Writings

Honouring my Mother on this day of her Birth

Posted by on Dec 5, 2019 in Writings

Honouring my Mother on this day of her Birth

My mother is an obvious connector to birth for me – she birthed me after all. But the imprint my mother left me with around birth runs deeper than that. And today, 69 years since she was born at home in Athlone, and 12 years since she died in a car accident, I would like to honour her and the deep lessons of birth she imprinted in me. My mothers’ own birth story sounds like something from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. She was born at home in Athlone, on a hot windy Cape Town day, the second child to my grandparents. While my grandmother sweated and grunted and birthed the large round baby that was my mother, across the street, a house burnt to the ground, consuming not only the entire house but a woman inside it too. Birth and death in the same street on the same day. Because she was born so close to Christmas, she was named Carol. A huge relief to my mother when she found out that that the alternative had been Julie. The Little Green Statue my mother clutched while she birthed me After generations of birthing their babies at home, my mother was the first in our maternal lineage to birth in a hospital. She wanted to birth at home but she was far from home, a single pregnant woman living in a communal house in Switzerland. She wanted to birth at the communal house but the man whose house it was, stamped his feet and proclaimed that under no circumstances would that African girl squat down and birth in his house. She was too far from the alternative midwife run birth centre she felt would be a good alternative and so some friends chipped in to pay for the nearby and very exclusive Stefanshorn hospital where my mother was induced a week before my/her due date. She was left to labour on her own, on her back with a fetal monitor strapped to her. She held onto the little verdite statue, a bust of an African woman she had been gifted back in South Africa by a grateful woman when she was a rape counsellor. This little statue was her doula, her birth companion, her connector, back to South Africa, as she birthed me far away from home. My sister’s birth 3 years later, was a planned home birth in Bern, the birthing pool set up in the lounge. but my sister decided to trigger her labour early and emerged on Easter Sunday while the midwife was away on holiday. So we drove with my mother’s friend to the hospital and I remember sitting on my haunches, colouring in at a low table, while my mother laboured and birthed in the next room. I was expecting a little brother called Michael. I had been singing to him for months and was surprised when I was introduced to a little sister called Kate. Six years later, we were living back in South Africa, this time on a farm an hour outside of Ceres and we had to do the long three-hour drive to Mowbray Maternity hospital so that my mother could birth my little sister Gypsy. For my sister Jasmin’s birth, I was at school. It was 1991 and what had once been the ‘whites-only’ part of the local Ceres hospital, had recently been opened for all South Africans to use. Jasmin’s claim to fame is being the first coloured child born in that section of the hospital. My mother said she slipped out like a bar of soap. Living rurally,...

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When you sit with a woman in labour, allow yourself to become soft…

Posted by on Aug 29, 2019 in Writings

When you sit with a woman in labour, allow yourself to become soft…

Notice yourself. Your own breathing. Allow it to become deep. Allow it to become soft. When you sit with a woman in labour notice yourself. Your body. Your breathing. Sit quietly in a corner. Or lie down. Avert your gaze. Droop your head as though in prayer. Close your eyes as though in meditation or sleep. Or make your eyes soft soft soft and look at nothing on the ground. Allow your breath to become deep and expansive; fill your lungs, your rib cage, your entire being. Allow your breath to become deep and expansive like the waves of the ocean. In and out. In and out. Become so huge that your arms embrace the room, the world, the universe. Hold the woman in labour in an unseen embrace. Become so huge and expansive that you disappear into nothingness. Stay with your breath. Your softness. And the soft sighs and moans of the woman in...

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I was 21 When I Realised I had a Superpower…

Posted by on Jul 17, 2019 in Writings

I was 21 When I Realised I had a Superpower…

I remember a surge piercing through me. I was a lion, crouched at the top of a cliff, impaled with spears, roaring, in immense pain. But also in that moment, the most incredible strength coursed through me. I arched my back and roared. I felt my body opening up. Immeasurable pain. Immeasurable ecstasy. Unbelievable strength. And exultation. Two weeks before my estimated due date, the first surges tickled me awake by urging my bowels to empty themselves. I was 21 and labouring for the first time. I was naive and innocent going into my first labour. I had no clue what to expect and Mistress Labour slapped me in the face. I had to quickly put my big girl panties on. The first few hours of early labour, gentle surges swaying my hips as I breathed them down, I thought, “I’ve got this…this is easy…you just breathe through them.” Yeah right…. When that first active surge slammed into my cervix I thought: “FUUUUCK!” I felt like a cowboy who’d lost control of his horse. But somehow I was able to grab the reins and somehow with each surge, I stayed atop that bucking bronco called labour. Yeeha! And after 12 hours I pushed out a 5kg baby boy. Giving birth to my first child, and birthing myself as a mother, changed and saved my life. I was 21 when I realised how strong I was. I was 21 when I held my warm and slippery baby against my chest for the first time and I realised how much love I had to give. The seeds of love strength had always been in me but it was being given the space and time to navigate my way that watered those seeds and allowed them to sprout into the woman, mother and midwife I am today. And for that, I am truly grateful. And those seeds continue to grow… I look forward to being a gnarled old tree one day. To protect the seedlings still to...

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Ho’oponopono

Posted by on Apr 2, 2019 in Writings

Ho’oponopono

Ho’oponopono I’m sorry Please Forgive Me I thank you I love you Me singing Ho’oponopono on guitar She was 18 years old and recently married. Newly pregnant, she had jumped the fence between Zimbabwe and South Africa with her husband and settled in the Red Hill informal settlement near where I live. Traditionally in her family, women give birth at home with the local Anamboya in attendance. (Anamboya literally translates as granny midwife – and many of the attending Anamboya are the labouring woman’s grandmother. Or her mother. Or aunt. Or sister.) There is a deep trust in this community of nature and the birthing process. And a great faith in God and a very supportive church community. There is also quite a mistrust of the medical world and medicines in general – healing is often left to herbs and prayer and God’s will. This young woman wanted to birth at home and when her sister in law told her about me her husband made contact. I visited her for regular check ups at her home. Her sister in law would translate for us. Her English was not very good. When she was 41 weeks pregnant, she went for a check-up at our back up hospital, as they had suggested an ultrasound if she went post her due date. She was afraid to go as she had heard of many women being coerced into unnecessary cesareans. But I reassured her that all was well with her baby and that it would just be a standard check-up. That she could call me from the hospital if she had any questions or did not understand something. That she would soon be home, her mind at rest that all was well and that we could then wait for her baby boy who would trigger his labour soon. She went. Trusting me. At the visit she was told she needed to be induced. She had gone alone. Not her husband nor her sister in law were with her to help her understand and translate. Her phone’s battery had died and no one allowed her to recharge it to call one of us. She was induced on her own with no one familiar with her. They did not even know. After a failed induction she was given a caesarean and greeted her baby boy on her own. Her husband and I only found out after the fact. This is not a story to point fingers at our public health system. I am fully aware that not every pregnant woman walking into a public health facility is treated this way. Personally, I feel that our health system is very good here in the Western Cape of South Africa and I trust the hospitals we access in a medical emergency. There are many dedicated and passionate people working South Africa’s health system. I truly honour the service you provide and the work that you do. But I do feel that the fact that this woman was young, a refugee, alone, did not speak English, counted against her and made it all to easy to manipulate and coerce her. I write this because I feel her story needs to be told and because I am sorry. I suppose I am asking for forgiveness. Ho’oponopono I’m sorry Please Forgive Me I thank you I love you (Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian prayer for forgiveness, healing and taking full responsibility for one’s actions.) Me singing Ho’oponopono on...

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The Healing Ripple Effect of a Beautiful Birth…

Posted by on Oct 30, 2018 in Writings

The Healing Ripple Effect of a Beautiful Birth…

Sometimes being a birth attendant can be disheartening… It can feel as though one is working against a great big machine…birthing factories which seem to extract babies and eject traumatised women back into a system which does not acknowledge their experience and expects them to ‘get on with things.’  She has a healthy baby after all… Sometimes it can feel like what is the fucking point? What difference do I feel I can make? Attending one birth at a time…sitting vigil…a guardian of a process…what difference can little old me make against the machine, the tide…just a little drop in the churning ocean? Sometimes it feels like it is too late…women are broken…they feel broken and that the system is just too strong…too set in its ways… But then… I feel the tangible ripple healing effect of a beautiful birth. Wow! When a woman births in her own power it is as though that drop in the insurmountable ocean becomes a source of rippling, healing, underground, light that bursts through her family, friends, community, and heals on a subtle palpable level.  It is truly transformative. The power and oxytocin and love that she releases are beyond magic. And yet again, my faith and trust are restored in this work. I feel truly honoured and blessed and humbled to be able, in my own small way, be part of this great healing. Thank...

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On Children

Posted by on Jun 15, 2018 in Writings

On Children

I remember hearing this poem by Kahlil Gibran as a young child being performed as a song at one of the Re-evaluation counselling weekends my mother used to run. Two women performed the song,  ‘Your children are not your children…’ The song frightened me and I clung to my mother’s skirt. I did not want anyone telling me that I did not belong to my mother. I wanted to belong to her forever… But now as a mother with children in their teens and coming into their teens, this poem resonates with me more and more: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts,  For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,  which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them,  but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,  and He bends you with His might  that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies,  so He loves also the bow that is stable. I remember being a young mother of 21 and my firstborn on day 3 lying on my chest, milk drunk and fast asleep. It felt as though a shooting white light of love connected us at that moment…my beating heart connected to his. It was the most blissful moment of deep deep love and I knew at that moment that would be connected in this way forever. So as he grows older and his voice deepens that true deep connection never changes…it is always there…it is a trust and a love of the deepest knowing. From the moment they are born our children are moving away from us…and it is trusting that and them that is the key…  ...

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