Ayehu, Almaz, Zewdie, Yenenesh and Wubete suffered through prolonged, unrelieved obstructed labor in a country with few hospitals and even fewer roads to get to them. Although they survived the often-fatal childbirth experience, they were left with a stillborn baby and feeling, as Ayehu tells us, that “even death would be better than this.”
The obstructed labor has left each of them incontinent. We discover Ayehu, 25, living in a makeshift shack behind her mother’s house where she has hidden for four years, shunned by siblings and neighbors alike. She hesitantly begins her journey on foot, but once she arrives at the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, she realizes for the first time that she isn’t the only person in the world suffering from this problem. At the hospital we meet Almaz, a woman also in her 20s who was abducted by her now-husband in a village market and has suffered from double fistula for three years.
Zewdie, 38, has five children longing for their mother to be well. Though abandoned by her husband, Zewdie is supported by the strong extended family that surrounds her. As for Wubete and Yenenesh, both 17, early marriage and their small physical stature (the result of undernourishment and heavy labor) determined the tragic outcome of their first pregnancies.
For these two girls a cure is not simple. We’re with them as they struggle with disappointing news and later as their youthful determination triumphs. We follow each of these women on their journey to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, where they find solace for the first time in years, and we stay with them as their lives begin to change.