Since the day she went into labour, Gisele’s life has been shaped by shoulds. She should have delivered her baby normally. When she did not, she should have had emergency obstetric care. Perhaps she should have had a cesarean. She should have become a mum. Today, she should have a 21-year-old son.

But now  Gisele is 48, divorced, and childless.

During a prolonged obstructed labour in her Congolese village , Gisele lost her baby. Due to the trauma of the delivery, she developed a childbirth injury called obstetric fistula that creates a hole between the birth canal and urinary tract, leaving the mother incontinent.  While the nature of Gisele’s condition was terrible, her physical pain was now nothing compared to the emotional burden that came with the loss of her baby.

With surgery, obstetric fistula is often repairable. As news spread that Mercy Ships was coming, Gisele began to hope. But it wasn’t until she found herself sitting in a hospital bed on board that she allowed herself to believe that she might be healed.

Since her surgery, Gisele is all smiles. Graceful and bird-like, she knits with perfect posture and hums between conversations with the women on either side of her.

Gisele should have had this surgery long ago. While she may always carry with her the grief of the child she lost and the pain of the years of suffering, she will carry it with her head held high because now she knows her worth.