Writings

Birth is…

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in Writings

Birth is…

Birth is… Primitive and primal Like taking a shit Everyone does it What’s the big fucking deal?   Birth is… Beautiful and ecstatic Like a colourful multi-dimensional orgasm Opening the petals of a flower   Birth is… Blissful and calm Like an untouched lake Glistening in the morning light   Birth is… Painful and powerful Like the death of a loved one Ripping open your heart   Birth is… Lifeforce passing through you Like a bolt of lightning Cracking open the earth   Birth is… Quiet and ancient Like the stars on a moonless night   Or your breath as you sit in absolute silence   Or like the waves on the beach as they roll in an out   In and out   In and out   Birth is…...

Read More

Loving Midwifery Care for Every Woman

Posted by on Jan 6, 2018 in Writings

Loving Midwifery Care for Every Woman

Access to good, personalised and loving care should be a basic human right for any pregnant woman. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most. I offer my services as a home birth midwife to the women in and around my community, who would like to be able to access this service but who cannot afford it. Up to now I have been doing this free of charge but unfortunately, this is not sustainable and I write this to ask for your support. I have set up a Patreon page so that you can help pledge your monthly support via my Patreon page. I am offering home birth services to women in my local community of Red Hill Settlement who cannot afford it but who would like to birth at home under the loving care of an independent midwife. I aim to raise $800 per month through pledges. With this, I will be able to take care of one woman per month, ensuring good pre and postnatal care, attendance during her labour and birth, as well as ensure that her baby is registered with our home affairs and clinic. Costs covered will be for my on-call time, birth equipment, childcare, petrol, and general car maintenance. You can pledge anything between $1 – $50 per month and each contribution will receive a gift in return. To see my Patreon page and to pledge your support please see my page here I live near an informal settlement. It lies on the slopes of Red Hill and is made up of tin shacks that home families that hail from rural Western and Eastern Cape, Malawi and Zimbabwe, amongst others. It is a beautiful, tight-knit community who support each other and I have been honoured to serve many of the women in the community as midwife and friend. The Shona Zimbabwean community has a strong tradition of home birth and most have given birth before back home with their mother, or aunt, or grandmother in attendance – in other words, most have a traditional midwife as a family member and giving birth at home is the norm. Unfortunately, their birthing experiences once here in South Africa, have been far from positive and they tend to avoid hospitals for this reason. Many have sought out my care and I have attended them in this community – checking on them pre and postnatally, as well as attending them in labour and birth. Angela has given me permission to share her photo and story: Angela contacted me in her second trimester because she was concerned that even though she was over twenty weeks pregnant, she could not feel her baby moving yet. She had been for one checkup at her local hospital in the early part of her pregnancy but found it to be too traumatic after she was not allowed to bring her two-year-old son into the consultation and had to leave him outside while he screamed. Needless to say, both she and he were traumatised by the experience and she asked if I could come and do a check up on her. I visited her at home and at first, had to navigate her son’s trauma around my medical equipment (he would scream whenever I pulled out my blood pressure monitor). I introduced him to the equipment, kept him close to his mother and taught him to massage her belly with sweet smelling massage oil. After a couple of visits, he became my ally and bag carrying assistant. At Angela’s first visit at her home, we were able to detect the sweet little heartbeat of her daughter…she...

Read More

The Little Green Statue

Posted by on Jul 27, 2017 in Writings

The Little Green Statue

As a midwife and a mother, I cannot help but contemplate my own birth when the Earth circumnavigates the sun and reaches the 22nd of July each year. The little green statue is a little object which has always been a part of my life and has always stood either next to my mother’s bed, or balanced on her bed’s headboard, or stood on her dressing table, or was hidden in her cupboard. No matter where we lived, the little green bust of the African woman made of Verdite, was there, watching over our family.  Ever present and always there. When I was 15, I travelled to Switzerland, the land of my birth, as an exchange student. As a parting gift, my mother pressed the little green statue into my hands. She told me that it had been presented to her by a woman she had counselled in the late 70s. My mother was volunteering as a rape counsellor in Cape Town at the time and the woman showed her gratitude by presenting my mother with this gift. My mother also told me that when she was pregnant with me in July of 1980 in Switzerland and was due to give birth, she took the little green statue with her as her birth companion. She was a single mother and had been booked for an induction at the fancy private hospital at Stefanshorn. In essence, the little green statue was her doula. My mother had wanted and planned a home birth. She had been born at home, as had her mother and her grandmother before her. But the man of the house where she was renting a room banged his fist on the dining room table and made it quite clear that there was absolutely no way this African girl was going to squat down and give birth in his house. The nearest birth centre was in the next Kanton and so a compromise was reached that she would birth at the private hospital at Stefanshorn. ‘My’ due date was the 29th of July but the doctor was going away on holiday during that time and so my mother was booked in a week earlier to be induced. Coincidentally, she was booked in on my father’s wife’s birthday, something his wife insisted was done on purpose to upset her (It wasn’t. Long story. Read here if you want more background info on this). She was driven to the hospital by the sister of a friend and induced in the early hours of the following morning. She laboured on her own, a monitor strapped to her, using the breathing techniques she had learned and practised from her natural birthing books. My father snuck calls from his family home in the UK, shouting breathing instructions at her. He probably considered himself to be a bit of an expert, being the father of three children already. (Fucking mansplaining childbirth to a woman in labour! No wonder she hung up on him!) In the end, my mother huffed and puffed and sweated and heaved whilst clutching the cool stone statue in her hands. She held it against her burning cheeks and sweaty forehead and it reminded her of home. She said that in that cold and sterile hospital, the little green statue was her connection back to South Africa. My mother birthed me fairly easily it seems. She never made a fuss of it when she told me about it. I do know that she did not tear and that I weighed 5kg (11lbs). I was loved and breastfed and carried on her...

Read More

I’ve Come Home

Posted by on Dec 5, 2016 in Writings

I’ve Come Home

Today is my mother’s birthday and on her birthday, I usually like to share this story of her first catch as an accidental midwife. I thought of sharing her birth story, as I know she was born at home, in Athlone, as was the case with most Cape Coloured births at the time. I know that when she was born, the house across the road burnt to the ground and that a woman was trapped inside it and died. Birth and death in the same road on the same day. Recently I held a ceremony of healing for myself , a circle of strong women who held me emotionally and spiritually while I let go of old shit and allowed the new to be birthed.  And there I read this story to everyone. It is a story about my mother, a story she told me a long time ago. It is the story of when she, after twenty years of living in Switzerland, living a very Swiss and white existence, was led by a friend on an inner guide meditation which hauntingly reminded her of where she had come from.  Her roots. A story which very much altered and shaped our lives. As births do. So today, on this day when she would have been 66, I share the story of her rebirth. “Close your eyes, Carol,” Matthias said. Matthias was a tall skeletal gay man. A Buddhist psychologist friend who worked with Carol at the psychiatric hospital in Bern on floor D2. Carol was lying on her back in Matthias’s sitting room. She lay, surrounded by a pile of Indian silk cushions, one under her head. The sun streamed in through the window and onto her, making her feel comfortable and sleepy. Her children were with their father, he was down from London on one of visits. Single parenting was hard, but it was also what she had chosen. She was enjoying this much needed and uninterrupted break. “Relax, just breathe. Let everything go. Forget about everything. Just be…” She felt the air move in and out of her nostrils. She felt her body relax and she felt her breath becoming more regular and prolonged. I could stay like this forever, she thought, her tired body tingling. And with each out breath, she felt the weight of her body sink into the floor. Aaaah… “Now, imagine yourself in a landscape…” She saw herself standing in a grassy meadow. She was high up, high above sea level, with the most marvellous view, rolling hills and snow-capped mountains. Blue skies. Blooming flowers. Bright green, dotted with buttercup yellows and pinks and whites. The air felt warm and she wanted to lie in the grass. She listened; the air was busy with the work of insects. A stereotypical Swiss summer scene. How positively blissful, she thought. She felt herself drift off. “Imagine an animal walking towards you from a distance. It is heading straight for you. Looking very determined.” She found this disconcerting. There was no animal and she felt that the presence of one would be irritating. How dare Matthias bring up something so silly and disconcerting? Then unexpectedly, a great big elephant’s head arose from behind a hill and its body crashed through the tranquil scene she had created in her consciousness. She panicked and wanted to run but her legs wouldn’t move. Where the fuck did that come from? It headed straight for her and yet seemed oblivious of her presence. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck! Just as she thought she was going to be trampled, it...

Read More

Her Father’s Song

Posted by on Oct 26, 2016 in Writings

Her Father’s Song

Beneath the hustle and bustle of the busy theatre there is a soft hum. It is her father’s song. It is a song and voice she recognises. She stops to listen. It has been a busy night and day. She and her mother have worked hard and now she has been cut from her mother’s womb. Her cord severed. A pipe stuck in her mouth and nose. Voices. Smells. Strange hands. Bright lights. Cold. And then placed on her mother’s chest and a towel placed over her. Her mother’s sweet smelling chest. Soft. Warm. Comforting. Soft touch. Gentle, loving voices. And then the song. A soft hum. It softly penetrates the clatter. The chatter. The competitive banter. The jovial joking. The hustle. The bustle. Green fabric. Beeping machines that seem to breathe. Bright lights. Fast, efficient movements. Talking. Instructions. Splatters of blood? Shiny instruments.Flashing. Pipes. Sucking. She is placed on her mother’s chest and the rhythm of her mother’s heartbeat is so familiar. And the smell so sweet and delicious. She looks around. She sniffs. She smells. She drools. She nuzzles. She is protected by her father’s song. A soft hum which seems to weave a protective spell around the mother, father and child. Even the doctor performing the surgery notices the magic of the father’s song and stops his chatter to listen.  ...

Read More

After the Birth…

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Writings

After the Birth…

“Your feet must not touch the ground for 40 days…” I remember my grandmother’s voice crackling over the phone the day after giving birth to my first baby. “And no visitors, unless they are coming to help.” Words of wisdom which carried me through four babies and which I treasure still and pass on to new mothers. I have Greek and Indian family and both these cultures, amongst others around the world, afford this time of healing, protection and bonding time to new mother and baby. While my grandmother did not mean that my feet were literally not allowed to touch the floor, she was giving me permission to take my time in finding my way as a new mother. She was reminding me that I was a new mother. A new mother with a new baby, finding a new way. And that I was allowed protection. Because I was wide open. My heart, my body, my mind and my soul had been opened in ways I had not known were possible. And I had been given the honour of cradling a perfect, innocent being in my arms. Outside influence may or may not be beneficial but in the same way that pregnancy and birth need calm and sense of safety, so do mother and baby need this after birth. Dr Silvana Montanaro, who wrote Maria Montessori’s conception to age 3 programme and who is the author of Understanding the Human Being, eloquently stated that the first six weeks outside the womb should mimic those within. The arms of the mother should be as the womb and the breasts like the umbilical cord. It is a sleepy, dreamy, other-worldly time. It think it helped that I lived rurally when I first gave birth, this helped to keep visitors at bay. But more than anything, it gave me the time and space to find my way as a new mother. And despite sore nipples, aching breasts, and bruised body, I found my way… We found our way. This confidence carried me into me being able to trust myself as a mother, and to understand the needs of my babies. It also helped me to know, that that time with my babies was too precious to give away to visitors. It is such a special time and gone so quickly. Watch this video of Jacqui Roche sharing her thoughts on the woman’s needs after the birth. I was honoured to be at her birth for her second baby. I think she summarises those needs very well here. And then, as I finish writing this, I read this article by midwife Mary Cronk “The First Time the Iron Entered My Soul,” and it resonates so strongly. Protect mothers so they can be strong mothers....

Read More