Posts Tagged "midwives"

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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A Little Drop in the Ocean

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in Writings

A Little Drop in the Ocean

This last Saturday, after weeks and months of discussion and deliberation, the board members of The Compassionate Birth Project, were finally able to meet and discuss their ideas and to receive valuable feedback from the midwives working at some of Cape Town’s busiest and highly stressed MOUs (Midwife Obstetric Units) – Mitchells Plain and Hanover Park. It was a very informal meeting and we all sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. We spoke about our passions and why we were there. We spoke about our children. Robyn introduced the project and the proposed modules for The Compassionate Care Training Course for Midwives and MOU staff. We wondered about how these would be received. What would the feedback be? And for us, more than anything, it was of utmost importance that we were not telling these midwives, who work so hard and who have done so for so many years, relentlessly, under conditions, which are far from ideal, what it was that they needed. We wanted to hear from them what their needs were. The feedback was amazing. I don’t think anyone of us ever thought it would be received with such open arms. And such a sense of relief. Finally! Finally something for the midwives! Something to take care of and nurture and support the midwives! These bastions of strength who, day in and day out, make sure, that mothers and babies are alive and safe. It was a small meeting. A small circle of women in a room in Rondebosch. But I think to everyone present, the power held in that little drop in the ocean, was...

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Under the Shade of an Olive Tree, Midwives Gather in Spain

Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 in Writings

Under the Shade of an Olive Tree, Midwives Gather in Spain

Firstly, it’s bloody hot here at Da-a-Luz. That I have to say. Dry, sweltering heat that leaves you sweating at the slightest movement once the sun is up. Yummy food sourced mainly from the local gardens and surrounding farms, goat’s milk, cheeses, honey, pears, aubergines, watermelons, zucchini, olives and olive oil. So good. I sit, writing this by candlelight in the caravan I am staying in…the sun has finally set and with it a bit of cool and the sounds of the crickets descend. I have just returned from collecting water from the spring with midwife Fiona and student midwives Hannah and Jennifer…we also cooled our feet after a long day of neonatal resuscitation training. For the past week, midwives and student midwives have gathered on cushions under the shade of an olive tree, sharing their stories, fears, hopes, dreams and hopes of births for the women they serve. And themselves. One thing is clear: midwives are frustrated at the state of how births are run in this world. They are shocked and angry at the soaring caesarean and intervention rates. When was it that institutions became the places to manage and control this mostly straightforward and holy life event? What I have learned is this: – get a bunch of midwives together and they will find endless birth related things to talk about, debate and discuss, from the complicated to the ecstatic, from the outrageous to the most undemanding. Sharing techniques, pearls of wisdom and skills. And midwives do not seem to grow weary of this subject either. But midwives and midwifery students feel tired and defeated too. Innately, they believe in women’s ability to give birth to their babies, but many midwives are tired of fighting against the systems that constantly claim this right. But there is something truly magical and inspiring that happens when midwives are given the time to get together and share and support one another in this time old profession they hold so dear. It is as though the little spark of hope that sometimes feels that it may be dying is fanned by the love and strength of other birth keepers. If there is anything I can recommend, it is for midwives to regularly gather to share in a non-judgemental setting. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. Safe, empowering, beautiful births for the mothers and babies we serve....

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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....

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Do we Need More Midwives in South Africa?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2015 in Writings

Do we Need More Midwives in South Africa?

Apparently, if you call up the South African Nursing Council (SANC) (under which all registered South African midwives must fall) then you will be told that there is a long list of registered midwives in South Africa – their database seems to reflect an adequate amount of trained and registered midwives. Midwives are known to improve the outcomes of births and yet here in South Africa, our maternal mortality rates do not reflect this. Since the Millenium Development Goals were set in 1990, with decreasing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015 being one of the goals, South Africa’s maternal mortality have risen. If you scratch below the surface, you will discover that South African midwifery training at present requires four years of nursing which includes only six months of midwifery. There is an option to study Advanced Midwifery at university level after qualifying as a midwife and some midwives may choose to go this route. What essentially happens, is that many nurses are trained who can call themselves midwives, are registered and listed as midwives, and can work as midwives but who may not choose to work as midwives, or who feel no particular compassion for the pregnant and labouring women they serve, or may not have a passion or drive for midwifery. And even if they do feel passionate about midwifery, they often feel inadequately equipped to work in the settings they are placed in after qualifying. Some Facebook support groups have sprung up for midwives in South Africa and they have grown as a place for midwives to voice their fears and concerns, as well as a place for them to share stories and information.When I see that midwives are too afraid to work in the labour ward – I feel that our midwifery education system has failed them. Jason Marcus and Jenna Morgan, both midwifery educators in South Africa, refer to the current South African midwifery training as ‘the fruit salad’ and both feel strongly that South Africa needs to look at the needs of our pregnant population and meet those needs through our midwifery training. At present, both feel that those needs are not being properly looked at and, therefore, are not being met. When I hear stories of abuse in South African maternity wards, from mothers, medical students, midwives, doulas and through the media (and I have witnessed it on numerous occasions), then I know that something vital is missing. That we are failing pregnant and labouring women. Last year, I sat with a support group of mothers from SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) and discovered that out of about ten of the mothers present, four had chosen to give birth at home unassisted, some because of precipitous labour, but primarily because it felt easier and safer to give birth alone than to be mistreated and shunned. And when they called me a couple of weeks later to let me know that a first time single mother, who lived under a bridge and survived as a sex worker, had died whilst trying to birth on her own under that bridge, I knew our maternity system had failed her. When I drive past Red Hill informal settlement and I give lifts to the women who are hitch-hiking to have their antenatal check-ups, or to take their sick babies to the clinic and I hear the stories of how many women avoid those antenatal checks, or don’t even book at the hospital, and try to arrive at the hospital as late as possible, or not at all, because it is too far, or too tedious or because of how...

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