Posts Tagged "mother"

Every Mother Matters

Posted by on Nov 24, 2015 in Writings

Every Mother Matters

About a year ago a young mother, pregnant and living under a bridge, went into labour. She was a sex worker and we can only assume she stayed under the bridge to birth her baby because she was afraid to go to the hospital to birth her baby. I don’t know. Sadly, the baby got stuck and both the mother and her baby died. Dudu from SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) phoned me when she and a group of other mothers were returning from their friend and colleague’s funeral. “We must do this training Ruth!” she said. I had some time ago been invited to help facilitate some of the SWEAT Mothers of the Future meetings and there we had shared our birth stories and chatted about pregnancy and other reproductive issues. Mothers shared how they were slapped and hit and shouted at by nurses and midwives for being uncooperative. They felt they were stigmatised for the work they do whilst giving birth. They often felt unsupported. Three or four mothers shared their stories of birthing at home with no assistance when labour had gone more quickly than expected and how different and empowering and different those experiences were. We talked about how the mothers in this group could be of better support for one another and we eventually decided that perhaps a doula training would be a good idea. As part the Compassionate Birth Project, we envision the option of a doula for every labouring mother and initially we thought that our job was to train doulas who could be employed by facilities so that any mother arriving in labour could gain access to a doula. But the SWEAT Mothers of the Future have decided for themselves that what they want to do is ensure that there are doulas within their own networks and communities. Fellow mothers who understand each other and who have walked similar paths. Makes total sense. Dudu is a real visionary and she has plans to roll out this doula training to sex worker mothers countrywide. I like how she thinks. Yesterday, Robyn Sheldon and I started our training with five beautiful souls who made the journey from their various dwellings, catching buses and taxis to get there. They have made the commitment to be part of this training for the next week. Yesterday one of the mothers said: “ If I understand it correctly, to be a doula I need to be able to let go of everything and to just be there for the mother. To be able to fill her with positive energy.” Couldn’t have said it better myself…the perfect definition of the...

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What is a Safe Birth?

Posted by on Jun 21, 2015 in Writings

What is a Safe Birth?

What is a safe birth? We have made such fine advances. Birth is now very safe. And it becomes safer the quicker we can do a caesar and the younger we can rescue a premature baby. It really is incredible what we are able to do nowadays. And the focus is on that. To ensure that a birth is safe. Safe for the mother. Safe for they baby. They are alive. Because that is the most important. That they are alive. Of course, that is the most important. I think we can all agree on that. But is it? Or have we gone way, way, way over to one side, in one direction and forgotten about balance? Firstly, birth is never, and can never be 100% safe. Let’s face that. Scary. But oh so true. We want it to be. We so, so want it to be. Of course. But is that everything? Do we take away everything else to ensure it? Is that safe? What is a safe birth? Is a safe birth a birth where we ensure mother and baby are alive? Or is it one where a mother feels held and safe and looked after and cared for so that she can feel capable and able to hold and look after and care for her baby. Make her baby feel safe. She is the mother after all. The one who takes care of this child. Not us. We walk away. How do we ensure a balance of both worlds? A safe birth. Safe. Alive. Well. And a feeling of safety. Not traumatised and violated. But whole. Trusting. Empowered. And...

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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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Birth and Death

Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Writings

Birth and Death

Birth and Death. Two words we do not like to see together. To put them together makes us feel uncomfortable. Birth is about life. The beginning and emergence of a new existence. It is about newness. The beginning. What do we associate with birth? Love. Light. Joy. Life. A new beginning. Who wants to think about death at a time of birth? Death is about illness and sadness and loss. It does not evoke beauty and joy. It is something we try to avoid. Death is so final. It is something we do not wish to associate with birth. But in my experience, birth and death seem infinitely intertwined. The feelings the two evoke are so similar. One brings intense sadness and a sense of loss, and the other brings intense joy, but both have the same underlying feeling of being wide open and vulnerable and confused. Both need nurturing and safety. Both bring on a sense of being in an altered state, a state of being in touch with something greater and more infinite than ourselves. Both bring things into perspective, make clear what is important, valuable, precious to us. Both make life incredibly tangible and real. This week it will be eight years since my mother, my sister, and my stepfather were all killed in a car accident. When I lost so many members of my family, the feelings that came up, were so very similar to the times when I had given birth. The intense pain, the vulnerability and the incredible lightness and insight into the life process. And the feeling of being on the threshold of something… My friend Caitlyn visited me some time after the accident, and while I lay curled up on my sofa feeling sad, she folded laundry and brought me soup. Some time later, she told me that she had been at a loss as to what to do in that situation. She drew on her experience of attending births and thought that she would do what she would do for someone who had just given birth. I remember how grounding and comforting the familiarity of that simple gesture was. It did not take away the rawness of the pain I was experiencing, but it did provide a safe space for me to experience it in. These days, I spend a lot of time attending births. I wipe sweaty brows with a cool cloth, I breathe with women, I hold them, I move with them. I am there. I am witness to this incredibly vulnerable state, this time that can reach a point where it feels like she is looking death in the face. I am there to create a feeling of safety, to remind them that they are going through this process to bring forth...

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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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