Posts Tagged "Carol Ehrhardt"

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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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...

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