Posts Tagged "birth"

There is hope…

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in Writings

There is hope…

Two weeks ago I came back home to South Africa after a full and busy tour of teaching and presenting in various countries in Europe. I don’t think I quite realised what I had signed myself up for when I said yes to all the commitments I had made but for three weeks I ended up either teaching or travelling every single day. This was my itinerary: 14-15 May, Additional Skills and Information Session Weekend for Doulas at DO-UM in Istanbul, Turkey 17-18 May, Helping Babies Breathe and other obstetric emergencies for home birth at Da a Luz, in the Alpujarras, Spain 20-24 May, An Introductory Course to Midwifery at Vale dos Homens, Portugal 26-31 May, book launch of Italian translation of my book, The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour, in Rome and various towns on the island of Sardinia. I flew to Istanbul mid May to teach doulas and student doulas at DO-UM, a space run by Nur (the first ever doula in Turkey) and Sima. These two doulas are pioneering and bearing the torch of birth through education and birth attendance in Turkey. Turkey has a rising caesarian rate which matches our own here in the private sector in South Africa. The majority of births are attended by doctors and most end in caesarans. But DO-UM and other places are trying to shift this by offering doula courses, as well as childbirth classes for expectant couples. Then I went on to Spain where I spent two days teaching the last workshop of Da a Luz Midwifery School’s second year in operation. The school, is the vision and idea of Vanessa Brooks, a British home birth midwife residing in Spain. It is still a work in progress but what I have seen in visiting the place twice  in the last two years, is that it is coming together very nicely, and growing as a course which supports women in choosing the path to true midwifery. Students sign up for a year’s apprenticeship and have the added challenge of having to provide completely for themselves in terms of accommodation (living in tents, vans, yurts, caravans, and one student even building herself a little cob hut), living off the grid and living communally. The school building, is slowly being built and has gone from being a pile of stones to taking on a majestic presence of its own. I look forward to seeing it when it is done but for now, classes still take place mainly outdoors, on rugs, on the grass, under the olive tree. I am very inspired by what Vanessa is doing at Da a Luz because we all know that there is something lacking in midwifery training nowadays, and that is often a lack of trust of the birthing process. Da a Luz aims to instil a sense of confidence and faith in birth. Last year I taught the Helping Babies Breathe course to a group of doulas in Portugal. After that course, there were numerous requests to build on that and for me to provide a longer, more detailed course, exploring some of the skills of midwifery. Hence,An Introductory Course to Midwifery  was born. At the beautiful venue at Vale dos Homens we spent five days discussing, exploring and mostly laughing our way through basic midwifery skills, sharing birth stories and discussing what birth and midwifery meant to us. You can see more pictures from the course on the True Midwifery FaceBook page. After the course in Portugal I had to catch a plane to Rome where the Italian translation of my book, The Basic Needs of a Woman...

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and remember what peace there may be in silence…

Posted by on Jan 13, 2016 in Writings

and remember what peace there may be in silence…

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” – Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata“ With every birth I walk away with something new. or what I know to be true is reiterated or reconfirmed. What peace there is in silence… How those words resonate as I sit behind the young mother gently pressing on the part of her back that she has indicated is needing a gentle touch as she lies on her side labouring. Her friend…who has been with her all night sleeps behind me. We don’t speak.  We convey everything purely through our bodies and through touch. Our communication is through the silence and respect and reverence we have for this process. The wind howls and the windows rattle. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it...

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In This Moment I can Only Love you.

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in Writings

In This Moment I can Only Love you.

In this moment I can only love you. I can only be there for you. Open my heart. And just be. Open. Empty. You grip my hand, tightly, your nails digging into my flesh. You are on your knees, on the floor. Your body bearing down. All concepts and ideas of how to birth are gone and all you can do is just be with your body. Allow your body to just take over. I am here. And yet I am not. I try to disappear because the space you are taking up is huge. Massive. The universe groans as it makes space for you to birth this baby. It does feel as though time suspends itself. It really does. Nothing else can exist in this moment. I have to become nothing. Empty. Open hearted. Here. and nowhere else. For you. You are incredible. Amazing. Did you know that you were capable of this? I am in awe. In this moment. I can only love...

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Advanced Doula Workshop in Portugal

Posted by on Aug 4, 2015 in Writings

Advanced Doula Workshop in Portugal

Alex and I connected for the first time around nine years ago and the reason we connected was around birth and midwifery. We are not quite sure where and when it was that we first heard of one another but I do remember hearing via various whispered sources about this brave young French woman who was living very simply on a very isolated farm in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, and who had chosen to give give birth unassisted to her first baby. (You can read the story of Alex’s second birth, also a free birth, outdoors in the Eastern Cape, here). Alex and I first chatted online. I was pregnant with my third child. We discussed our births and shared our dreams of one day becoming midwives. Alex was the first person to ever tell me about Lotus Birth and highly recommended I try this for my next birth. I imagined birthing in a room filled with scented flowers, visualising myself opening like a flower for the sun to birth my baby. I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed to find out that all a Lotus Birth required was not cutting the cord of the baby and waiting the 5-7 days for the cord to naturally fall off. Alex, along with her husband Yan, and their good friend Ole, pioneered the intentional community Khula Dhamma, initially founded on Vipassana principles. Over the years, our families met regularly, both in Cape Town and at Khula Dhamma and needless to say, Alex and my conversation would steer towards birth and midwifery. We shared our stories and experiences and  always, we strongly resonated regarding birth and our implicit trust in women’s abilities to unlock (when given the opportunity) something deep and powerful within themselves. Four years ago, Alex and her family left South Africa and lived in Brazil for two years before finally settling in Portugal. Alex has been inviting me to come and visit for a long time and when she heard I was going to teach in Spain she invited me to come and teach some of the doulas in her area too. So after my ten-day teaching stint at De-a-luz in Spain, I traveled on three busses to the Algarve in Portugal. So this last weekend, doulas from Portugal came and we discussed mostly our experience of birth(amazing how birth-y people never seem to tire of this subject!), spoke about creating the optimal environment for a a fetus ejection reflex and physiological birth, and learned some skills around resuscitating babies as well as some basic but essential obstetric emergency skills. The question was asked as to why these would be skills a doula should learn since a doula’s role is to provide non-medical support to the mother. The answer is quite simple: The World Health Organisation states that one million babies die each year from birth asphyxia (an inability to breathe at birth) and recommends that every birth have an attendant skilled in neonatal resuscitation. If you are attending births regularly, you may find yourself in a situation where a baby is not breathing, or where a mother is bleeding more than usual, or has a prolapsed cord…You may be alone with her, or you may be at a home birth with a midwife, or driving in a car, or even be in a hospital. You may be the only one who can deal with that situation right then and there before the mother and baby can be transported to hospital, or you may need to assist, or you may just need to support a mother and her family during...

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Under the Shade of an Olive Tree, Midwives Gather in Spain

Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 in Writings

Under the Shade of an Olive Tree, Midwives Gather in Spain

Firstly, it’s bloody hot here at Da-a-Luz. That I have to say. Dry, sweltering heat that leaves you sweating at the slightest movement once the sun is up. Yummy food sourced mainly from the local gardens and surrounding farms, goat’s milk, cheeses, honey, pears, aubergines, watermelons, zucchini, olives and olive oil. So good. I sit, writing this by candlelight in the caravan I am staying in…the sun has finally set and with it a bit of cool and the sounds of the crickets descend. I have just returned from collecting water from the spring with midwife Fiona and student midwives Hannah and Jennifer…we also cooled our feet after a long day of neonatal resuscitation training. For the past week, midwives and student midwives have gathered on cushions under the shade of an olive tree, sharing their stories, fears, hopes, dreams and hopes of births for the women they serve. And themselves. One thing is clear: midwives are frustrated at the state of how births are run in this world. They are shocked and angry at the soaring caesarean and intervention rates. When was it that institutions became the places to manage and control this mostly straightforward and holy life event? What I have learned is this: – get a bunch of midwives together and they will find endless birth related things to talk about, debate and discuss, from the complicated to the ecstatic, from the outrageous to the most undemanding. Sharing techniques, pearls of wisdom and skills. And midwives do not seem to grow weary of this subject either. But midwives and midwifery students feel tired and defeated too. Innately, they believe in women’s ability to give birth to their babies, but many midwives are tired of fighting against the systems that constantly claim this right. But there is something truly magical and inspiring that happens when midwives are given the time to get together and share and support one another in this time old profession they hold so dear. It is as though the little spark of hope that sometimes feels that it may be dying is fanned by the love and strength of other birth keepers. If there is anything I can recommend, it is for midwives to regularly gather to share in a non-judgemental setting. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. Safe, empowering, beautiful births for the mothers and babies we serve....

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