Posts Tagged "Michel Odent"

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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Hello Darkness my old friend

Posted by on Nov 8, 2015 in Writings

Hello Darkness my old friend

So the uterus, amongst all the other marvellous things it does (“There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ they would brag about it. So should we.” – Ina May Gaskin), apparently ALSO has melatonin receptors attached to it. These receptors work in conjunction with good ol’ oxytocin, aiding the contractions of the uterus, which dilate the cervix and, if undisturbed, will elicit a foetus ejection reflex . Melatonin is the hormone that anticipates the daily onset of darkness and cannot be secreted when it is light. Which is why we need to switch off lights and screens, to fall asleep. Seems we need darkness to go into labour too…which is probably why most labours begin at night and why most call outs for midwives are during the witching hour. It is important that there are no bright lights around a labouring woman. Drawn curtains, candles and other dim lighting will help aid in the stimulation of oxytocin. How do other mammals prepare for birth? They will find a quiet, dark place, far away from anyone, somewhere where they will feel safe and secure and know that they will be undisturbed. We often forget that we humans are mammals too. We are above all of that by now aren’t we? What with all our technology and higher thinking and sophistication? But when a woman goes into labour, her body responds like every other mammal who seeks safety, comfort, protection, warmth and darkness to give birth. A birth I attended recently, saw me arriving to a woman in labour in her bedroom. Her two year old son slept on her bed while her husband sat and watched television in the next room. The bedroom light was on, a stark, white light from a naked bulb. There was no bedside light or a dimmer light available. I asked the father if he had any candles in the house and we made some makeshift candle holders using stainless steel cups and sand and set those up in the bedroom. And then we turned off the lights. It was as though the room breathed out all its tension as the room warmed with the golden glow of the flickering candle light and the mother was able to go into that mammal state that she needed to be in to birth her baby. She had a mattress on the floor and now lay down there and began to moan softly. Labour sped up.Ten minutes later her waters broke and five minutes after that I was handing her her daughter. So simple…and yet so overlooked. Isn’t it interesting the way most labour wards are still so brightly lit, and all for the convenience of the caregiver? For what other purpose does it...

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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...

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Waiting…

Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Writings

Waiting…

Waiting… Waiting for that baby to come…when will it come? The clock ticks. Tick tock. In this article on estimated due dates in pregnancy and induction of labour, Dr Michel Odent, likens the ‘ripening’ of the baby in the womb to the ripening of a fruit on a tree. Not all fruit ripens at the same time, and we do not expect to pick it all at the same time. We pick the ones that are ready first, and then the next and then the next. So why this hang up with the due date? Why the rush to induce and get things going so soon after this date, whether by chemical OR natural means? What is a due date anyway? The estimated due date is based on Naegele’s Rule, a system worked out by a German obstetrician called Franz Karl Naegele who lived from 1778 to 1851. He worked out that a pregnancy lasted more or less 280 days (about 40 weeks) from the start of the last menstrual period. But, as I am sure he realised, everyone is different, everyone menstruates differently, at different times, has different cycles, either short, long, irregular, heavy, mild. Every woman’s body is different. And so is her baby. And so is her pregnancy. The key words here are ‘estimated due date’ and ‘more or less.’ Only 4% of babies are born on their estimated due date, with a first-time mother birthing her babies a week or so late, and yet we set so many first-time mothers into a panic when they have not gone into labour by their due date. My first baby decided to arrive at 38 weeks gestation, I was not expecting him so soon, his clothes were not ready, and neither was I. My second baby hung in there until 9 days after her due date, and of course, from my previous experience, I assumed I would have another ‘early’ baby. By the time my daughter decided to trigger her labour, I was going pretty mad. My third labour started 15 days after my ‘due date,’ by then I had given in and decided I would certainly be pregnant forever. My fourth emerged three days after she was ‘supposed’ to. It is not an exact science. No matter how advanced the technology nowadays…we can only wait and see…as long as mother and baby are fine, all we can do is wait and watch the mother’s belly ripen. The baby, when he or she is ready to be born, will send a message that tells the mother’s body that it is ready. The mother’s body can then begin labour by slowly releasing oxytocin, the hormone of love. The mother and baby work together to bring the baby into the...

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Michel Odent Reviews my Book…

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Writings

Michel Odent Reviews my Book…

I asked Michel Odent to review my book, The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour.  Who is Michel Odent? Dr. Odent started his medical career as a surgeon and became involved in birth when he was put in charge of a hospital in Pithiviers, outside Paris. He soon realised that hospitals were not conducive to a woman in labour. They were too bright, sterile and uncomfortable and lacked privacy. He was the first person to introduce low beds (easier for a labouring woman to climb in and out of), dim lighting, beautiful home-like rooms, and eventually water as a form of pain relief, in a hospital setting. The hospital in Pithiviers was so successful that many people came specially to have their babies there. Dr. Odent was there from 1962 to 1985. He worked with six midwives and oversaw approximately 1000 births per year. The hospital’s maternity section had excellent statistics with low rates of intervention. He eventually moved to London and became a home birth midwife there. Again, he was able to make many interesting observations through his experience there. Later he founded the Primal Health Research Centre He works with a doula called Liliana Lammers. Together they run the Paramana Doula course in London.  Liliana is a quiet and unassuming woman who holds an incredible strength in doing very little at a birth. She is able to hold a space with her presence alone, a quiet strength. She must make a woman feel very safe in labour. Through his many years (more than half a century) of attending births (around 15 000 births) in both hospitals and at home, Dr. Odent has come to the conclusion that a labouring woman needs not much more than to be left alone, simply to be attended to by a quiet, non-invasive and low profile midwife. The little 24 page booklet I wrote is a summary of what I have learned from attending Michel Odent and Liliana Lammer’s course in December 2010, by reading Michel’s books, and from my own experience and work with pregnant and labouring women.  I received his feedback a few days ago…I am honoured and humbled by his feedback and it took me a few days to process the immensity of his review before I could bring myself to share it. Here it is: There are two important published documents about birth physiology and the basic needs of labouring women. The first one is an enormous book written thousands of years ago.  In the very first pages of this bestseller, there are some lines suggesting an association between the consumption of the fruit of the tree of knowledge (translate knowing too much or having developed a powerful neocortex) and the difficulties of human birth. At the end of this book, we can read about the birth of a legendary man whose mission was to promote love. His mother found a strategy to overcome the human handicap: with humility she gave birth among non-human mammals, in a stable. The second document is the opposite of the first one in terms of size. It is a booklet by Ruth Ehrhrardt. To bring together what is important in such a small number of pages is a feat. I hope that, on the five continents, all pregnant women, midwives, doulas, doctors, etc. will take the time to assimilate the contents of this chef d’oeuvre:  it will be a turning point in the history of childbirth and therefore in the history of mankind. – Michel Odent...

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