Posts Tagged "doula"

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...

Read More

The First Time I Ever Witnessed a Fetus Ejection Reflex

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Writings

The First Time I Ever Witnessed a Fetus Ejection Reflex

The first time I ever witnessed a fetus ejection reflex was one summer’s night when I was attending a home birth as a doula. The first time mother was ten days past her estimated due date and there had been some pressure to induce. She had declined this intervention and made it clear that she would wait for her baby to come. She was a very petite woman and had already been warned by both her obstetrician and her midwife that more than likely, she would require a caesarean and that she should prepare herself mentally and emotionally for that eventuality. The baby hadn’t dropped into her pelvis at all, let alone engaged, her hips were tiny she was told, and she was already very much past her due date. Instead of these remarks squashing her plans and her confidence, they fueled her instinct to birth at home even more and she made it quite clear that she would prefer to be left alone until she went into labour. So, ten days after her due date, she let me know that her waters had broken but that she wasn’t yet experiencing any labour pains. She would let me know once things were happening but for now, she was just going to stay at home and wait and see. She would be in touch. Even though we only lived ten minutes from one another, we were separated by the Argus Cycle tour taking place that day, so even if I had wanted to get to her, I couldn’t have, and neither could anyone else, so she really could just be left undisturbed at home. At around 3 pm in the afternoon, once the roads were open and clear again, I made my way to her home at her request. She and her partner were sitting on the sofa when I got there and after greeting them I sat down on the sofa opposite them. I felt on the spot, they were looking expectantly at me, as if they were waiting for me to do something. She was experiencing the occasional contraction but it was definitely still very early labour and there was certainly not much that I could do! I excused myself and went to the loo, and once I was done, I ducked into the garden thinking, What do I do with myself now? I spotted a cat lying lazily in a spot of afternoon sun on the grass and I remembered Michel Odent saying something along the lines of: “If you are unsure of what to do with yourself at a birth, find a cat and copy what they do. Cats are the ideal birth attendants.” So yeah, I went and sat with the cat. She didn’t seem to mind too much that I was infringing on her bit of sunlight. At first, I sat a little stiffly, I felt awkward. But soon, her laziness rubbed off on me and eventually, I too was stretched out enjoying the last rays of afternoon sun. The mother came out into the garden and asked my advice on what she should do. I asked her what it was that she felt like doing. She said that she was tired and felt like resting and sleeping, so I said, “Well, why don’t you go and try to do that.” So off she went. And I stayed with the cat until the sun set. I snuck back inside the house (like a cat) and saw out of the corner of my eye the mother sitting cross-legged on the sofa, propped up by pillows, resting in between surges...

Read More

Every Mother Matters

Posted by on Nov 24, 2015 in Writings

Every Mother Matters

About a year ago a young mother, pregnant and living under a bridge, went into labour. She was a sex worker and we can only assume she stayed under the bridge to birth her baby because she was afraid to go to the hospital to birth her baby. I don’t know. Sadly, the baby got stuck and both the mother and her baby died. Dudu from SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) phoned me when she and a group of other mothers were returning from their friend and colleague’s funeral. “We must do this training Ruth!” she said. I had some time ago been invited to help facilitate some of the SWEAT Mothers of the Future meetings and there we had shared our birth stories and chatted about pregnancy and other reproductive issues. Mothers shared how they were slapped and hit and shouted at by nurses and midwives for being uncooperative. They felt they were stigmatised for the work they do whilst giving birth. They often felt unsupported. Three or four mothers shared their stories of birthing at home with no assistance when labour had gone more quickly than expected and how different and empowering and different those experiences were. We talked about how the mothers in this group could be of better support for one another and we eventually decided that perhaps a doula training would be a good idea. As part the Compassionate Birth Project, we envision the option of a doula for every labouring mother and initially we thought that our job was to train doulas who could be employed by facilities so that any mother arriving in labour could gain access to a doula. But the SWEAT Mothers of the Future have decided for themselves that what they want to do is ensure that there are doulas within their own networks and communities. Fellow mothers who understand each other and who have walked similar paths. Makes total sense. Dudu is a real visionary and she has plans to roll out this doula training to sex worker mothers countrywide. I like how she thinks. Yesterday, Robyn Sheldon and I started our training with five beautiful souls who made the journey from their various dwellings, catching buses and taxis to get there. They have made the commitment to be part of this training for the next week. Yesterday one of the mothers said: “ If I understand it correctly, to be a doula I need to be able to let go of everything and to just be there for the mother. To be able to fill her with positive energy.” Couldn’t have said it better myself…the perfect definition of the...

Read More

The Cape Town Midwifery and Birth Confernce

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Writings

The Cape Town Midwifery and Birth Confernce

Have you ever been to the Cape Town Midwifery and Birth Conference? Well, if you haven’t and you are passionate about all things pregnancy and birth related, and live in, or near Cape Town (although people do travel from further afield to attend), you really really should come. What is the CT Midwifery and Birth Conference and what makes it particularly special? The conference began in 2013 when a bunch of women, got together and decided that they had had enough of the situation around birth in South Africa (the ridiculously high caesarean rates in the private sector and the abuse of labouring women in the public sector to name but a few). The CT Midwifery and Birth Conference was born and we were pleasantly surprised to find that many other people felt the same way and crowded little Erin Hall so that it was full to bursting!   One midwife who attended said that the conference felt like a home birth. It is all about sharing and collaboration. It is about hearing the stories of all of those invested and affected in the services provided. Mothers. Fathers. Families. Midwives. Doctors. Doulas. Birth Activists. Lactation Consultants. All those affected and invested – especially those on the receiving end. The next conference (our third) will take place on the 30 – 31st of October 2015 at the Observatory Community Centre. For more info and for the full programme and list of speakers, have a look here: Cape Town Midwifery and Birth Conference official website And here is the direct link if you want to book your ticket: Get your tickets...

Read More

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...

Read More