My Story

Ruth Ehrhardt

The Grandmothers’ Blessing


I see you sitting in the (East),

You are sacred

And you are looking at me

I pray to you

Pray to you

You are sacred

(East, South, West, North, Earth, Sky, my Heart, my Womb)*

Listen to the Grandmother Blessing – here I am singing it with accompanying guitar

My grandmothers

It is difficult to know where exactly my birthkeeper journey begins but I cannot begin without honouring my grandmothers – the women who came before me and who forged the path I now walk. This includes my biological female ancestors, but it also includes the midwives, women healers, witches, crones, grandmothers who have listened to the call of their heart and hands, tended to the sick and dying, sat with women in labour, grown and learned from the plants, and very often did this despite being shunned and scorned. I thank you.

On my maternal side I want to honour My Ouma Tinnie, My Aunty Marthe, My Ma, My Ouma Gerda and My Jiajia. I also want to honour my Mother Carol and my sister Gypsy. Thank you for teaching me about my roots and my heritage – being women of colour holding and protecting your families during the rise and then fall of Apartheid was hard and I bow to your strength, resilience and also softness.

Read my grandmother Marthe’s birthing stories here.

On my father’s side I want to honour my grandmother Sybill Nutall. All I know is that she was a doctor and a midwife in Ireland, the first in her county. I have a strong connection and rootedness to my Cape Coloured South African family but I have very little connection or knowledge of my European Irish side. I feel a strong pull and calling to explore and get to know this side of me more. I can hear my Irish grandmother calling.

My Mother

I was born in Switzerland to a mixed race couple, Carol, my mother, a Cape Coloured woman from South Africa, and Justin, my father, an Irishman. They had begun their secretive relationship (illegal in the eyes of the South African law) in South Africa but my mother applied for refugee status in Switzerland and gave birth to me and my sister Kate there.

One way both my parents were a strong influence around birth was that they both had a very relaxed attitude about it. My mother was born at home in Athlone, Cape Town, South African in 1950, attended by a local midwife on a bicycle like all women of colour were at that time in South Africa. My father too, was the son of an Irish midwife and doctor, born at home, a farm boy, he had a strong affinity with horses and dogs and had observed these animals as well as sheep giving birth to their lambs.

I was born in a private hospital in Switzerland however, my mother was living in a communal safe house at the time and the man of this house refused to allow that African girl to squat down and have her baby in his house. So some friends chipped in to pay for the very exclusive and private hospital where my mother would be induced a week before my due date and gave birth 5kg me after 12 hours of labour.

Stories honouring my parents:

Honouring my mother on this day of her birth

My father wasn’t at my birth

We returned to South Africa in 1986 after the Immorality Act (the Apartheid law making interacial relationships illegal) was abolished to visit as a family. I had grown up with the songs and stories of my mother’s homeland – feeling the heat of them through the ice cold of the snowy Swiss mountains.

My parents separated and my father returned to the UK. My mother met my stepfather and together they purchased Droeland, a protea farm an hour outside of Ceres.

I received two new sisters, Gypsy and Jasmin and it was here at Droeland that my mother discovered her healing hands and began attending the births of the local farm labourers, treating the ill and dying, and laying the dead to rest. She grew and studied medicinal herbs – her and my stepfather eventually moving to grow South African indigenous herbs for export before they passed.

Birth Stories from Droëland:

Gypsy’s birth story

An’Nooi’s birth story


(this is the story of the first birth my mother attended on the farm)

Carol Catches Twins

My Story

Even though I grew up with my mother disappearing in the middle of the night to go and attend to the women in labour on the farm, it was not until I birthed my first baby that I really saw and recognised what my mother had actually been doing! My first birth was a turnaround point for me in my life. It connected me to life, love and the universe. I believe I was quite a selfish and self centred person up to that point (I had been working towards studying drama and becoming a performer). My first birth was what sparked my calling to become a birthkeeper – I wanted to be able to provide the same feeling of safety that had allowed the magic to unfold within me as I birthed my baby. I realised that although I had been paying it very little attention, my mother actually had the coolest job on the planet.

I wanted to study to become a midwife after this experience but after researching my options in South Africa, I very quickly realised that the options were very different from what I imagined and had envisioned and so I put this plan to rest for a while. I went on to have 4 more children, all born at home, all incredible experiences with deep learnings. Along with mothering my four beautiful children, San, Sai, Ayo and Kaira, I believe these first birth experiences, protected and safe, were my earliest and biggest teachers on this path. 

My birth stories:

My Mother was the First one to Touch my Baby

I was 21 When I Realised I had a Superpower


Big Baby

When my youngest daughter Kaira was 2 weeks old, a meeting was called in Cape Town for women wanting to become midwives. I had just given birth and I was not keen for a massive meeting and social gathering but then my best friend ended up with a caesarean the night before. This was the third friend in a row that had ended up with a caesarean and it felt like a strong call and pull for me to go to this meeting so off I went and sat around a table of around 20 women, midwives, doulas and aspiring midwives to hear about an apprenticeship based form of midwifery training through the USA.

Thus began my official pathway to becoming a midwife when I joined as part of the North American Registry of Midwives’ African Pilot Project. This 4 year apprenticeship would lead to me becoming a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) an internationally recognised American professional midwifery qualification and the only midwifery qualification in the world which specialises in home and out of hospital births. It is the same qualification that Ina May Gaskin and Robin Lim hold.

In South Africa I am registered as a traditional birth attendant, after receiving the blessing of Chief Khuthela and joining his Tradtional Doctors Union.We are very blessed here in South Africa, post Apartheid, to have the honouring of traditional healing enshrined into our new constitution. While there are still battles to be won in terms of the proper support of traditional healers, doctors and birth attendants in my country, this way of healing is deeply ingrained into our culture and this brings hope and positivity.

As part of my birthkeeper education I have also done doula courses and studied with Irene Bourquin of WOMBS, Robyn Sheldon of Mama Bamba and with Michel Odent and Liliana Lammers’ Paramana doula course (the latter led to the inspiration of my birth book The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour).

I am also a Helping Babies Breathe and Helping Mothers Survive Master trainer. This training was done with the support of Mary Lee Lemley, Operation Smile and John Hopkins University. I spent some years volunteering for Operation Smile as part of their education missions in Africa.

I have also studied Advanced Midwifery with Ina May Gaskin, Pamela Hunt and the Farm midwives at The Farm.

With dear friend and sister Lana Petersen, I started Home Birth South Africa in 2010,  a web database for those seeking information and advice on home birth in South Africa. Together, we also ran the Cape Town Home Birth Gatherings from 2010 – 2020, a quarterly gathering for those seeking information and support on home birth in Cape Town and surrounds.

I am the author of The Basic Needs of a Woman in Labour, a book based on the work of Dr Michel Odent and which explores the hormone oxytocin and the environmental factors that affect it. The book is available in English, Italian, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, Setswana, Arabic, Turkish, Russian, Ukranian… with more translations (Hebrew, Vietnamese, Afrikaans and Zulu) on the way!

I was part of the team that organised The Cape Town Midwifery and Birth Conference, from 2013 – 2017, which was aimed at sharing and collaboration between South African birth professionals and the women they serve for the purpose of promoting and supporting safe pregnancies and births. You can see some of the talks I gave at this conference in the videos below:

I was also one of the directors of The Compassionate Birth Project, a project aimed at addressing the abuse being experienced in South Africa’s labour wards. We taught compassion as a regular tutorial to 4th and 5th year medical students for 10 years, as well as running retreats for MOU (Midwife Obstetric Units) staff.

True Midwifery was born in 2014 after I left my abusive marriage and needed to find my way having only officially qualified as a CPM less than six months before. True Midwifery in many ways became my home as she gave me shelter and an income through pregnancy care and birth attendance, my writing and my teaching. I am forever grateful to what True Midwifery has been for me over the years.

I have taught, given talks, run retreats and given workshops in South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Swaziland, Canada, Sardinia, Spain, Turkey, Malawi and Kenya.

From 2019 to 2021 I worked alongside my dear friend and sister Caitlyn Collins of Birthing Into Essence, providing collaborative Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum Care as The Circle of Elephants. We closed our doors providing pregnancy and birth care at the end of July 2021. We are however planning some educational projects and a podcast – so watch this space!

I am currently not attending births nor travelling abroad to teach but am offering online courses, consults and workshops – please see my online offerings for more on this.

I am working on various projects, not all birth related, but all of them beautiful and healing.

I live in Kommetjie, a small seaside village near Cape Town, South Africa.