Posts Tagged "birth"

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…...

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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...

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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...

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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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