Home birth as a trend?

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Writings

Home birth as a trend?

All good things must come to a trend, so obviously, home birth in all its fabulousness is going to have to come to the forefront, especially with rumours flying around that the future queen of England, Kate Middleton, is possibly planning a home birth (which I believe to be untrue).

But what is it about home birth that is attracting more and more South African women to this particular option?

Lana Petersen and I have been running Home Birth South Africa for the last 5 years – something we started purely out of frustration because there was nowhere that a South African woman could go for information on this birthing option – i.e. there was a lot of information available online and in books on home birth but all in the UK, the USA and Australia and nothing which made it seems like a tangible and doable concept within the South African context.

So, Home Birth South Africa has been going for the last five years, running quarterly gatherings and information sessions – a place where those interested in home birth, planning a home birth, have had a home birth, wanted one but didn’t get to have one, doulas, midwives, birth activists and those generally interested and who support it can gather to share, ask questions and discuss. The gatherings took place for a long time at Erin Hall in Rondebosch but these days take place at Norman and Jenny Skillen’s rock star mansion in Muizenberg. We usually gather in a circle and each person shares who they are and why they are there, they might share a story and ask some questions. Discussion inevitably ensues and we usually go over time. Over the years, the gatherings have grown in momentum and yesterday’s event attracted nearly forty people to it.

Our website and data base grew out of the home birth gatherings when we realised that the need for information and stories needed to be available on a national level. The website gives information, answers questions, provides stories written and shared by South African mothers and families, and offers a directory of home birth friendly practitioners – we are always on the look out for more stories, contributions, information so please feel free to share by contacting us. Stories can be published anonymously.

So what is it about home birth and why are we so passionate about it?

In this article with photographer Leah Hawker we touch on what drives both Lana and me but I think to summarise, for both Lana and myself it is not home birth per se which is our agenda but being able to provide information and knowledge to women and their families that helps them tap into their own needs around birthing their babies.

And both of us are in awe of women when that certain something is unlocked in labour and the new raging, power of that woman is opened as she finds a new part of herself.

Innately women seem to want to give birth where they feel safest and most comfortable, and within the South African health care system, while medically very sound, that feeling of safety, of feeling cared for, of being nurtured, of being heard and valued, is so often not there.

(And no, there are not really any midwife run birth centres for those women seeking the middle ground.)

Not sure when it happened that healthy pregnant women were considered ‘sick’ and deemed only fit to birth in hospital and not sure how it happened that women accepted that this would be the norm. But what I do see are that many women are often afraid to really voice their fears and their needs and that there is little space for them to do so. It is very interesting to hear women’s stories when they attend the gatherings and so often it is all about hearing their worries and dispelling common misconceptions and myths around home birth (like the fact that midwives don’t arrive with nothing but a rolled up towel at a home birth but bring a mini labour ward with them and are trained to deal with obstetric emergencies).

Women of earth take back your birth!

‘Cause if you don’t, no one else will…

Some photos from yesterday’s gathering:

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