Posts Tagged "baby"

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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Why Birth First Aid?

Posted by on Oct 24, 2022 in Writings

Why Birth First Aid?

The First Time I Ever Resuscitated a Baby on my own I remember the first time I had to resuscitate a baby on my own. It had been a fairly average first labour. It started in the middle of the night and trotted along into the new day. The mother was surprised at the intensity of the surges but she rode them quietly and stoically.  The emergence of the baby was slow and as her mother crouched, she was born gently onto the floor onto a soft pile of towels.  Some mothers scoop their babies up immediately, while others take their time, looking, smelling, and touching. Still, others need to take their time, first processing the enormity of the event before being able to look and engage. As long as the space is warm and the mother and baby are left undisturbed all are variations of normal. In this case, the mother was slow to interact with her baby, I believe she was initially taken aback at the sight of her newborn. It became evident that this baby was not responding after being born, not showing much muscle tone and not breathing. Helping Babies Breathe I had recently been trained in the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) programme as a facilitator through Operation Smile and worked as a volunteer for some of their educational missions in Africa. What I love about this programme is its simplicity: its focus on normal birth, preparedness, its understanding for working in low-resourced and out-of-hospital settings, as well as the all important MotherBaby needs like skin-to-skin and not cutting the umbilical cord. As a skilled birth attendant, you make a difference In the HBB programme, we are taught that the majority of babies are totally fine at birth and require little more than skin-to-skin contact with their mother – but that around 10% require gentle assistance in transitioning from womb life. These are some of the skills we will be focusing on in the upcoming Birth First Aid series of workshops that I will be offering for the month of November. Extreme neonatal resuscitation is rare in healthy pregnancies and births and usually is an indicator of some other underlying issue. Why Birth First Aid? If we are attending births on a regular basis, especially when a birth is left to unfold as it should, we come into contact with the beauty and simplicity that is birth and we receive the regular imprint that birth works and that birth is safe. But every once in a while, nature throws us a curve ball, and in the same way as we expect someone who works with children to be prepared if a child chokes, we want to be prepared for those rare times when a mother or baby does require assistance.  In the case of the birth I was describing at the beginning of this post/letter – it felt clear that this baby was struggling. Muscle memory from my HBB training kicked in, and with her cord still attached and intact, between her mother’s legs on the floor, we worked together to gently remind her that she needed to breathe. And she did… I invite you to join us  We will be gathering weekly for the month of November on these dates: 2, 9, 16, and 23 November 2022 via zoom from 11am – 2pm SAST (GMT+2) COST: 130 Euro / 130 USD / 1250 ZAR All sessions will be recorded and made available to you for one month after the call For more information or to book your place please email me at truemidwife@gmail.com What we will cover over...

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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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My Mother was the First one to Touch my Baby

Posted by on Oct 11, 2015 in Writings

My Mother was the First one to Touch my Baby

Thursday 11 October 2001 I fell pregnant when I was 20 after returning from a hitchhiking session through Europe with my younger sister, Kate. I came back home to pack up and move to Ireland to study drama but when I realised the constant nausea was morning sickness, I made plans to move to a nearby farm community. I wanted  my child to be born into the world in a natural setting. I had grown up on a farm North West of Ceres and my mother while not trained to, had fallen into the role of being the farm labourers’ midwife. When I was expecting my first baby, I saw no reason why my mother should not be the person to support and assist me. I wrote the following two years later when I was expecting my second child. * I woke up with a desperate urge to shit at about one in the morning. I went to the toilet, came back to bed again and lay down again. I tried to sleep. Again, I wanted to poo, so again I went to the toilet, relieved myself and came back to bed. I tried to snuggle up to Nolan but my boep* was in the way, so I turned around and tried to sleep. Again, I needed to poo, so off I went, but this time only dribbles of shit came out. My abdomen cramped. I went back to bed. The cramps kept on coming. Building up…building up…building up…ebbing away…ebbing away…ebbing away… I sat up. I put on the bedside light. I sat and felt the pains come and go…not sure. Scared to wake Nolan up. Eventually I did. He sat up immediately… I phoned my mother. She was at a friend’s house. She told me to time the contractions. If they were less than a minute apart, she said, I would have to go into hospital because she wouldn’t able to get to me on time. My mother was going to go and fetch my sister Kate and then would be on her way. I timed the contractions. 1 minute and 35 seconds apart.  1 minute and 20 seconds apart. 1 minute and 40 seconds apart. They felt fast and hard. I panicked. I didn’t want to go into hospital. I was set on a home birth. The night before I had read (funnily enough) that to relax and slow down labour, a warm bath would help. Nolan ran a bath while I tried desperately to breathe through the rushes of pain. Breathing was impossible and painful, unbearable. Easier to grit my teeth, not breathe and bear it. Once in the bath, great relief flooded my body. I relaxed in the pink hue of the candlelight. I could begin to breathe with the pain. I phoned my best friend Nikki (who was studying in Jo´burg) from the bath. Nikki phoned me back from her dad’s cell phone. So good to speak to her, wished she was there, so far away. Nolan had been instructed by my mother to line the bed with black bags. To get all our towels and sheets together. To put a pot of water, with a pair of scissors and a string in it, on to boil I ate a paw-paw in the bath. After an hour in the bath, I got out, wrapped in a white towelling bathrobe. The starkness of the light in the kitchen brought on the pain tenfold. It slammed into me. At that moment, my mother arrived in a rented car. I hung on her. Hello Mom. Back in the...

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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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