There has to be a quiet place deep in the heart of every spiritual midwife – a place that is not disturbed by differences, chaos, people, events nor rattled by fear or timidity. To say that I am always calm is not entirely true, but I am amazed at the resilience of my soul. Some days do not seem to end and I feel as if I have lived a thousand days in one.At 6 am I rise to the light squeezing impatiently past the curtain edges and my dog Harry’s wet nose sniffing my face. I am startled awake and remember that today I am giving a Spiritualbirth Workshop and meeting a couple for the first time. I take the dogs for a walk as the crisp morning light dispels the shadow of the mountain on the fynbos flora. The flowers are out in their exquisite rare form, dotted daintily between the scrub and in areas that provide a specific habitat to each, reminding me that each baby seeks a unique first habitat: his mother. I prepare booklets for the workshop ahead and after a quick shower, welcome Tebogo and Luntu to my home. Together we tackle the theory and practice of natural birth. Tebogo is enthusiastic as we watch waterbirth videoclips and Luntu warms to the idea. We practice a deep breathing and relaxation exercise and close with a visualization and meditation session, using symbols to impart trust in the process of labour and birth.
Hours of concentration later, lunch is sorely needed and we take the stroll and dine together at the Daffodil Restaurant in the Good Hope Nursery Garden. Lunch was magnificent, our tummies and spirits filled with good cheer and confidence for the birth of Luntu Junior! It was a pleasurable day’s work before a Monday meeting at Mowbray Maternity Hospital, booking appointments for new clients and sharing notes with a psychologist, a lactation consultant and a midwifery student mentor.
Tuesday is Clinic Day and we spend an hour with each client, listening to their pregnancy concerns, sharing, examining and getting to know the growing baby inside the womb. Not only does the mother get to know and trust us as her midwives, but the unborn baby becomes accustomed to our voices during the visits as well as our hands when we palpate the abdomen to ascertain his size and position. In this way, we are no longer strangers to the baby, which means that at the birth, the unborn baby may also draw confidence from hearing our voices as we encourage the mother during her labour. The way we touch and massage the mother, the way we speak to her prepares her for how we will behave during her labour and birth. Our task as midwives is not to ‘deliver’ the baby to the mother, but to enable the baby to deliver himself and to enable the mother to give birth to her baby. In this way, both the mother and the baby are empowered and they can each say ‘I did it” or ‘We did it”.
Here Ruth, my apprentice, is taking Abigail’s blood pressure. The Urine check, for infection, gestational proteinuric hypertension and glucose has already been tested and we have discussed the appointment for the next visit which will take place in Abigails’s home. Abigail is fit, healthy and following our recommendations for her diet plan. Thereafter, we massage her abdomen with an aromatherapy mix, and when mom and baby are relaxed, we measure the growth of the baby, check his position and monitor his heartbeat. The baby’s heartbeat always shows a responsiveness to the social interaction with us and we enjoy massaging the baby’s back under the muscles! On the way home we stop to order medical equipment for our midwifery bags and after the long day and hot drive, arrive home to feed animals and children, to nourish ourselves and catch a few hours sleep before the next call out. On Wednesday and Thursday I attend an ‘Essential Skills to Manage Obstetric Emergencies’ (ESMOE) course at the Kayelitsha Day Hospital on the Cape Flats. The course teaches neonatal resuscitation, umbilical vein catheterization, surgical skills, obstetric emergencies and maternal obstetric emergencies and resuscitation( which I missed due to the homebirth call out and will need to catch up on!).
The home is such an intimate space and we tread with reverence and respect whether we are entering a palace or a shack. We ensure that the contents of our list have been purchased, and that we memorize the directions! In the wee hours of Friday morning, Adam and Gemma call and I leap into the car with my midwifery bags, oxygen, and suction unit, to travel before the morning traffic. The road is clear and I drive about 100 km to their home on the Atlantic Beach side of Cape Town. Gemma is confident and determined, and attended hypnobirthing classes to prepare for the birth process. After a long day of brave and courageous labouring and fantastic expulsive efforts, Gemma gives birth to Sebastian without pain relief. Sebastian is born with a nuchal arm and a true knot in the cord. The birth is both gentle and powerful as Sebastian slips onto the towel where he takes his first breaths, before Gemma lifts him onto her chest. A family bath ensued while Ruth and I cleaned up and packed our bags and then it was Adams turn. Adam revels in the sensations of what it means to be a Dad as we position Sebastian. Sebastian it appears has found one of his niche habitats – on his father’s chest, skin to skin!