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!