post? It’s all good.

To thank you for your consideration, here is a blurry photo of a supermodel’s head.

Christy Turlington Burns’ very pretty hair. On the left, the radiant Iman.

We don’t all have the soap boxes of the Queen of Jordan or the wife of Rupert Murdoch, but we do have our communities. And each other.

{ 39 comments… add one }

  • Boston Mamas 9.29.2009, 12:48 am

    Liz, you *are* an incredibly important and influential woman. Tops in my book. :-) xoxo Christine

  • Muskrat 9.29.2009, 1:04 am

    I can't believe these assholes didn't invite me to attend in drag.

  • Meredith 9.29.2009, 1:35 am

    What an amazing experience! I have always wanted a close up look at Christy Turlington's hair. And I'm still giggling at the Metro card/Mastercard comment.

  • Ericka 9.29.2009, 1:56 am

    until my friends started trying to have children, i had NO idea how pregnancies are unsuccessful. it was a horrifying wake up call.

    so, go you!

  • Elizabeth @claritychaos 9.29.2009, 2:13 am

    Liz, this is so cool. Thank you for sharing this and thanks for the button and links.

  • mrs. q. 9.29.2009, 2:32 am

    Oh yeah? Screw you and your fabulous model-filled lifestyle. Why, um, I hosted an after-school play date. And hobnobbed with 5-year-old boys at a birthday party. And got a flu shot.

    So there.

    [grumble]

  • Elaine A. 9.29.2009, 2:36 am

    Wow, what an amazing event and cause.

    Glad you had two desserts. I SO would have too…

  • Kate 9.29.2009, 2:37 am

    Don't forget that trained midwives often have as good or better outcomes than doctors and at much less expense – they will be very important as the country (and world) tries to improve its mortality rate numbers!
    This is an important cause – thanks!

  • Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) 9.29.2009, 3:48 am

    Wow. I didn't realize the mortality/disability rates were so bad for childbirth. What a great cause…and what a fantastic event! You're one of the fancy-folk.

  • SUEB0B 9.29.2009, 3:57 am

    I was looking at the HuffPo photos, just waiting for one of you…you know, the most important person there (at least to your devoted and adoring readers).

  • Lady Mama 9.29.2009, 3:59 am

    I had no idea that many women were dying of childbirth. That IS insane. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. And Yay for dessert.

  • Being Me 9.29.2009, 4:17 am

    There are some things we take for granted..so many dying from childbirth is scary..
    Tx for sharing
    BM

  • Naomi 9.29.2009, 4:42 am

    Really amazing, thanks for sharing. Celebrity gawking aside, the event sounds like something worth talking about. (Although I have to admit that the Ninja luncheon at the Mandarin was probably my pinnacle of fancy in recent history…)

  • Mahlers On Safari 9.29.2009, 5:42 am

    Sounds like a spectacular evening.

    You know, Jhpiego, the organization I work for, is one of the main implementing partners of The White Ribbon Alliance and their Tanzania office is actually housed in our offices here.

    Perhaps it is time to come and report on what they are doing in the field? Someplace like Tanzania, perhaps?

    Hal

  • Lauren 9.29.2009, 6:36 am

    Great post! I'm going to RT it and spread the word.

  • Fairly Odd Mother 9.29.2009, 12:01 pm

    I'm so glad I'm not influential b/c even the idea of attending something like this scares the crap out of me.

    And, one thing that would help save women's lives is to forbid men from marrying children and impregnating them when their bodies are still too small to handle the pressures of childbirth.

  • Mom101 9.29.2009, 12:29 pm

    So so true FOM.

    If you read the site there are so many low-cost ways to really make a difference here. It will be interesting to see if this captures women's imaginations like, say…a Motrin ad.

  • HaB 9.29.2009, 12:52 pm

    I am going to be snagging that button and putting it on my blog!! Thanks for shedding light to organizations that I didn't even know existed.

  • mustangsabby 9.29.2009, 1:56 pm

    Can you pack ME in your purse the next time you go to one of these? Seriously… Martha Stewart…. Sarah Ferguson… Queen Rania?

    The amount of awesome in that room would make most people's head go *pop*! You must have been just floating on a contact high from the awesome. Hence the two desserts *wink* I am sure your Armani dress was perfect. Armani is timeless, and if anyone were to say anything, you can say its was “vintage” HAH! :)

    The cause is important, and I am glad to hear there are influential people ready to push from behind, to make mothers in our developing world safer and healthier. We, in NA, are very lucky, we are.

    Thanks for sharing your swanky evening!

  • Kami 9.29.2009, 3:57 pm

    How effing empowering! I hate to sound like a Spice Girl but…

  • Momish 9.29.2009, 4:24 pm

    Wow! What an experience and what a wonderful thing to be a part of and make a difference. I too had no idea that the mortality rate was so high. Thanks for the inspiration to get involved!

  • Melissa 9.29.2009, 4:37 pm

    Have you seen Uniject? If not, go here: http://www.path.org/projects/uniject.php

    I've been asking all of my mom-friends (all three of them) to consider donating. We did a donation at my baby shower ($1 to guess weight, $1 to guess day of arrival; all proceeds to PATH) and I encourage others to do the same.

    PATH is an AWESOME group and they do such good work. You can see more about them at my fmr. org's website: http://www.womenspolicy.org (scroll down to September 15 for the briefing on reproductive health tech.)

    The fact that 1/5 or 1/6 women die in childbirth in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan is, to me, morally unjustifiable.

    –Melissa from MOMocrats

  • Magpie 9.29.2009, 4:56 pm

    This is a great cause (and it sounds like it was a cool event). My own contribution has been to support a couple of African hospitals who help women avoid fistula and/or obtain the surgery necessary to repair fistula. Because you're right, it's INSANE.

  • Julie @ The Mom Slant 9.29.2009, 5:40 pm

    Lots of knowledge and perspective to be gained. Thanks for sharing and enlightening – we can all use this sort of reminder to do for others what we take for granted ourselves.

  • Maria 9.29.2009, 6:01 pm

    I can recall when I was in the hospital after I had my c-section for my first child that I was livid with the evening nurse on shift for her lack of attention. Wow, does this make me want to stick a foot in my mouth and be thankful for the care I did receive.

    I was following your experience on Twitter and marveling that you were keeping such amazing company. It is wonderful that you were able to take part in spreading the awareness of such an important cause, and I love that you are using your blog, which reaches so many, to make a difference. Kudos!

  • Carmen 9.29.2009, 7:28 pm

    OMG. What an amazing opportunity for you. Congratulations. You should really feel proud of yourself for being amongst such influential people and doing something so meaningful.

  • Sharon 9.29.2009, 9:39 pm

    thank you for sharing your amazing experience and enlightening us on this subject! i've added the button to my blog.

  • Carissa(GoodNCrazy) 9.30.2009, 3:30 am

    My very NON-bloggy pal told me I simply must come see what this post was all about.. and she was right. wow.

    I can only imagine how awesome this event must have been.. wow.

  • Jaime-Alexis 9.30.2009, 3:37 pm

    Great post! Thanks so much for writing about this important issue with sensitivity, humor, and grace. For those interested in taking action, one of the partners for The White Ribbon Alliance is the organization for which I work, Pathfinder International http://www.pathfind.org. Pathfinder focuses on sexual and reproductive health care in the developing world since one of the most critical ways to reduce maternal mortality is to provide options to women for birth control, reproductive health care, and access to quality health care providers.

    I would encourage anyone interested in these issues to check out Pathfinder on our website or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/PathfinderInternational

  • Lisse 9.30.2009, 5:14 pm

    Okay, I realize that this was about charity, but girl, you have a fun life!

  • Alexis 9.30.2009, 7:20 pm

    Holy Crap! That's high-powered!

    I'm definitely going to put the button on my blog.

  • Rock and Roll Mama 9.30.2009, 8:55 pm

    Button going up NOW…and homey, you belonged in that room. Believe me. You have a great heart, head, and voice, and you use all three. It's a rare and potent combination, glama aside. And, you know, Vintage Armani is not UN- glama.:)

  • Mom101 10.01.2009, 12:42 am

    THank you so much Melissa, and you, Jaime-Alexis! All such great causes and am happy get to learn more about them.

  • Ted 10.01.2009, 3:27 am

    Wow…that's David Bowie's third wife. His first being whatever her name was, and his second being ME. Anyway, I like the idea. I'll donate. I'm broke, but I can donate the amount I spent on something important today. how about the $25 I spent to get my daughter's flu shot? I'll match that. AND I'll put it on my blog.

  • Jaelithe 10.01.2009, 2:19 pm

    I am a huge supporter of the White Ribbon Alliance and the good work they do raising awareness about this incredibly vital issue. I coordinated a blog event at MOMocrats this past Mother's Day to support the launch of the Mother's Day Every Day site, and many wonderful bloggers participated. Normally I would NOT hijack Liz's comments to promote something I worked on, but the WRA is worth breaking my etiquette rules for:

    http://momocrats.typepad.com/momocrats/2009/05/mothers-day-every-day-post-roundup.html

    I would say, in this tough economic climate, even if you don't have money to donate, you can absolutely help them raise awareness by writing about their efforts on your blog. They make it very easy to share the facts about maternal mortality (and how EASY and cost-effective it would be for most nations to save lives by getting women access to the most basic of prenatal and childbirth care) by providing plenty of statistics at MothersDayEveryDay.org.

  • Mom101 10.01.2009, 2:50 pm

    Jaelithe, spam away.

    All relevant links are welcome here.

    (That means, not you you crazy Korean escort promoter. Yeah, you.)

  • Rebecca 10.02.2009, 12:27 am

    Great meeting you too, Liz. That's great that you're helping spread the word about this awesome org. And it's also great that you eat dessert. Hope to run into you again at another “very important” event.

  • Petit Elefant 10.02.2009, 11:59 pm

    I love that you got to go to that, I was fascinated when you were talking about it the next day, and would have loved to discuss it in length. Kudos, and also? Go you.

  • I had absolutely no idea mortality rates were that high. Holy crap! Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    It was great seeing you in NY at the Ninja event, even if it was only brief, since I had to leave early to catch another flight to Type-A Mom. Wish we'd have had more time.

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