Here are a collection of articles we are slowly putting together.
We want you to meet the home birthing community here in South Africa…
Who are those that support and nurture and protect this valuable birthing choice?
We also share our thoughts, feelings and personal stories here.
Ruth and Lana
This past month we were lucky to catch up with Midwife Kathleen Van Heerden who managed to squeeze in time to answer our questions while supporting a bumper load of births over the busy September birthing season.
Kathleen owns and runs Kathleen’s Mother and Baby clinic, a “home away from home” birth centre based in Boksburg.
- Tell us a bit about yourself, your family life. How did you get into midwifery as a profession?
I am married to Braam van Heerden and I am the proud mother of three children – Benita (26), Sean (24) and Megan (20). I’m also grandma of two beautiful girls, Kate and Jamie.
I’ve lived in Boksburg for the past ten years. I studied nursing at University of Free State. After obtaining my degree I worked at Klerksdorp Provincial Hospital from 1990 until 1991 when I fell pregnant with my firstborn. I relocated to Witbank and started working at Witbank Provincial Hospital, maternity unit and that is where I really fell in love with midwifery and obtained my experience as an independent midwife.
I always knew that I wanted to be a professional nurse, but working in the maternity ward got me hooked on midwifery…I knew that this was my calling and that I wanted to be part of that special experience where a new mother gets to go through the natural birth process in a peaceful environment.
During 2001 I relocated to Pretoria and started working at Pretoria East Netcare Hospital, Maternity unit. We moved to the East Rand during 2005 and I started working at the Sunward Park Netcare Hospital, Maternity Unit. I started providing prenatal classes to expecting mothers as a service to the Hospital. A gynaecologist asked why I do not start my own prenatal classes from home….and that is where it all started. Two years on I was requested by the Hospital Management to join their team at the maternity unit to do midwifery deliveries. I accepted and continued as an independent midwife providing prenatal, midwifery, natural birth and postnatal services at the hospital. Two gynaecologists joined the hospital and informed management that should be midwives continue to provide services to the hospital, they would transfer to another facility.
I was already registered as an independent midwife, but then through God’s calling and grace started by own practice from home where I converted the apartment on our premises to a full homebirth clinic.
Ever since my practice has been growing from strength to strength with more expecting mothers opting for midwifery services due to the relationship that we build with our clients and the fact that we underwrite the natural birth process rather than opting for caesareans and unnecessary medical interventions.
- You are offering a home-away-from-home birth experience, tell us a bit more about how this works?
Once a client has expressed her wish to have a natural home birth, I will schedule an appointment with her to evaluate her and to inform her of the process of home-away-from-home birth. If she has not yet been for a scan, I refer for the first sonogram to a qualified sonographer as soon as possible. She will again be referred for a sonogram at 22 weeks and 32 weeks of pregnancy.
The client will see me throughout her pregnancy on a regular basis – during the first 28 weeks, she will consult with me every four weeks, thereafter every two weeks up to 36 weeks and thereafter weekly until her delivery.
My consulting rooms are in an established medical centre, whilst the birth takes place at my residence in an apartment which has been converted to a birth unit, consisting of two birth rooms, a living room where the extended family can await the arrival of the newborn baby and full bathroom. The birth unit is equipped with all necessary medical appliances, e.g. oxygen, suction equipment and emergency medication.
A home-away-from-home birth experience is a midwife led birth experience, which is ideal for healthy women with straightforward pregnancies who would like to give birth in a comfortable homely environment. As a qualified midwife, I provide support during the labour process to have a normal birth, with the option of hydrotherapy (water birth) or normal birth.
Women who choose to have a home-away-from home birth experience have fewer interventions during labour, which contributes to a faster recovery following the birth.
Should complications arise during the client’s pregnancy or delivery of the baby, I have two gynaecologists as back-up. I also have the ER24 ambulance service should the client have to be transported to the nearest medical facility.
After the baby is born and I am satisfied with the condition of both mother and baby, they can go home. Alternatively, I would advise that they remain until they are stable to ensure continues monitoring.
The client and baby will come for a postnatal check-up on day three and thereafter at two weeks and six weeks. During the client’s pregnancy and after birth I am 24 hours available for any advice and support.
- Tell us about any challenges you face as a midwife providing services, information and education on homebirth?
The biggest challenge with midwifery services is the ignorance of expecting mothers and their families on what the process entails and what services are offered. This is partly because of gynaecologists misinforming expecting mothers of the dangers associated with normal birth versa caesarean births and the misconception created by some gynaecologists that midwives are not fully qualified to perform home births.
A further challenge is to have gynaecologists and hospitals to serve as a back-up to midwives’ due to the fact that they regard independent midwives as a threat to their practice. It is a known fact that gynaecologist tend to lean more towards caesarean births as they can schedule them in advance. Midwives employed by Government hospitals also tend to show animosity towards independent midwives with their own practices.
There is still not enough information and education provided by health care practitioners on the alternative of home based births. Through referral of previous clients and their families as well as enlightened health care practitioners we are however fast overcoming this challenge.
When I started my practice almost all my clients did not have medical aid and therefor one of their main considerations was the financial implications of medical care at a hospital and associated costs of gynaecologists and paediatricians, compared to the cost of home births.
However, I would estimate that 30% of clients who come for consultation now have medical aid. A big challenge regarding medical aids remain the contribution they are paying midwives compared to other health care practitioners.
- What is the best part of homebirths for you?
If we look back at history, home births were the norm – that is until doctors and gynaecologists took over the role of midwives. This lead to an increasing number of women having their babies at hospitals. However, as awareness on the advantages and safety of home births increases, more women are willing to consider the option of having a home birth.
One of the biggest advantages of a homebirth is that the expecting mother can share the experience with family and friends.
A home birth affords the mother the freedom to move around, take a shower or a bath and enjoy the comfort of a home setting and a friendly environment compared to the clinical setting at a hospital or clinic.
The bond that forms between me as midwife and the expecting mother as well as the rest of her family, is something that is very precious to me. I have clients who still today send me pictures of babies I have delivered ten years ago as those babies grow into beautiful young children.
- What in your experience are some of the misperceptions around homebirth?
“Homebirths are dangerous”
There are many misconceptions about home births. I think the major misconception about home birth, is that it is dangerous. Some women have high-risk pregnancies and is such situation, a home birth may be unadvisable. But for most healthy women with normal pregnancies, home birth is an excellent option to avoid unnecessary interventions during the birth process.
Mortality rates are the same for home births as for low risk births performed in hospital. Add to this the reality that mortality rates for mother and baby are increasing in hospitals.
Standard care for midwives for emergencies includes pharmaceuticals, oxygen, IVs, equipment necessary to monitor and record vitals on both the mother and baby and other first aid equipment. To eliminate any risk, I have a back-up hospital and two gynaecologists in case of emergencies. I also have emergency medicines in the event of a medical emergency. With these backup options in place, home birth is a completely safe and secured method for expecting mothers.
“Hospitals are cleaner and a more sterile environment”
Germs are everywhere. The difference between a home birth clinic and hospital is, that the germs in my home birth unit, are ones you are regularly exposed to while hospital germs are unknown to your immune system and therefore a bigger threat.
“Your medical aid will not cover a home birth/ midwife”
Even though a home birth/ delivery by a midwife is usually much cheaper that a birth at a hospital or clinic, many women believe that a home birth or midwifery is not covered by medical aids.
Rules regarding home births/ midwifery expenses vary from medical aid to medical aid. However, that does not mean that your medical aid does not cover home births. As mentioned earlier I am experiencing that more and more clients who have medical aid cover are utilising the services of a midwife.
“Home births are messy”
When you opt for a home birth at my home birthing facility, you can be rest assured that you are in a clean, safe environment. The mother gives birth over chux pads, which are very large, disposable diaper-like squares to protect the bedding. The clean-up is minimal and the responsibility of the midwife. All clinical waste is removed and discarded in terms of health regulations.
“Postnatal care is expensive”
The kind of care you receive from a midwife is quite different from what you will receive from a General Practitioner or Gynaecologist. Instead of the 48 hour stay in hospital, your care with a qualified independent midwife is more frequent and more detailed. You will have postnatal visits at three days after birth, three weeks after birth and six weeks after the birth. During this period, I am also available 24 hours per day for any support and advice regarding breastfeeding, care of the mother and baby, etc.
“Only Hippie-mothers give birth at home birth clinics”
There is still a misconception that home births are very ‘alternative’ with most women opting for it being categorised as hippies or new-aged. The home birth experience I provide is according to professional nursing standards and does not necessarily entail water births. Although there is this option, most mothers opt for a normal natural birth.
“You must have a very high pain tolerance to deliver at home”
Normal labor at a hospital or clinic and labor at a home-birth clinic, requires the same amount of pain tolerance. The benefit of home births is however that you are in a comfortable environment, where you can take a bath prior to the delivery, you can walk around, and you have the support of family and friends who are there with you throughout the delivery process. Being able to relax in a calming environment, both during and after labor, is a wonderful way to experience the birth process.
Pain relief options are available, although you cannot have an epidural because it is a medical procedure that requires an anaesthetist. However, research shows that women who birth at home clinics need less pain relief than women who birth in hospital as they are more relaxed.
- Any highlights of homebirths you’ve attended that you care to share?
Every home birth is an exceptional and unique experience. However, the relationship that I build with a client will vary according to the personality of the client. Some women are easier to bond with, and become much more than just a client.
Another highlight for me is having the family of the expecting parents present at the home birth clinic. The mother is surrounded by familiar faces and the support and encouragement of family and friends are a big benefit to home birthing.
- What are your hopes and dreams for birth in SA?
I think my biggest hope and dream is that the public at large should be better informed and educated about home births. This will reduce or eliminate the misconceptions, as mentioned above, to a large extent.
I believe that women should have a choice on the kind of natal care that they receive and that they should not be forced to undergo caesarean sections, just because it is convenient for the gynaecologist to schedule the birth for a certain date and time – or just because the mother’s delivery is prolonged.
I believe that should more women opt for home births and the number of hospital births are reduced, the number of caesarean sections will reduce, which will have a direct impact on the mortality rate of mothers and babies. I further strongly believe that through choosing a home birth, the mother (and father) is more relaxed and the recovery period is reduced. There is greater bonding between both parents with the baby which reduces the possibility of post-natal depression associated with a traumatic delivery.
More relaxed environment = better bonding = more successful breastfeeding = healthier babies = happy Mommies….
Should you wish to make contact with Kathleen, you will find her at….
Kathleen’s Mother and baby clinic
221 Rondebult road, Boksburg
Home birth unit :
4 Gordonroad, Morganridge, Boksburg
Via Facebook messenger : https://www.facebook.com/KathleensMotherAndBabyClinic/
WhatsApp 0829289841; or
email : email@example.com
This month we spoke to Bloemfontein based midwife, Yolande Maritz.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your family life. How did you get into midwifery as a profession?
I am a mother of 2 beautiful daughters – born naturally, breastfed and home-schooled! I’ve lived in Bloemfontein since 2010. I married my first love in 1997 while I was in my 3rd year, studying Nursing.
I simply L.O.V.E.D midwifery from the very first day I was introduced to birth. Being a student in those years I knew I wanted to do this (Labour and Birth) different – as instinct convinced me. I wanted my mommies active in labour, in control and off their backs. Hospital protocol took charge and I hoped that “one day” I can make a difference. I would volunteer to take my fellow students’ working weekends in order to be in the labour ward. I had so many opportunities during this time by managing twin-births, breech-births, complicated -births, all by the guidance of the passionate Sr Nwgenya! In my final year I received the Gold Merit award for the best Midwife-student in 1998. I was over the moon….and hooked to Midwifery. I simply knew Nursing was a calling, but MIDWIFERY was my calling!
My first daughter was born very quick (2 hour labour) and I had the opportunity to “catch” her myself. That day in 1999 the actual midwife inside me was born too. I was no student no more, but a midwife…. with a calling.
Unfortunately, I had to leave the Government environment for the Private Sector. Here I couldn’t find a post in the labour-ward and settled for Theatre. I was a scrub sister for 6 years, seeing a lot and assisting with mostly C/Sections, ENT and Plastic surgery. My heart longed for the Maternity ward. And then it happened! I relocated to Middelburg in Mpumalanga and was accommodated in the Labour ward. My dear UM gave me a lot of scope to follow my heart and I took the lead in the night-shifts. I was in my element, although I felt I wanted to do even more. A lot needed to change……..Birth needed to change!
The need to start to support the community was high and I took hands with Hospice. In my off-duty days I would do bed-baths and reading to the terminal ill patients in their homes. I would support the families during the time of death and my first home birth client got hold of one of my business-cards. She was a rape victim and did not see her way birthing in the Government setting, and funds to go private was out of reach.
My first Home Birth happened May 2009…..led by the Holy Spirit. I was overwhelmed by the calmness of the environment, the courage of the birthing mother and the alertness of her newborn baby. Home Birth was my calling! I would do nothing else……….
UFS offered me a position as a Clinical Facilitator for their 4th year midwifery students. I was excited, because I was hoping to create the same enthusiasm in my midwifery-students as I was feeling. You & Me Independent Midwife Practice also started in 2010 and quickly grew to a very busy busy practice. I had no more time to meet the students, due to the high demand of Home and Water Births in the Free State, Northern Cape and Lesotho.
Being an independent midwife is not always easy and definitely not glamorous. It’s simply VERY hard work, dedication and further studies. In 2012 I had the opportunity to study Advanced Midwifery and Neonatology at UFS, together with Nursing Management and Education through UNISA. If I wasn’t supporting a mommy in birth, I was studying. Day and night. Sleep is a luxury for midwives.
In February 2016 I realised the environment, we as midwives function in, can be a very intimidating place. We need tools to protect ourselves in this litigation era. I prayed a lot that the Lord would guide me to help other midwives and doctors who face the same challenges. EasyOBS.com was born and is officially launched for all midwives, doctors, birthing centres, hospitals and home birth practices. EasyOBS.com is an Obstetric Management System….making obstetrics easier!
You offer homebirths/birth centre births, what is it that attracts your clients to this sort of service?
Most of my clients are vulnerable in a lot of ways. Some are very young, most don’t have a medical aid, some have the need for ‘healing” births after very traumatic hospital experiences and others are simply birth-educated and know what they want.
Being able to offer Homebirths and Water births in my own Birth Centre is a privilege I wish every person who is pregnant could experience. Mothers are longing for intimacy. They want to feel that they “can do this”. They want a voice. They want birthing-space without intimidation, without people take control over their bodies, birth and babies. They also need someone to trust in situations when things might go wrong. They mostly don’t need rules, but only guidance when asked for.
I always tell my clients “I am your cheerleader….. Your instinct will guide you”. I will remind them they are strong when they forget at 9cm dilatation!
Mothers want a safe-haven when nobody else believes in birth.
What is the best part of homebirths for you?
I don’t like rules and routine. Homebirths give me and my clients’ freedom. Freedom to believe, freedom to move, freedom to do and just simply be!
Homebirths have far better outcomes (I have experienced in the 2 000 births I have attended to) than hospital births. I believe it is because we don’t interfere with nature. We allow mothers to birth their off-spring. Midwives don’t “deliver” babies.
We trust labour, births, mothers and babies. O yes, some babies have a lot of tricks! Some mothers change personality during labour, but that’s all ok.
Homebirth gives the mother a platform to be human.
- What are the challenges for midwives such as yourself offering homebirths?
You will find that the challenge of a back-up doctor is the same for all midwives throughout of South Africa. I have convinced myself it is nothing personal. It’s the doctor’s misperception about midwifery as a profession. Doctors don’t know what midwives really do. They don’t know our scope of practice. They don’t know our specialised skills. They tend to forget we are there to take their hands, not their jobs.
We are living in a litigation climate, whether we work under hospital protocol or in a homebirth setting. People want to sue, because they can. We as midwives need to keep our profession alive by keeping our skills up. We need to maintain our expertise by educating ourselves internationally, national and through life-long learning. We need to protect ourselves, our practices and our profession.
By keeping our mothers and babies safe, time will convince doctors the world needs midwives more than ever!
What in your experience are some of the misperceptions around homebirth?
People tend to think homebirth is weird, because of the media. Births usually happen with a whole lot of drama either at home (with the first contraction) or on the backseat of a taxi (with the rupture of membranes) in most movies. All the “actors” are screaming, sweating and panicking in the birth scene.
Most men don’t want drama and choose their wives to birth in a hospital, because that’s the norm in modern society. Men tend to think that THEY need to take charge of every situation in order to be a good support. Couples love to tell the horror-stories of birth to expecting couples. Why, I really don’t know! Pregnant people are bombarded by a lot of terrifying stories (and usually lies) about birth, but never do they ask about the beauty of home birth, because they simply don’t read birth educational articles. People don’t want to be classified as weird and choose to “hush” if they have decided to follow their gut and go for home birth.
Any highlights of home births you’ve attended that you care to share?
I simply love kids to be present at homebirths. They lighten up the environment and bring a special kind of presence to the birth room.
My last birth was a HBAC and Kiana (4yr old) was present. She got into the birth tub with her labouring mother for “support”. Everything was in the birth tub with mom and Kiana – Gabby the floating doll, the toy-fishes, the plastic farm animals and her mirror! Kiana would rub her mother’s arm with every contraction, encouraging her to “be strong”! Kiana would drink the half of her mom’s Energade and offer mom a sip when she decided it was needed. When mom reached the transition stage and couldn’t get comfortable in any position, Kiana took her mirror and held it to her mother’s face. They both looked into the mirror and Kiana proclaimed very load “Mom! You are doing this for me. I need a friend you know!” Mom smiled and I smiled, capturing these moments in silence engraving it in my heart. When pushing time came Kiana refused to get out of the tub. She was there to stay throughout – with her mirror and encouragement , supporting her mom with the arrival of her new sister, Nika
What are your hopes and dreams for birth in SA?
My hopes and dreams for births in SA, is to have more midwife-led births centres. I really hope and pray that midwives will rise and make the difference that only Midwives can make. Midwives are born not made in educational centres.
The world and especially SA need midwives more than ever. We need a stronger generation – it starts with birth.
How we are born -DOES INDEED MATTER!
This month we spoke to Samantha Squire-Howe, mother, birth photographer and doula. And also the 2015 Midwifery and Birth Conference official photographer. Based in the Southern Peninsula of Cape Town, she runs Twinkle Star Photography – her passion for her work is evident in her photographs.
Tell us about yourself and the birth work that you do.
My name is Sam Squire-Howe and I am a professional Birth Photographer (Twinkle Star Photography). I am based in Cape Town and travel to births in all the surrounding areas. I attend both hospital and home births, natural births and c-sections. I am currently busy certifying as a Mama Bamba doula as well, which I am so enjoying. I feel being fully equipped both emotionally and mentally to be present at a birth, is so important. I am hugely passionate about discreetly documenting this incredibly profound experience. Witnessing the moment someone becomes a parent, is beyond a privilege for me. I have seen through my work, what a gift it is for parents to have these precious memories captured. Birth is such an intense experience. Often it goes by in what feels like a flash and a lot of the details get lost in a blur. I have also found when birth doesn’t go exactly to plan, that those images are a valuable tool in the healing process for a mom. My own birth experience really taught me that at the end of the day, sometimes your birth doesn’t go according to one’s picture or plan. Sometimes it is hard to let go of the way we wanted it. Seeing beautiful images of the story, just the way it unfolded is incredibly healing.
How do you feel about capturing home births?
Although I completely love being present at all types of birth, I must admit being present at and capturing home births is definitely my absolute best! I am so pro-home birth and really wish I had made that choice with my own birth. It is wonderful documenting birth in such normal, natural surroundings – completely unmedicated. I love that the mood of each home birth is so unique to each family and couple.
How did you get involved in home births?
As soon as I specialised in Birth Photography, I began documenting home births. In fact, the first ever birth I photographed was a home birth. To me home birth is just the most natural thing. I had already read up and researched so much about birthing at home while pregnant with my daughter, 10 years ago. Quite a few of my friends have chosen to birth at home, so it has been very familiar to me.
Are there any challenges to photographing a home birth?
The only real challenge is a technical one and that is that often, one is photographing in very low light – compared to say a hospital situation. I often find myself shooting in what feels like the pitch dark. This is lovely for the birthing mom, but you really need to know your way around your camera and how to make the most of the little bit of light that is available! I pride myself in capturing these sacred moments without disturbing the scene at all. I don’t use flash for this reason. Not disturbing the atmosphere at all is of paramount importance to me.
Tell us something that has stood out for you in the work that you do.
Shew, this is a hard one. There are so many things. I think the most incredible thing for has been the response to my images. In today’s society birth has become so unknown to us as women. Gone are the days of the past where by the time we gave birth for the first time, we would have already attended many births of the women around us – our mothers, aunts, sisters and friends would have shared this experience with us, in a circle of woman. Birth would have been so familiar and natural and real. Now the doors are closed and birth has become something hidden and taboo. As we all know, a picture speaks a thousand words. Birth Photography has a very noble task today. This is one of the ways we can normalise birth again. Make it something familiar to woman. Something not to be feared. I feel so strongly about this. Women are hungry to be reminded of the power and beauty of what it is to birth a child. I love being a part of this revolution.
What are the challenges/misconceptions you’ve encountered about birth photography?
I think the biggest challenge (especially here in South Africa) is that most people don’t understand what Birth Photography really is. Everyone seems to just picture that crowning shot. You know!? But it is so not about that. It is about having one of the most important days in your life discreetly, beautifully and authentically captured. It is about the story of the birth – the labour, the moments of the birth and the first few hours of your baby’s life. The other misconception, I find, is that people don’t realise how in the background one is as the photographer. So often my clients will comment how amazing it was, that most of the time, they were not even aware I was there. To me in my role as photographer, that is an art and the biggest compliment.
You’ve been selected as the Cape Town Midwifery and Birth conference ‘s official photographer this year, what are you hoping to gain from this collaboration?
For me, I so enjoy hanging out with fellow birth junkies! It feels like I am with my tribe. Plus, I have always loved capturing woman in my photography. So I love documenting these kinds of events – the passion and beauty of these dedicated, warm, wonderful people. So passionate about empowered birth. So passionate about birth education and supporting women’s choices. I can’t think of anything better. Last year, I wasn’t able to be at this event and I so loved seeing the photographs and getting a glimpse of what I had missed. I also loved watching all the talks on YouTube. I got so much out of it. So the photographs and videos make this event accessible, even to those unable to be there on the weekend.
For more info on Sam and to see her work, please visit her website www.twinklestar.co.za
It is never easy to pindown an on-call home birth midwife but this month we managed to interview Sandy Standish, an independent midwife practicing in Cape Town.
How long have you been offering home birth services for?
I had my first own home birth in 1987 which sparked the passion. I started private midwifery in 1993 with Joy McPherson.
What are the reasons mothers come to you (or other midwives) for a home birth?
Mothers come to me mostly to experience a natural birth with as little intervention as possible. They want to have medical support without being disempowered. Home births also allow the privacy to birth however you feel works for you whether it is dancing wildly or meditating quietly, the space is yours to do what you like with. So birth is a much more private affair and is unique to each mother’s own expression of it..
What are the challenges you face as a midwife offering home birth?
The challenges as a home birth midwife is, always, about the backup and attitudes towards home birth. There is a degree of risk involved due to the limitations around medical support in an out of a hospital setting. Therefore, there is resistance and concern around obstetric backup. It is also the responsibility of the midwife to be aware of her limitations and move sooner rather than later if there is a concern around outcomes.
How did you get involved in home birth? Can you tell us about the first home birth you attended? What stood out for you?
Joy had only worked in hospital and she had the first home birth client and was stressed out so wanted me to be there as support and that is how we started having 2 midwives at a birth as was not the norm before that. I remember it was a typical cape winter night with rain and all.But we were happily ensconced in a warm home and praying we didn’t have to go anywhere. The birth went well.
For more info on Sandy and the services she offers (which include placenta encapsulation, childbirth preparation classes as well as private midwifery services) visit her website Birthing Naturally.
This month we chatted to Vanessa Hartman.
She is a doula, a yoga teacher, antenatal educator, a soul connection facilitator and co-founder of Honoured Birth.
Tell us about yourself and the birth work that you do.
My name is Vanessa and I am a natural birth passionista. I am a doula, a yoga teacher, an antenatal educator and a soul connection facilitator. In January 2015, together with my friend and colleague, I opened a little studio in Noordhoek called “Honoured Birth,” a space where women can celebrate their pregnancies and where expecting parents are invited to ask questions and obtain necessary information in order make informed decisions. It is a place to meet like-minded people and to find support and nurturing on all levels.
What drives you to do this work?
The look on a mother and father’s face when they are holding their baby for the first time, the overflowing love that radiates from each and every cell of their bodies is nothing other than true and divine bliss. It takes my breath away and fills my heart with immense honour and gratitude. It does not matter how or where they gave birth, at home, at hospital or through a c/s, it is that moment that again and again reminds me that the birth of a baby will always be a miracle.
How do you feel about home birth?
I believe that if the pregnancy has been without complications the best place to give birth is where the mother (and the father) feel the safest. For me personally that would always be at home. Many people don’t know enough about home birth and the safety of giving birth at home with a midwife so we need to help parents learn about this possibility so that it may become an option for them.
Are there any misperceptions about home birth that you would like to dispel?
Oh there are many. One of the main ones that I hear a lot is when people talking about their feelings on home birth say: “I am just not that ‘airy-fairy-hippi-type‘!“
Sometimes it frustrates me so much that, largely as a result of the media, birth is perceived a fearful and medical event that needs to be controlled so that those who choose home birth are easily labeled as “airy-fairy”. But birth can be the most beautiful and empowering moment of a woman’s (and a man’s) life that will unfold in its own unique and wonderful way. To me there is nothing airy-fairy-hippie-typeish about that.
What is it about home birth that you enjoy?
I love the calm and warm atmosphere, the loving, undivided attention and support of the midwife and everybody involved. Experiencing this respect and honouring of the process of birth as well as the mother moving with confidence in her own environment makes my heart jump with joy.
How did you get involved in home births?
Becoming a doula opened the home birth doors for me and changed my life completely – even though the first 10 births I attended were all hospital births, many in public sector hospitals and MOU’s. After only seeing hospital births my first home birth changed my life – again. Looking back over the past 4 years of being a doula and on what I have learned makes me strongly believe that “peace on earth begins with birth” and I am on a mission to reduce the almost 80% c/s rate in this country by supporting parents in the decision-making process and providing them with all the information they need.
Tell us something that has stood out for you in the work that you do.
This could become a very long answer as there are so many things that I could name. That’s why I should rather keep it very short and only name one thing: It is life changing!
What would you advise all pregnant mothers?
Start educating yourself as early as possible. Don’t wait for 34 weeks to do antenatal classes. Start early so that you have enough time to gather all the information you need to make informed decisions. It is your body, your baby and your birth so never feel that you have to stop asking questions. Choose your support system wisely and make sure that they support and honour your decisions and wishes.
And VERY importantly, don’t listen to any “horror” stories of other people’s births. Protect yourself from stories like a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-had-to-have-an-emergancy-cesear-…..- and kindly ask people around you to only tell you positive and empowering stories, as these are the stories that will support you and your decision-making process and keep you free from the unneeded and unnecessary seeds of fear.
To contact Vanessa, or for more information on the work she and her partner offer:
click here to like them on Facebook
I recently sat down for coffee with local Cape Town Midwife Lydia Du Toit who is a “no fuss-no frills” down to earth midwife who loves attending homebirths.
When did you first start offering homebirths?
9 years ago – after attending as the back-up midwife at a homebirth ….It’s such a stark contrast to hospital births – I even chose to birth my own to daughters at home with a midwife!
What is it about homebirths that you enjoy?
Labour and birth at home is so simple, no unnecessary interventions, the mothers seem more relaxed in their own environment and that make them better able to manage their labour having loved ones around to support them and a skilled midwife to attend them.
What would you say to women who are thinking of having a homebirth?
Granted, it’s not for everyone but do your research! The evidence is definitely in favour of homebirth as a safe option for mothers with low-risk pregnancies.
Are there any changes you’d like to see in the current practices around homebirth?
I would like to see more hospitals and doctors providing obstetric back-up for homebirths. I would also encourage obstetricians to come and attend/observe a birth at home –I’m sure it will change a lot of misconception that exists around homebirth out there.
You can reach Lydia at her Consulting rooms on 021 696 8571 or on her cellphone at 083 457 5270 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org