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Birth Slippers


Posted By on May 7, 2018

These are my birth slippers. What I wear on my feet when attending a homebirth. They’re mostly for my comfort and to be as discreet as I can when I’m pottering around someone’s home while they’re in Labour. However, there was a particular incident some years ago that prompted my need to wear ‘something’ on my feet. I’d been called to assist at a homebirth as it appeared that the mother was approaching transition and the birth would soon be imminent. As per usual I kicked off my shoes to be bare foot on entering the home and found the birth team in the tiny lounge and the mother labouring in the birth pool. I settled into the corner of the couch away from the mothers gaze so as not to make her feel observed by my presence and waited for the midwifes cues for me to assist if the need arose. Some while later it was evident that the baby was having difficulty negotiating it’s exit due to a deflexed head and the midwife made the call to transfer in to the back up hospital for further assistance. This was my cue to assist the mother out of the bath and into some clothes for the ride to the hospital whilst the midwife called ahead to the back up obstetrician to expect their arrival. As the mother exited the pool a hard bearing down surge hit her and forced her into a squat alongside the birth pool. We hastily helped her to dress and into the car and off they went. I offered to stay behind to tidy up the lounge and dismantle the birth pool so that the soon to be parents would have one less thing to worry about on their return… And then it happened… As I approached the pool on the same side that the mother had had that hard surge when climbing out of the pool, I trod into a ‘poo pebble’ which was surrounded by a puddle of now cold water on the plastic sheet on the floor! (If I close my eyes I can still hear the squishing sound it made) There was not nearly enough wet wipes in my bag that day to get rid of the sensation… But, I survived… And hence the need to slippers at...

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Cape Town-based couple Dawn & Dean McFarlane share their recent experience of birthing their second child at home with HBSA. For our first birth, we were under the care of an obstetrician at a private hospital. At 37 weeks I was diagnosed with intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) and was told I would need to be induced to birth my baby safely. Although I ended up birthing my baby vaginally, it was not quite the “natural” birth I had hoped for. The usual cascade of interventions meant I needed the relief of an epidural when the pains became unbearable and the most traumatic part was the manual removal of my placenta performed by the doctor a mere 5 minutes after my son was born. I knew that I wanted a different experience this time. What made you decide on a homebirth for your second pregnancy? I was doing my doula training after the birth of my first child and had heard from the women there who had these amazing experiences at home. It definitely piqued my interest. I was seeing a gynae for my prenatal care in the second pregnancy when she informed me at 13 weeks that the medical aid plan I was on no longer covered her fees and I would, therefore, have to make a significant co-payment or find another doctor on my network. So this change also prompted the decision to explore homebirth. What was your husband’s reaction to your decision to birth at home? His response was a resounding “NO!” His concerns were around safety – “what if something went wrong?” “What about the blood?” and also what about all the noise as we live on the same property as my in-laws! So although he had said no, I asked him to keep an open mind and come and meet with a midwife who could answer all those questions, as they were concerns of mine too. How did you find your midwife and what were your criteria for selecting her? I had contacted a few midwives and I can’t say that there were many options as some didn’t offer services in my area and some didn’t respond to my initial contact and because I was due in the middle of December, many were on leave and therefore unavailable. But I managed to find one midwife who was happy to meet with us and answer our questions – and luckily had availability when we were due. She satisfied all our questions in terms of situations that would risk out homebirth and she advised on having the back up of the public hospital in our area and...

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Meet Midwife Kathleen Van Heerden


Posted By on Oct 23, 2017

  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...

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Meet Midwife Yolande Maritz


Posted By on Nov 13, 2016

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....

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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...

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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....

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