Posts Tagged "home birth"

This is Marthe and she had a Home Birth…

Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Writings

This is Marthe and she had a Home Birth…

When Marthe was eighteen years old and newly married, she went into labour one Cape Town spring morning. She was living down the road from her Aunty Maggie and Aunty Martha’s house and the two busy body aunties came to see if the pains the expectant mother was complaining about were indeed the pains of labour, they were there to keep the nervous young husband at bay, and to send a young boy to summon the midwife. The local midwife soon arrived on her bicycle and stayed with young Marthe for three days before deciding to send the young woman off to Groote Schuur hospital. The labour was taking too long and the baby was not coming. The midwife was concerned. After three days of labour and after being transferred to the hospital, Marthe gave birth to a skinny little baby girl. The doctors were baffled as to why the tiny girl had taken so long to come. Eighteen months later, Marthe was in labour again. Again she was at home, and again the local midwife joined her. This time the labour seemed to be progressing smoothly and soon Marthe began bearing down. By some strange twist of fate, the house across the road caught alight. While Marthe easily heaved out a large ten-pound baby girl, a woman died as the house opposite burnt to the ground. (Birth and death walked side by side down that road that day…) Marthe was my grandmother and the large baby girl was my mother. Marthe was pregnant again three years later, and she gave birth easily, at home, attended by a midwife, to another girl. Smaller this time. Life went on and many things changed, especially my grandparents’ social status and when my grandmother fell pregnant in her thirties it was only natural, that this laatlammetjie(1)  birth would take place in a hospital, under the care of the best doctors that money could buy. It was years later, when my grandmother was hard of hearing, and cataracts had begun to form in her eyes, that I took her along to a birth film festival I had organised in Cape Town at the Labia theatre. On the drive home, she divulged her birthing stories to me, and she admitted that giving birth at home, had been for her first prize and that paying all that money to have her baby “delivered” in a hospital had been a disappointment. After watching these beautiful birthing films that night, she had only one regret. She would have liked to have had a water birth! * (1) Afrikaans: a child born many years after his or her siblings * My grandmother died in France two years ago, whilst on holiday with my aunts. She had been quite ill and been a given a short time to live so she took herself and her daughters off on one last holiday and shopping spree before she passed away in Nice. She was cremated and has been at rest in a crematorium in Nice. This week my aunts bring her back to Cape Town where she will be buried, alongside my grandfather (who passed away over twenty years ago). Rest in Peace Jiajia, and welcome...

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My Father Wasn’t at my Birth

Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 in Writings

My Father Wasn’t at my Birth

My father wasn’t at my birth. My mother had hoped for and planned a home birth for my entrance into the world, but she was a single mother living in a communal house in Switzerland at the time. She was an older mother (She was 29 when she fell pregnant with me) and was advised against having a home birth by her doctor. The man of the house she was living in was also dead set against having her birth in his home – there was no way that African girl was going to squat down and birth in his house. My mother then found out about a natural birthing centre in the neighbouring canton of Graubünden, and while she drove to take a look at it and loved the pink rooms and the deep birthing pools and the midwives in attendance, there was no one who was willing and able to drive her there once she was in labour (which I have now worked out via Google maps is only 1 hour and 23 minutes away!). So she settled for the very fancy and exclusive private hospital at Stefanshorn. My father wasn’t at my birth. I was a planned pregnancy. Very much so. I was very much hoped for and wanted, but it was an unusual arrangement of sorts. I’ll let you in on a  little secret. You see, my father was married to someone else when he met my mother and he stayed married to his first wife (my parents actually never married) while embarking on a relationship with my mother. My mother was a staunch feminist at the time and had all sorts of theories about different ways of having relationships and so they embarked on an ‘open relationship’ – which my father’s wife was actually rather reluctant about. So the plan was for my father to impregnate my mother and that she would be a single mother and that he would be a long distant parent and visit once a month or when time and travel allowed him. My father lived in England and in South Africa at the time. My father wasn’t at my birth. He was in England at the time, at home with his wife. My mother was admitted a week before her due date to be induced for no medical reason other than that her doctor was going to be away on holiday. She was admitted on my father’s wife’s birthday, which his wife always saw as a personal affront to her and made her resent my presence even more. My father wasn’t at my birth. A friend drove my mother to the hospital, but my mother was alone when she went into labour with me. I know that she laboured for twelve hours and that she had the latest in foetal heart monitoring technology strapped to her while she laboured. I know she laboured on her back. I also know that she held on to a little green statue. A little bust of an African woman. It had been given to her by a grateful woman my mother had counselled when my mother had volunteered as a rape counsellor in South Africa. I know that this little statue was a lifeline back to South Africa for my mother while she laboured. My father wasn’t at my birth. He was in England at the time, at home with his wife and while she hung out a load of wet laundry he snuck a call to my mother and shouted instructions on how to breathe through the heavy black phone. I know...

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It was at a Home Birth That I Learned to fry an egg Properly

Posted by on Apr 5, 2015 in Writings

It was at a Home Birth That I Learned to fry an egg Properly

It was at a home birth that I learned to fry an egg properly. Sunny side up. The yolk not quite runny but not hard either. Somewhere inbetween. Heat the pan, add the oil (coconut oil was used in this case I think), crack the eggs into the pan. Sizzle sizzle. Crackle crackle. Pop pop. Then cover the pan with a lid and turn off the heat. This was served on toast smeared with avocado and cracked pepper and salt. At the same home birth I also weeded the garden in the sun. It was at a home birth that I first learned to follow the lead of the cat. I learned the patience to sit in the garden while the sun set silently and the new mother found her rhythm. It was at a home birth that I found out that birth is unpredictable and that midwives need to think quickly on their feet and that they need the necessary skills, to deal with the rare emergencies that present themselves, burned into their muscle memories. It was at a home birth that I learned what excellent reflexes I had when a baby bungie jumped without warning out of her mother as her mother waddled across the kitchen floor. It was at a home birth that I learned that labour can rock to any tune and that a mother may roar to Linkin Park at full blast, sigh to Miles Davis accompanied by the soft splashes of the birth pool, or swing and twist her hips like a snake,to Ravi Shankar, evoking images of a belly dancer. It was also at a home birth that I learned that Dr. Phil could even be suitable background music. It was at a home birth that I learned to master knitting a sock. And at the next home birth I very nearly finished the pair. It was at a home birth that I sat with a wide eyed little girl on my lap as we looked at her vernix covered sister for the first time. It was also at a home birth that I saw a five year old boy reach out his hand as his sister’s head emerged – he was the first one to touch his sister. He gasped in amazement. It was at a home birth that I learned to draw the curtains and turn off the lights. And to keep my mouth...

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Home birth as a trend?

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Writings

Home birth as a trend?

All good things must come to a trend, so obviously, home birth in all its fabulousness is going to have to come to the forefront, especially with rumours flying around that the future queen of England, Kate Middleton, is possibly planning a home birth (which I believe to be untrue). But what is it about home birth that is attracting more and more South African women to this particular option? Lana Petersen and I have been running Home Birth South Africa for the last 5 years – something we started purely out of frustration because there was nowhere that a South African woman could go for information on this birthing option – i.e. there was a lot of information available online and in books on home birth but all in the UK, the USA and Australia and nothing which made it seems like a tangible and doable concept within the South African context. So, Home Birth South Africa has been going for the last five years, running quarterly gatherings and information sessions – a place where those interested in home birth, planning a home birth, have had a home birth, wanted one but didn’t get to have one, doulas, midwives, birth activists and those generally interested and who support it can gather to share, ask questions and discuss. The gatherings took place for a long time at Erin Hall in Rondebosch but these days take place at Norman and Jenny Skillen’s rock star mansion in Muizenberg. We usually gather in a circle and each person shares who they are and why they are there, they might share a story and ask some questions. Discussion inevitably ensues and we usually go over time. Over the years, the gatherings have grown in momentum and yesterday’s event attracted nearly forty people to it. Our website and data base grew out of the home birth gatherings when we realised that the need for information and stories needed to be available on a national level. The website gives information, answers questions, provides stories written and shared by South African mothers and families, and offers a directory of home birth friendly practitioners – we are always on the look out for more stories, contributions, information so please feel free to share by contacting us. Stories can be published anonymously. So what is it about home birth and why are we so passionate about it? In this article with photographer Leah Hawker we touch on what drives both Lana and me but I think to summarise, for both Lana and myself it is not home birth per se which is our agenda but being able to provide information and knowledge to women and their families that helps them tap into their own needs around birthing their babies. And both of us are in awe of women when that certain something is unlocked in labour and the new raging, power of that woman is opened as she finds a new part of herself. Innately women seem to want to give birth where they feel safest and most comfortable, and within the South African health care system, while medically very sound, that feeling of safety, of feeling cared for, of being nurtured, of being heard and valued, is so often not there. (And no, there are not really any midwife run birth centres for those women seeking the middle ground.) Not sure when it happened that healthy pregnant women were considered ‘sick’ and deemed only fit to birth in hospital and not sure how it happened that women accepted that this would be the norm. But what I do see are that...

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Birth : A Poem

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Writings

Birth : A Poem

Birth: What is birth? Birth is the emergence of a new individual from the body of it’s mother. The emergence of that new individual, is the emergence of a new life. Birth is completely normal yet unbelievably profound. As that baby emerges, everyone holds their breath….. Where do we give birth?  We choose to have our babies in various settings: At home In hospital In a theatre And sometimes these are not choices but necessities. Sometimes we plan to give birth in one way but then something completely different may happen. Sometimes babies are born in trees, or on trains or by the roadside. Sometimes babies choose for themselves where they want to be born.   Where and how we give birth affects who we are. It affects how we are as parents. We need to feel safe. We need to feel confident. And we need to feel in control, so that later we can lose control.   If a woman feels cared for and nurtured, she is more likely to love and care for her baby.   When we feel safe where we give birth, we give birth more easily.   If we feel frightened or vulnerable, we may feel traumatised and incapable of loving our babies.   If we are made to believe that we are incapable, we may hand over the power to someone else.   There is a hidden secret in our culture:   ‘It is not that birth is painful It is that women are...

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