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 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