Posts Tagged "doulas"

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

My Book now Available as Paperback and for Kindle on Amazon

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Writings

My Book now Available as Paperback and for Kindle on Amazon

In 2010, my sister in law Ellie asked me to attend the birth of her first child in Edinburgh. I was most honoured by this request and, of course agreed immediately. I was reading a lot of Michel Odent’s articles at the time, and was feeling very inspired by them, and began doing some research on what his thoughts and feelings were around doulas – I was pleasantly surprised to find that he had done lots of writing on the subject AND offered a doula course of his own! My heart raced as I realised that he was offering a course for three days before I was due to be with Ellie! Talk about synchronicity! So, after ten years of pretty much being a full-time breastfeeding, stay at home, homeschooling  mother, I travelled to the UK and attended Michel and Liliana’s Paramana doula course in London. How do I describe the experience? Well, first of all, I was late! I got lost on my way there and arrived to a circle of about twenty women and Michel Odent (so weird to see someone so familiar in the flesh for the first time). They had all just finished their introductions. I was asked to say who I was and where I was from. As I said, “South Africa,” everyone roared with laughter and I got a fright. Seems there was a person from each humanly inhabited continent besides Africa present. For the next three days I said nothing much, I just wrote and wrote and wrote – the feeling was like a lightbulb had gone in my brain and my soul was being washed with a soothing balm. Everything shared and said made so much sense, I wanted to be able to share it with the world! Back home and I recommended Michel Odent’s books to everyone but his flowery writing and tendency to go off on tangents more often than not confused people. “Why is he advocating for polygamous and polyandrous communities?” Someone asked me after I had lent her a copy of Birth and Breastfeeding. Had he? ! I thought. “Why is he going on about cats?” someone else asked. “Why is he going on about leaving women alone while labouring? That would totally freak me out!” Clearly the message I was trying to bring across was not necessarily coming across – how could I let people know the essence of what he was saying? The parts they really needed to know? And so, slowly, the seeds for The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour, were sown. It was in 2011, nearly a year later, when I was asked to attend the birth of Paula, who lives on a farm near Nieu – Bethesda in the Eastern Cape, that I had the chance to finally gather and summarise my thoughts on the subject. I travelled there with my family and it was whilst sitting in a little cottage in the semi-desert of the Karoo, waiting for Paula’s birth, that The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour was written. I sent the finished copy to Liliana and Michel, who both were very happy with it and even asked if they could use it to give to the students of their doula course. Since then, it has been sold to interested people all over the world and all pretty much through word of mouth. I have given it to medical students and left it lying around hospitals in the hope that a mother, or a midwife or doctor would find it and find the information useful. I give a copy...

Read More

Last Week we Gathered to Chat About Home Birth

Posted by on Jun 14, 2015 in Writings

Last Week we Gathered to Chat About Home Birth

We do this every three months here in Cape Town, in a lovely home in the seaside village of Muizenberg. Lana and I have been running these gatherings for the last five years. They were born out of a need and a desperation to provide support and information to those seeking direction and advice around this obscure birthing option and the gatherings have gained a momentum of their own. When we first started them we would work so hard to spread the word, posting flyers to all the midwives and interested antenatal teachers. We would arrange speakers and explore themes. We would advertise and spread the word and we would always lose money running them but loved it and loved the responses and stories we got. They were always worth it. And then something shifted. The gatherings grew. And so did the stories. And the variety and range of people who came. It has become such a safe space to listen and share. Mothers, fathers, doulas, midwives, interested parties attend and all seem to leave humbled and moved. As do we. Every time. Mothers share their birthing experiences, their eyes still glowing with oxytocin. These women, these strong strong women, share what made them feel strong and empowered. They share their vulnerable and beautiful stories to a hungry audience, an audience who needs affirmation and support in the choices they are making. “Stories teach us in ways we can remember. They teach us that each woman responds to birth in her unique way and how very wide-ranging that way can be. Sometimes they teach us about silly practices once widely held that were finally discarded. They teach us the occasional difference between accepted medical knowledge and the real bodily experiences that women have – including those that are never reported in medical textbooks nor admitted as possibilities in the medical world. They also demonstrate the mind/body connection in a way that medical studies cannot. Birth stories told by women who were active participants in giving birth often express a good deal of practical wisdom, inspiration, and information for other women. Positive stories shared by women who have had wonderful childbirth experiences are an irreplaceable way to transmit knowledge of a woman’s true capacities in pregnancy and birth.” – Ina May Gaskin I feel honoured and blessed to be part of these gatherings every three months. I do wish we could run them more often but for now, every three months will have to do. Thanks again to all who come and share....

Read More

Helping Babies Breathe

Posted by on Feb 22, 2015 in Writings

Helping Babies Breathe

Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) is an  initiative of the American Academy of Paediatrics and the World Health Organisation. It is a programme that has been implemented to ensure that every birth attendant is skilled in the basics of neonatal resuscitation as part of one of the five 2015 Millennium Goals (to reduce infant mortality). Apparently, in Countries where this programme has been implemented, governments have found a decrease of up to 25% in neonatal deaths. Helping Babies Breathe is a neonatal resuscitation curriculum for resource-limited circumstances. It was developed on the premise that assessment at birth and simple newborn care are things that every baby deserves. The initial steps taught in HBB can save lives and give a much better start to many babies who struggle to breathe at birth. The focus is to meet the needs of every baby born. Helping Babies Breathe emphasises skilled attendants at birth, assessment of every baby, skin to skin contact with mother, delayed cord clamping, temperature support, stimulation to breathe, and assisted ventilation as needed, all within “The Golden Minute” after birth. Midwife Marianne Littlejohn and myself are trained as teachers and trainers of HBB and volunteer for Operation Smile and have thus far taught midwives, doctors, NICU staff, nurses, doulas, birth attendants, mothers, fathers, and interested people these basic but life saving skills. We have been privileged to teach all over South Africa, as well as in Malawi and Kenya. Plans are also afoot for us to teach in the DRC and Lesotho, as well as continuing to teach in South Africa. This last week I taught the skills to a group of peers, WOMBS doulas and CPM Mandi Busson at friend and colleague Lana Petersen‘s home. I must admit to feeling slightly intimidated, teaching friends and colleagues but this fell away very quickly as stories were shared and we acted out various scenarios from precipitous unplanned home births to water births. What I love about the HBB programme is its emphasis on normal birth – that it reiterates that approximately 90% of all births are straightforward and that it teaches as its introduction how to facilitate that: Skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, breastfeeding, etc and that even when a baby needs help to breathe, that every step is take to ensure that that mother and baby bond and cycle is not broken. Here are some pictures from this week’s course. We had so much fun acting out the various scenarios that plans are afoot for some fun birth theatre sports, possibly to be presented at this year’s Cape Town Midwifery and Birth Conference. If you would like to host or attend a Helping Babies Breathe course, please contact...

Read More

Are We Creating an Epidemic of High-Risk Women?

Posted by on Feb 9, 2015 in Writings

Are We Creating an Epidemic of High-Risk Women?

Two weeks ago I wrote about the first unnecessary caesar I attended. It was the first but it was also not the last. It did prompt me to do my homework and to really make sure that the women I was attending as a doula were well informed. One of the things I did was call up all the maternity wards of all the private hospitals here in Cape Town and ask them directly what their their caesarean section rates were. I knew from discussions with other doulas and midwives that many caesars were taking place but I did not have clear numbers. The conversations went something like this: “Hi…I am a doula supporting mothers wanting to birth vaginally in private hospitals here in Cape Town and I would just like to know what your caesarean rates are so that they can make an informed decision about where the best possible place to birth is.” Or something along those lines. Responses were everything from helpful and obliging to irritated, rude and irate: “Oh one doctor here has about a 60% caesar rate…he really tries, but the others are definitely around 80 – 90%” “About 65% but I think it is the private midwives that do deliveries here that bring the rates down…the doctors have much higher rates than that.” “Between 60 and 90%.” “I don’t see why we should divulge this sort of information, I don’t see how a high caesarean rate can make a difference to a woman’s chances to birth naturally!” “It is definitely upward of 80% but I am not telling you how much higher – I don’t think it is any of your business!” So in private hospitals in Cape Town, we are looking at a caesarean rate of 60 – 90%. And from my experience in two of the major government hospitals in Cape Town, it seems to be around 50% in the public sector. The World Health Organisation recommended a caesar rate of between 10 – 15% as being healthy, so WHY is our caesarean section rate so high? And why is it not my business to find out the caesarean rate of a hospital that is often promising to be supportive of women’s wishes to birth as they wished? And why is it suddenly okay to slice open perfectly healthy women and change their obstetric history forever? (I need to stress that I am not anti caesarean. I am eternally grateful for the operation that saves the lives of mothers and babies. I am not putting down this very necessary intervention and the skilled people who can perform it.) Since then I have worked within home birth midwifery practices and met midwives from all over the world who maintain a caesarean rate of between 2 and 20 %. Why do they get it right and the hospitals do not? I think the saddest and hardest thing for me is meeting the women who have undergone these unnecessary caesars. Who come with their stories. And who really want to give birth vaginally this time around, sometimes after one, sometimes after two, sometimes after more caesareans… I was induced at 38 weeks and didn’t progress so I had to have a caesar. The doctor said my baby was getting to big and I would never be able to birth her – but then she was an average size! I had a supportive doctor but she was on holiday when I went into labour and I got the doctor with the highest caesar rate in the hospital. The environment was too clinical for me, the beeping machines,...

Read More