When a mother embraces her newborn baby, her third child to her chest with deep loving affection and relief, a few minutes old and you witness THE MOST precious time in a life….and she says “this is the first time I am seeing a newborn”..you wander…. what is so wrong with the system that she did not have this with her first 2 children?
Why is she and many other mothers AND babies being robbed of this important and integral moment.
THIS is why I will keep doing what I do and speaking what I speak…and writing what I write…..
This is the birth right of every mother and baby.
PLEASE DO NOT let anyone take THIS moment away from you without valid medical reason.
This mom got to discover the unknown sex of her baby by her own hands and eyes. The baby was not cleaned, weighed, injected minutes after being born and then adorned in nappy and towel and shown to the mom. She asked “Is it a boy or a girl?” and we helped her have a look herself and she said “it’s a Boy!” It makes a crucial difference. This beautiful newborn baby lay on his mom’s chest adjusting to the outside world, still hearing the familiar heartbeat and familiar smells. You could see on his face that he was peaceful, nurtured and curious about life in the safety of his mother’s chest and closeness.
Make it known before you give birth this is what you expect.
This moment can never happen again. And it DOES make a difference. That baby’s world perceptions are being formed….what he knows and feels as normal and acceptable. Love, trust, security.
We owe it to ourselves.
Peace on Earth begins with Birth.
Enjoy other posts like this one: https://gaurilowe.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/dignity-is-a-basic-human-right-in-childbirth-too/
There is not much more to say about it….read this and reflect. We take our own baggage in all sorts to all of life….especially important life events. We may not even be aware. It is one of the most important aspects I believe need to be addressed in harnessing and spreading a Sacred Model of Birth. The power of transference. It is not volountary.
From the outstanding and revolutionary book “Birth Without Violence” by Frederick Leboyer
“Will the baby breathe?
Everyone is holding their breath. Identifying with the baby unconsciously. We have all returned from our own births – fighting for breath just like this newborn baby; on the verge of suffocation.
We have no umbilicus to supply us with oxygen. So things soon become unbearable, and we must take some action.
The easiest, the most sensible, the most obvious thing for the onlooker to do would simply be to breathe.
Instead of which, he cuts the baby’s cord.
His own emotional involvement has made him quite irrational.
Naturally the baby shrieks.
Everyone present exclaims in relief: Its breathing.
But, in fact, it is just they themselves who have found relief.
What they really should be saying is ‘I am breathing’.
Because the truth is that the baby was in no hurry – its umbilicus gives it plenty of time.
Under the pretext of helping this new foreign being, the obstetrician has considered only himself.
Without knowing it, he has made a transference. He has rid himself of his own anguish by projecting it on to the child.
And so the victim, deprived of its umbilicus, finds himself choking for breath.
So that we can breath freely.
This process of transference will be endlessly repeated. And the sum of these repetitions is what we, in our ignorance, call education.”
Birth without Violence – Frederick Leboyer.
This photo was posted on my timeline, in a private message and I posted it on my page. It kept being removed. It was removed by other people who posted it too on their pages.
It’s not a new story but this photo carries an important message.It normalises normal birth. It normalises unassisted family welcoming a baby into the world.
We all know that if it was a picture of a mother in a sterile gown having her baby shown to her wrapped up with a clamped cord by similar sterile strangers with gloves it would not be removed.
BUT THIS is the picture that needs to come into our heads when we consider birth. When we consider welcoming a new baby into the world, a new member of our family, a child to mother and father.
THIS IS NORMAL.
This is statistically how over 75% of women can have babies. Yes! Babies come out of vaginas! And yes fathers and mothers can welcome their babies with love like this!! Share in whatever way you can – this is the important message we need to get out!
THIS IS THE NORMAL!!
(PS – If you are interested in reading more about Sacred birth here is a wonderful talk to read or listen to… https://gaurilowe.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/a-sacred-model-of-birth/ )
If you are interested in viewing this graphic but beautiful picture with honour, respect and sacredness – please find the picture here https://www.pinterest.com/pin/57069120254950471/ . or here https://gaurilowe.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/2015-03-16-22-05-44.jpg.
My first experience of being with laboring women was in the local referral hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. I was a first year medical school student and wide-eyed and excited about spending a few hours there one night. There were a few ladies laboring but nothing too exciting until we were invited to watch a caeserian section.
So there I was in my green pyjama-like scrubs with my mask and hat, standing close enough to see and far enough to be healthily safe. My only memory of the caeserian was that the lady was flapping her arms uncontrollably. They were secured onto arm boards but due to the spinal she was shaking violently and could not control it. Her right arm kept hitting the assistant surgeon (probably an intern) on the buttocks. And she said “Stop coming onto me and hitting me on the bum.” And they all laughed and laughed and continued the joke. I was horrified, ashamed, embarrassed and shocked. I just hoped the young lady having her first baby could not understand English enough to know what was going on, as her baby was being born.
That deeply impacted me. Two years later I chose to have my baby at home and NOT in a hospital (for so many reasons.) And my birth experience equally impacted me. Probably more. I experienced empowerment, love, connection, nature, support and all the other good things that swerved my career path to supporting other mothers to have THAT kind of birth experience.
But I had to complete my studies and internship. I was in and out of maternity obstetric units, secondary hospitals, tertiary hospitals across the Western Cape. What I saw deeply disturbed me. The verbal physical and emotional abuse ravaged me. As a student I wrote letters of complaints. I noted down staff’s names and reported them. I summoned a meeting with the heads of obstetrics and requested answers, reactions, prevention of the incidents I had witnessed.
I reported a 16 year old girl getting severe fundal pressure, episiotomy without anaesthesia and being shown her baby hanging upside down after birth. I was told that I did not spend enough time at that hospital to comment.
I told of incidents at local hospitals – incidents that were not only abusive but broke protocol. Not allowing laboring women a partner with them. Mothers being shouted at “Your baby is going to die. It is your fault. You have made your baby sick.” Not being allowed to move around. During a vaginal examination of a young teenager – “you let him put it in there, now this is what we have to do.”
I have seen racism, rudeness and force by the head of departments. I have seen disregard for consent. I have seen midwives joke and poke and stare at various vulva’s when the mother is conscious and her head is behind the screen in preparation for a caeserian section.
I have seen caeserian sections done on mothers for social reasons (the doctors); I have seen caeserian sections done on mothers for a breech baby that wasn’t actually breech.
I have been helpless – waiting for a logbook to be signed; and not said anything until afterwards.
I have also seen tired, hard-working midwives and doctors that are really trying their best to manage under very difficult circumstances.
The problem is that the birth experience has a hugely profound effect on the mother and baby, individually and their relationship. It is not only “nice” – it really does matter how a mother and baby are treated during this time. The imprints and sequalae have far-reaching effects in terms of psychology, neurology, sociology and psychiatry. So we need to pay attention!
We are speaking about basic human rights. And human rights in childbirth is really really important. The way we treat our laboring and pregnant mothers and newborn babies matters. There is an organization that is ralleyed to support, inform and educate mothers and their care-givers. And they give conferences around the world – inviting ethics professionals, lawyers, obstetricians, midwives and anthropologists (to name a few). Soon there is one in South Africa, my home land, and then one in India – where I stay now.
To go even one step further and encourage an awareness – of the sacredness of being pregnant, giving birth and being born – and remember THIS in each interaction – in antenatal clinics, in labour rooms, delivery suites, emergency runs, theatre, postnatal wards, nicu – homevisits… It invites a very different balanced, conscious and embracing paradigm of birth that works too.
Because being rude, raising voices, using harsh words, forcing, lying does not help anything anyway – in any situation. We do not have that right. It will catch up with us. It seldom works for the desired affect anyway.
Thank you to the midwives and birthworkers that take the time and patience to hold someone’s hand when she needs reassurance, to be kind and gentle and understanding when performing a vaginal
examination, to look into a woman’s eyes and speak to her with soft and gentle words, to respect her wishes, to explain things to her, to handle her newborn with gentle care and attention.
Please be kind to the next pregnant woman you meet – no matter how she pushes, how old she is, how overweight or underweight she is, how her vulva looks, whether you agree or not with her birth choices, her postures.
This is her right. It is called the right to dignity. And if you cross it you are contravening a basic human right.
Women – please claim your right back. It is yours.
It crossed my mind that only a “birthjunkie” would be SO excited to be invited to a sacred placenta burial ceremony, but I was! This placenta traveled all the way from Norway 8 months after its birth to be buried in a holy place!
Since my lotus birth ( https://gaurilowe.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/my-home-and-water-and-lotus-birth-part-2/ ) my appreciation and respect for the placenta has grown. As well as my awe for its natural beauty and presence. It is a phenomenal, often missed, tree of life – life-sustaining organ.
So this placenta was born via an emergency caeserian and has made it all the way to Sridham Mayapur, a holy city in East India, to be buried on the banks of the River Ganges (also known as Mother Ganga). This was to honour the placenta that had been a close maintainer of her babies life.
It was a small, casual and sweet ceremony. We found a quiet spot, dug a deep hole, close to the water and buried the placenta with the cord curled upwards, placing some flowers over it, while quietly chanting some sacred mantras.
The Western Cape – home to about 10% of South Africa’s population. Between 1999 and 2007 the amount of live births increased from 70 000 to 99 000. About 5% of maternal deaths in South Africa are from the Western Cape. Most deaths are caused by non-pregnancy related illness like HIV and next hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. But I am not going to dwell on statistics of mortality. Although it is sobering to always remember that pregnancy carries risks and moms can die!
I want to give you a flavour of my experience in the PUBLIC sector of Birth in the Western Cape – full of diversity and discrepancy – first some practical insight of the structure of birth in the Western Cape.
Public – you sit in a waiting room half a day to be one of about 60 mothers seen by 2 doctors. (Numbers vary and increase at different hospitals.) You have an ultrasound – if you are lucky – only when it is indicated.
Private – you make your appointment, pay at least R500, have an ultrasound at EVERY appointment indicated or not and you wait a little. But you actually have about the same amount of time with your gynae.
Private midwives – you have your appointment, pay less, and have far more time with your midwife where you discuss deep subjects – your own birth perhaps, your home situation, stressors and how you are really feeling and coping.
Describing the delivery is also a similar exercise.
Which make talking about birth in the Western Cape open to several different angles.
I would like to give a very raw flavour of what birth in the western cape has been for me in my last few years in medicine.
A young girl – it was her 18th birthday. It was also Valentines day. She was wheeled in on an ambulance stretcher with her baby almost crowning. She was small and wearing a mini skirt and had been out with her boyfriend at the waterfront. Her baby girl was born quickly and she breastfed. Then we found out she did not want to keep the baby. Her boyfriend told us that 9 months ago she was raped. She believed her pregnant belly was a cyst, as she said she was told by her doctor. Therefore she had NO antenatal care. Her baby went up to the nursery, to prepare for adoption, and she went to the gynae ward.
Read more here: http://drgaurilowe.com/blog/birth-in-the-western-cape
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After camping, swimming, meeting and then relaxing…..my body was obviously ready. At 13h40 my water broke. And after about 1.5 hours I was in established labour. I started off actively involved and just being aware of the growing twinges until I ended up rolled into a fetal position ooohhhiiingg…and aaaahhhhiiiinnngggg in my room alone. That is where my midwife found me and escorted me down to the bath, which my husband and son had set up.
My baby and I guided my whole labour. From when my water broke and I resumed resting in bed – waiting and wondering when the contractions would start. My first baby also started like this but it was night time and the contractions built slowly as we slept in bed in between (a bit in denial).
Now after delivering and witnessing many hospital deliveries as a doctor, observing and doing several homebirths, reading, learning and educating people about natural conscious gentle birth – I was waiting for my own to begin. The huge organic event that occurs ending each pregnancy – the birth of my second child that would forever from that time – change our family to 4, my 7 year old son to older brother.
There was no conscious boundary or change but the contractions had become more consuming and I was within them as they were within me.
This story needs to start from the beginning – and the birth of my Shyami started preconception! But I will skip the details of the longing, surrendering, false hopes, praying and negotiating and releasing that we went through before he was ready to join us.
I remember the time of his conception clearly. We were nearing the end of our sojourn to a holy place known for its magnaminity and mercy – a place that we went to as a family for deep nourishing and reconnecting after a tough few years of gruelling, relentless work. So Shyam spent his first weeks forming his perfect body in my womb while we made pilgrimage with our older son to the most holy places in India.
First stop after Sridham Mayapur (capital of ISKCON) was Krishna’s birthplace known as Vrindavan -deeply beautiful, ancient steeped temples and saints. And on to curvy, steep, faceless roads that hug the northern mountains of the Himalayas – as we walked in snow, journeyed on ponyback, dunked from ice surfaces to natural hot springs, ate with pilgrims, sadhus, slept in tents covered with ice, warmed ourselves at fires used to make fresh chapatis and drank chai to warm our insides. As well as bathing in crisp cool Ganges when out of the Northern colder regions – giving us fresh relief from the heat.
Starting a new job (after immense negotiation with the Department of Health – so I could be closer to home), I hid my pregnancy for a while. I soon found out that this new hospital was named the “busiest and roughest trauma unit in the Western Cape” for a reason! Night shifts, day shifts, more than 8 hours not only on your feet but running often, resuscitating, diagnosing TB, MDR TB, as well as every other emergency and trauma diagnosis you can imagine. I “slept” for an hour in my car during night shifts. As they all tell you “Well at least it is good experience.” Heartbreaking. Social medicine at its best. The results of poverty, crime, alcohol, drugs. The results of Apartheid still ripe. I lasted 2 months. And then begged and made a plan to swap departments. Still busy, tragic and hectic – but different hours and pace. And following my interest – obstetrics.
So aware of my growing baby within throughout all of this – I took fetal love breaks – often – either while walking from one ward to the next, sitting down for a moment here and there. It wasn’t easy. I remember doing a resuscitation at 5am after a night call, at about 33 weeks – with incredibly inept staff. Switchboard was on “lunch” (the incredulous term used when anyone is taking a break at any time of the day!?) and we could not call a red box emergency alert so other doctors could come help. If anyone knows CPR is hard work!
And finally at 37 weeks I started maternity leave. I rested, refreshed and became ready. But by 38.5 weeks I was itching and the “just waiting” was hard.
So my famlily and I decided to go camping!
We stayed in a beautiful healing low fynbos forest about 1.5hours away. and a short and bumpy dirt road in! We slept in permanent tents on a bed in the forest. We had outdoor showers, camping food, incredible walks (that I lumbered along) and soaked in the rich healing and sacred wisdom of the trees in the forest.
These profound trees are used to make healing essences – African Tree essences – just like flower essences. It is a truly healing sanctuary. We walked a labyrinth, spent time with a
1000 year old Milkwood tree!! and had the whole site to ourselves and loved it. It was just right.
A Milkwood tree , known as the Tree of Wholeness – symbolises power, groundedness and connectedness. “The energy of the milkwood tree can assist us with feeling at home in the world – it connects you with your personal power, and may remind us on a cellular level that we are all one family – each of us loved and needed and cared for.” I was happy to soak in her vibrational healing energy at this this time! http://www.africantreeessences.co.za/tree_of_wholeness.html
A one day camping trip expanded into 3 days as we continued to spend some time with some good friends, and swimming in the salty ocean!
And on Saturday night we came home.
Sunday morning I made homemade bread before our meeting at my home with the organisational commitee for the first Midwifery and Birth Conference in South Africa! My midwife, also on the team, did a prenatal with me before and felt it could be anytime now or even later. And after the meeting I had a fantastic lunch and went to relax and read a little.
At 13h40 my water broke. And after about 1.5 hours I was in full blown established labour.
Continued in Part 2…
A long version of this in combination with my my own journey to birthing work appears in the wonderful book Water Birth: Stories to Inspire and Inform by Milli Hill at http://www.waterbirthbook.com .