Writings

Holding Death as Birthkeepers

Posted by on Jul 16, 2024 in Writings

Holding Death as Birthkeepers

“…if you are a birth keeper, you must also be a death midwife. If you support people to enter the earth realm, you must also become a midwife for those who pass on.” – Dr Mmatshilo Motsei The first time I ever saw a dead body it was a baby. I was 9 years old and we had very  recently made the move to the farm. The little girl had been born on the drive to the hospital after her mother had gone into labour on Christmas Eve. She had emerged whilst the bakkie (the pick up truck) was winding down Gydo pass, to the town of Ceres. She had lain, wet and alone, at her mother’s feet and had begun to grow cold. By the time they had reached the hospital she was no longer breathing. (You can read AN’NOOI’S  BIRTH STORY here) At the funeral, which was held in the bushman graveyard on the farm, her father unscrewed her little coffin for us to all see. The coffin was no bigger than a shoe box.  She was perfect.  Beautiful.  Angelic.  I will never forget her face and her little fingers.  Her little body dressed and swathed in silken white.  She looked like she was asleep… There was something so pure, so innocent about this death. Her mother sobbed at her graveside whilst the rest of us looked on not knowing what to say.  My mother had been asked to oversee the funeral, she wore a big sun hat and read from the Bible. The women began to sing as the tiny coffin was covered in sad and red clay soil. Assie verlossers huis toe gaan Assie verlossers huis toe gaan Oh Here help my dat ek kan saam gaan Assie verlossers huis toe gaan (When the saviours return home When the saviours return home Oh Lord help me, that I may return with them When the saviours return home) ——————————————- Birth should be about life shouldn’t it? And yet, as Mmatshilo’s quote illustrates, we cannot work in the realm of birth without knowing that death walks along this life giving force as well. “We come from spirit, come from light, shining in the stars at night” – Martyn John Taylor (SHINE) The fact that birth and death carry a similar energy became evident to me after I experienced the massive loss of having my mother, my sister and my step father wrenched from this life. Whilst I grieved, I also noticed the familiar tenderness that comes with the thinning of the veils, the sensitivity, the vulnerability, the same openness that I had carried after giving birth. BIRTH AND DEATH ARE INFINITELY INTERTWINED It is very difficult to talk about and face death when it accompanies birth. And yet it is a conversation that needs to be had. How do we hold Death as birth attendants, birthkeepers, as space holders for birth? I am not sure that I have the answers … but I do my best to initiate conversations and to create safe spaces for us to explore these topics that are so emotive and important in this work. The following True Midwifery online offerings will explore this topic in depth and from different perspectives, in a safe and held container and within a beautiful community: 25 July 2024 – STUDY SPIRAL: Holding Grief and Loss in Pregnancy and Childbirth with Nadia Maheter 4 September 2024 – 15 January 2025 – Birth First Aid for Mother and Baby 14 November 2024 – 13 November 2025 – Silent Birthkeeper: One Year Immersion into True...

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TWINS!

Posted by on Jun 25, 2024 in Writings

TWINS!

TWINS! Twins are the theme for this month’s True Midwifery Study spiral. For me, they hold a special place in my heart as we welcomed two sets of twin girls into our family in the last three years! Yes! Both my sisters gave birth to twins! Twin girls! Kate and Fabian welcomed Alice and Rosa in the midst of lockdown in Berlin. Alice and Rosa were born prematurely and required intensive care but their parents were fully present with skin to skin kangaroo care and the girls thrived. I still feel so proud of how these parents rose to this challenge. Almost one year ago, I had the honour of being present when my baby sister gave birth to Yasna and Rumi. Her husband Reza was busy pressing a hot water bottle to her back when little Yasna popped out under the blanket that was covering her mother’s legs. Two minutes later Rumi popped out! —- We will be exploring and sharing about the wonderment that is twins this Thursday with independent midwife Deborah Faye Rhodes of Da A Luz Oasis in Southern Spain. Do join us if you would love to learn more about birthing twins at home. For more info and to book your place at Thursday’s study spiral please see...

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Prague Birth Guardians

Posted by on Jun 12, 2024 in Writings

Prague Birth Guardians

It is just three weeks ago I returned from my first ever trip to Prague in the Czech Republic. I was invited by the Propolis Foundation after my friend Michaela had undertaken the task of translating my book, The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour, into the Czech language. I was invited to come and be the keynote speaker at the Respect for Childbirth festival, an inspiring yearly event that has been running for over twenty years now!To initiate my time there, I held a daylong workshop with a group of birth attendants, a diverse group of people holding space for birth in various capacities. From my side, my intention for this workshop was to create a day for those who hold space for birth, to slow down, connect with themselves and to one another. As someone who knows what it is like to be of service to birth, I know how challenging it can be to take time for yourself to pause and reflect and JUST BE!So this was the space and the gift I wanted to create for these women (and one man!) who daily give of themselves and ensure that mothers, babies, and families are loved, nurtured and taken care of. To create a big warm thank you container for the work they do (in whatever capacity) and the energy they put into the nourishing and nurturing and holding of birth, mothers, babies and families. We incorporated sharing, listening, meditation, singing, dancing and other movement meditations. And laughter! Here are some pictures from our day together. Isn’t it beautiful to see these caregivers taking care of one another with such love and tenders, and to see this love and care being received so...

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Goodbye Little Brother…

Posted by on May 3, 2024 in Writings

Goodbye Little Brother…

Today, 3 weeks ago, I received the news that my stepbrother, Henrico, had passed away. He had been battling with addiction and illness for a number of years – and when I received this news, there was relief and there was sadness. Death is so final. Henrico, or Rico as we called him,  came into my life, through my stepfather Hendrik, the father of my two younger sisters, Gypsy and Jasmin. We had always been a family of girls – my mother Carol, my sister Kate and I, with our father playing a long distance and more peripheral role. Rico had been born before my mother entered into a relationship with his father. Rico was small and he was mischievous, a very boisterous bundle of energy in what had heretofore been a very feminine household with 4 daughters. He moved between his mother’s home and ours – neither space was very stable for him I believe. I do remember him jumping onto my bed in the early hours to wake me (he was about 3 or 4 and I was a grumpy teen – this was a ritual I did not enjoy although I do look at it with fondness now). A memory that warmed my heart was the day he jumped into my lap, hugged me tightly and asked me to be his godmother… Rico was in the car that killed my mother, his father and our sister Gypsy. He spent the next couple of weeks in a coma at Tygerberg Hospital, muttering and calling their names. He was unconscious but he knew… By the time he awoke, the funeral had passed and he was left shocked and confused. The rest of us had grieved these deaths together and he was left to process this all on his own. With a broken leg. That accident was earth shattering and when I look back 17 years, I see how this heart breaking event scattered those of us affected by the wind. 17 years later, I am helping to carry Rico’s coffin to his grave. It is small and it is light. The church ladies are clapping and singing. We each take turns to cover his coffin with sand and, once covered, we celebrate his life by decorating his grave with an abundance of flowers. Goodbye Little Brother… We love you Goodbye Little Brother… We thank you I am grateful. 17 years ago, the accident shattered my family.  17 years later, it feels like Henrico’s death and funeral brought some healing as we all gathered again to say goodbye. I am relieved. Henrico was suffering. His body is free of that turmoil now. I wish him peace. I am sad. Death is so...

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Arriving into the Birth Space

Posted by on Oct 9, 2023 in Writings

Arriving into the Birth Space

The first time mother phones you in the middle of the night to say her waters have broken, or that mild surges have begun. It is definitely still early labour and you have both discussed her letting you know when things feel like they are starting, but especially the first time around, this can all take a bit of time. This is a sign that the body is preparing, getting ready for labour. You suggest she and her partner rest now, and allow her body to do the work it needs to do while they rest, there is nothing they can do to make it happen or go faster, that labour takes time. It can be a few hours, or later that day, or the next night, or even the following day that you finally get called to go and be with the mother but you have remained in communication throughout, either with her or her partner or a family member…usually you know when she is no longer communicating and someone else has taken over the communication that labour has truly kicked in. Once you are aware that she is in labour you begin to tune in, you plan your life and your day, your work, your schedule, your children, your family, your arrangements, your sleep, your travel, around the potential of now being summoned some time in the next 24 hours or so… You slow down, aware that overstimulating or exhausting yourself will not serve you or the labouring woman once you arrive at her home, so you cancel and shift things, and rest as much as you can, as you may be up all night, or two…or three… You summon that elephant energy, knowing that even though you are not present with her yet in body, you are already attuned to her and her labour and her needs…you are guarding the process from afar and slowly making your way to her as she needs you. It is incredible how the universe appears to pause and make space for this labour and birth of this mother and baby. It does feel as though time takes a deep breath and suspends itself for that labour and that birth. Arriving at the home of the labouring woman is arriving at a temple, a sacred space. We tiptoe gently into the space, interacting as little as possible, making ourselves comfortable in a spare room or in the sitting room if unoccupied, or making tea, or sitting in the garden. You will feel the soupy softness of the sleepy oxytocin as you enter the space. Tread gently, being careful not to pop the delicate bubble you are stepping into. Listen. Sit. Be…sleep. Follow the lead of the woman. It may be that it is still early labour, and that life is busy and distracting and that is what is keeping the mother there. Her family may be demanding attention and so you can play with the children or chat with the grandmother while the mother goes and rests her body and ner neocortex. Continue to remain aware of the basic needs of the labouring woman and what may be impacting them. Work with the environment as opposed to directing the mother. Adjust the environment appropriately and the mother’s body will...

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Breech Painting

Posted by on Aug 14, 2023 in Writings

Breech Painting

I was 23 and pregnant with my 2nd child (my first daughter) when I painted this.  She was sitting breech and I painted this to honour how she had chosen to stay close to my heart while in utero. I had been surprised and shocked when I had gone for my single check up at my local hospital for back up for my home birth when the doctor who saw me told me I would need to have a caesar if my daughter opted for staying breech. It was the first time I had heard of this protocol (it was 2003 so I suppose the Hannah Breech trial was fairly fresh). On the farm where I had grown up, my mother had attended breeches and twins with no issues. It was the first time I had heard of someone saying a caesar was necessary for this variation of normal. I chatted to my midwife about it and she suggested homeopathic remedies and inversions to try to encourage my daughter to flip. I did this for about a week and one night while I was lying in bed about to go to sleep I was overcome with extreme nausea as my daughter did a big movement. When I went to visit my midwife the next day she was able to confirm that my daughter was now head down. She must have turned head down during that big movement. I don’t know if she was meant to have been born breech or if she would have flipped on her own in the end but when I went into labour a couple of weeks later she decided on a posterior position that challenged me with strong labour and was born facing sunny side. In her own way she still needed to be born...

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