When it comes to having babies, most Americans fret about the getting the nursery ready, picking names and maybe sorting the college fund. Rarely do people worry about whether the mother is going to survive childbirth. Yet a woman loses her life in the process of giving life every 90 seconds, and the U.S., despite its highest per capita spending on healthcare, ranks 50th globally in maternal mortality.
To raise awareness around this largely preventable situation, agency CHI&Partners in New York has created a campaign for Every Mother Counts (EMC), a charity organization founded by Christy Turlington Burns that aims to improve the lives of mothers-to-be worldwide. Called No Mothers Day, the campaign calls on mothers everywhere to go silent this Mother’s Day in an act of solidarity for at-risk women and girls.
The centerpiece of the campaign is a two-minute film directed by Ed Burns featuring famous and non-famous moms alike who encourage women to disappear—that means no phone calls, no status updates, no gifts—on the one day of the year that people think of mothers the most to show how much a mother is missed when she’s gone. In the spot, celeb moms like Debra Messing, Blythe Danner, Tonya Lee Lewis, Jennifer Connelly and Ann Curry are cut together with everyday women, who all share statistics on maternal mortality. After a call to action, the women remain silent for the final minute of the film, save for a touching track from Eddie Vedder that’s part of an EMC compilation CD, making an uncomfortable point. The film is supported by a Facebook page created by Big Spaceship and a Times Square installation.
Victoria Davies, Managing Partner of CHI&Partners New York, says the goal of the campaign is to force people to think about an issue that might feel distant and unrelated to their own lives. “No Mothers Day is a very simple, slightly jarring thought that I hope forces a conversation on an uncomfortable issue of global maternal mortality,” she says, noting that being able to subvert what has become a highly commercial holiday helped strengthen the idea. “This turns what is a Hallmark holiday into a day where moms are thinking about the world and changing the meaning of Mother’s Day. It’s a strong idea and it’s not an easy idea for people to engage with. But no one other that Every Mother Counts could do this.”
Christy Turlington, whose own experience with a difficult childbirth gave life to the Every Mother Counts foundation, says her hope is that this campaign will give people pause. “I experienced a potentially life-threatening complication after delivering my first child eight years ago. The midwife and an obstetrician managed the situation, but I was lucky. I had access to people and supplies that saved my life. Once I learned that hundreds of thousands of women die from the same complication I endured and survived, I needed to do something about it,” says Turlington. “No Mothers Day is a social issue campaign that is meant to get people to stop and consider the facts. If successful, it will help drive awareness about a largely preventable tragedy. Nearly 360,000 girls and women die every year bringing life into the world yet 90% of these deaths are preventable. We believe that once people know these facts, as well as some of the low cost solutions, they will want to do what they can to put an end to this. Ultimately, our aim is to inspire people to want to get involved.”
Davies says the hope is that No Mothers Day will become an annual tradition that sparks conversation about a cause that matters. “Do we think that women will actually go silent? I don’t know. I’d love them to, I understand if they don’t, but I want them to talk about it. We’re trying to force the right kind of global discussion on the importance of motherhood,” she says. “Mother’s Day is our moment of noise.”