Posts Tagged "midwife"

Big Baby

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in Writings

Big Baby

I have a tendency towards giving birth to large babies. It seems to run in the family. I was 5 kg (11lbs) at birth and my three younger sisters were between 4-4,5 kg (8,8 – 10 lbs) at birth. Growing up I was always tall for my age (my nickname was High Tower at school) – I am 1,83 cm (6ft) tall as an adult and I have been this height since I was twelve years old. I inherited long legs from my father who had to duck his head to walk through doorways and my paternal grandfather’s nickname was Giraffe. So when I gave birth at 38 weeks pregnant to a 5kg (11 lbs) baby boy (over an intact perineum) with my mother in attendance as my midwife, no one in my family blinked an eye at his weight. Life went on. It was only during my second pregnancy when I met with my new midwife and she nearly fell off her chair at the mention of my first baby’s birth weight, that I realised that perhaps my story was slightly unusual. My second baby, a girl, was born 9 days past her ‘due date’ and was ‘only’ 4kg at birth. Even though she was a whole kg lighter than her brother, she was much harder to birth because she had decided to emerge facing sunny side up. Ouch! (But she too was birthed over an intact perineum). My third baby decided that he quite liked it in there and decided to incubate more than two weeks past his due date. Ten years ago today, I was heavily pregnant with him, waiting for him to trigger his labour. His head sat low and I waddled my way very slowly through my day. There were many false starts  and false labour alarms and by the time the twinges began, I and everyone else in my circle of friends and in family, had decided that I was going to be pregnant forever. Ten years ago today, I would still have to wait another five days before labour began. It was a sunny Sunday morning, during my morning yoga session, that the sharp twinges in my cervix began. These twinges propelled me into a mad nesting frenzy – I hung curtains (I remember hammering nails furiously into the window frame) and I scrubbed floors on all fours until the wood gleamed. I washed, hung, folded, and packed away laundry. I even cooked a massive pot of vegetable stew – enough to feed roughly 15 people! And in-between doing all of this, intense surges would slam into my cervix, opening me up to the bliss of heaven and agony of hell simultaneously. I remember rocking my hips in the sun whilst hanging the fluttering laundry, and as the contractions grew, so did my strength. I had to channel that strength somewhere or else the pain of it would overwhelm me. So I pushed against a wall with all my strength, willing, believing, that I could push it over. That is how strong I felt. And yet, I was an ant trying with all its might to push over a brick. At some point, children were fetched. The midwives arrived. Counter pressure on my hips eased the intensity for a while. The birth pool was filled. I remember stepping into it and feeling as though I was stepping into the warmth and privacy and comfort of the womb. What bliss! What calm! What peace! Then I was overwhelmed again, drowning in surges of unbelievable pain. And with each surge the pain was ten...

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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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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...

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The Knitting Midwife

Posted by on Sep 27, 2015 in Writings

The Knitting Midwife

A midwife sits in a dark room. She has a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. A candle flickers on the table. She is knitting. From another room, you hear the soft moan of a woman. The midwife continues knitting. The woman in the other room becomes silent again. The midwife continues knitting. After a few minutes, you hear the moan from the other room again and the midwife smiles to herself while she continues to knit.  Some time goes by and the midwife gets up and leaves the room. She goes to the kitchen. You hear her switch on the kettle. The labouring woman continues to moan and groan – the pains seem to be intensifying. The midwife comes back with a steaming cup of tea and a plate of biscuits. She dips her biscuits and sips her tea. The labouring woman continues to moan softly in the next room. The midwife is sitting on a rocking chair and now she rocks herself quietly while the woman in labour continues with her noises. The midwife falls asleep. The midwife sleeps for a while… the mother’s noises intensify. The mother begins to shriek. She feels that the pain is too much. She is afraid that she is going to die. The midwife opens her eyes and quietly listens. She slowly gets up (her bones creak a little) and she shuffles out of the room towards the sounds of the labouring woman. Quietly, like a cat, the midwife slips into the room where the mother is. The mother is grunting and screaming and the baby is born. The baby is crying. The midwife comes out of the room. The mother is cooing to her baby. The midwife shuffles back to her chair, sits down, smiles softly to herself and continues to...

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Sai Girl

Posted by on Sep 20, 2015 in Writings

Sai Girl

This is story of my daughter Sai Ngiah’s birth eleven years ago on Tuesday 21 September 2004…she is my second child and my first daughter and she decided to emerge face to pubis, nine days after her ‘due date’ on Spring Equinox. I woke up at 12. Midnight. With pains. Ever increasing pains. And so woke Derek up. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. “ Are you sure?” he asked. “ Yes! It’s really sore this time!” He had reason to ask. For the last three weeks I had been having pangs of pre-labour. I had phoned the midwife (Karen) and my mother countless times. I decided to sit and wait a bit. Just to make sure. I didn’t really want to be caught crying wolf again… This baby’s gotta come out at some stage…it’s nine days overdue. The pains increased. I tried to lie down and rest but couldn’t. Instead, I wriggled around trying to breathe into the pain. I finally decided to phone Karen at two. She came around. “ These pains look more intense,” she smiled reassuringly. Karen checked how dilated I was, “ Three cm dilated ,” she said, pulling off her rubber glove. “ If I may, just give one piece of advice, don’t hold back with each contraction. Let go into it, you’ll find it goes much easier…”  Karen smiled (her smile so reassuring), “you’re doing fine, I’ll come back later, phone me when you need me.” I phoned my mother. My mother asked, “are you sure?” I rolled my eyes and reassured her that yes, this time I was definitely in labour. Derek and I went downstairs (we didn’t want to wake San) and made a fire. The pains were increasing. I began to moan softly to myself. I breathed deeply and moved with each one. This labour felt so different from my first. I didn’t feel frightened. I didn’t feel scared. I didn’t feel bewildered. I didn’t feel freaked out by the pain. I allowed myself to go with each pain. I allowed each pain to take over my body. I rode it. And within that I felt unbelievably strong and powerful. The pains began to increase. Derek phoned Karen. My mother wasn’t there yet. Where was she? I phoned her. Between contractions. Just to check where she was. She answered her phone. Mumbling. Still fast asleep. “ Mom! It’s happening! Where the fuck are you?” “I’m still in Prince Alfred Hamlet,” she mumbled, “ I thought it was another false alarm when you phoned earlier, so I went back to sleep.” “Well, it’s happening and I need you to be here to look after San, so get moving!” I switched the phone off. I was livid. My mother! Karen arrived at about five. My mother soon after. My mother sat and watched me. Karen made tea. I squirmed and writhed on the floor. Derek held me. Breathed with me. Rubbed me. Spoke soothing reassuring words to me. I squirmed and writhed in pain. On the floor. On the mat. In front of the blazing fire. The pain increased. I began to do push-ups. I felt strong, so powerful. I grunted and moaned. My mother sat. On the red velvety piano stool. Her hands clutched between her thighs. Watching me.  I wonder what she thinks and feels watching her daughter go through this? I sat. Kneeling with knees apart. Breathing softly. No pain. Relaxing. The pain starting again. It began to build up. Coursing through me. As the pain reached its crescendo, I jerked forward and arched my back. And roared....

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