Category Archives: Personal Projects

Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Heidi Padoa


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize the processes before, during and after birth.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Heidi is a doula based in the Garden Route area, Western Cape, South Africa. I met her at the Midwifery and Birth Conference in Cape Town in 2015. Heidi has been a doula for 6 years. She qualified as a professional labour and birth assistant through WOMBS in 2010 and has birthed 8 children herself (her own and surrogate), including; home, hospital, caesarean, breech and twin birth.

“I believe that the birth of a baby is a deeply sacred and miraculous event, filled with mystery, challenges, beauty, power, love and great joy which will affect women emotionally for as long as they live. It is divinely created to be a perfect, safe and strengthening process.
A woman is in her greatest power during childbirth, working with the co-creative forces of nature to allow the miracle of life to pass through her.”


“I most love to help women throughout their journey in pregnancy and birth, by providing emotional, informational and physical support, as I serve them as a doula.
I have attended many home, hospital and caesarean births, including the unassisted, undisturbed HBAC of twins and an amazing, unassisted HBA5C  (home waterbirth after 5 cesareans), amongst all the other miraculous births I have had the privilege to support”.

• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).

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Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Tarryn Walton


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize birth and the body.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Tarryn Walton has been a professional doula for two years now. She works all over: Northern suburbs, Cape Town central, southern suburbs, Atlantic seaboard.
Tarryn is a  Satyananda yoga teacher and specialises in prenatal yoga as well.
.

Tarryn Walton Doula South Africa photographed by Leah Hawker

Giving birth to three children in the UK, has highlighted the stark difference between South Africa and England regarding the approach to childbirth.
My aim is to help educate women in terms of their choices in childbirth, encourage them to believe and trust in their ability to birth their babies with as little interference and medical intervention as possible.
In instances where a non-medicalised birth is not an option, I aim to work with the mother and her family towards optimising the chances of her having a positive experience.
A woman should feel safe, nurtured and empowered throughout pregnancy, labour and birth. She should own the experience and be able to congratulate herself on her achievement.
Helping facilitate this is an honour and a privilege.
• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).
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Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Candice Petersen


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize birth and the body.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Candice Petersen is a South African midwife working in the public sector. She’s an advanced midwife with a background in nursing. Candice worked at Mowbray Maternity Hospital for 7.5 years before she moved to Khayelitsha District Hospital where she stayed for 5 months. She is currently working at Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital.

Candice Petersen Midwife South Africa - Photographed by Leah Hawker

My journey to midwifery began after the birth of my daughter nearly 17 years ago. I had a negative experience during my labour. Despite this, the moment i gave birth, I was in awe. It was wonderful. It was then that I decided to become a midwife.

I completed my training as a professional nurse in 2007. I started working at a specialised obstetric hospital in the government sector. Much has changed over the years in this sector with regards to birthing. Most of the old practices have been stopped (shaving, enemas, routine episiotomies, etc). Most hospitals have become more baby and mother friendly.

However, I do still believe that birthing in S.A is largely medicalized. The caesarean section is amongst the highest in the world.

I am still often shocked by the lack of patient care I see around me, the protocols are just something I often can’t agree with,- there is just so much intervention!

It often seems to me that the system is setting patients (in labour) up for failure (caesarean). I have often just felt that patients were being treated like livestock and not people. Each place I have worked at has been quite different, some definitely have much more evident care and compassion for the labouring woman however some facilities are incredibly hard to work at, psychologically…

What it means to me to be a midwife in the dominant world of medicine is to be an advocate for the women who are in my care. To ensure that her experience during labour is positive and without fear, that she may birth as she intends with the least intervention. I have come to experience many times that a softer approach and reassurance to the mom yields far greater results than a strictly clinical approach.

To engage with my patients and gain their trust, to share in their joy, their sorrow and to help to dispel their fears means so much to me.

The statistics I would like to see is a decline in the Caesarean section rate in this country. I believe we can achieve this by adopting more natural approaches to birthing. Women need to be empowered. Empowerment through education. There is too much fear surrounding birth, which in its essence, should be a natural, instinctive and physiological event.

• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).

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Pictorials: “Macro” for Design Indaba Magazine, South Africa

In 2008 I shot and submitted an image for Design Indaba’s feature “Macro”. It was the first time I worked with the magazine and was super happy to have my image full print on page one. The Mag had invited creatives from South Africa to submit macro photography for a pictorial and for whatever reason this idea had occurred to me.

Design Indaba, 4th Quarter  2008 cover.

Design Indaba, 4th Quarter 2008 cover.

Design Indaba Macro Pictorial 005

I was still teaching part time at Ruth Prowse School of Art at this time and one of my students had contact with a beekeeper who I in turn contacted for some dead bees to use for this shoot.

Design Indaba Macro Pictorial 001

I asked a friend who obliging posed for the shot. The bees where not smelling so great by this time, but, the images where worth it. Ive only ever used the one file but here are a few more from the shoot that I like.

Design Indaba Macro Pictorial 002

Design Indaba Macro Pictorial 003

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Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Marianne Littlejohn


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize birth and the body.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Marianne Littlejohn has been a midwife for 34 years (actively practicing for 25 years). Marianne runs the platform Spiritual Birth which encourages women to have more empowered and profound birthing experiences. She is also the founder and director of the Mtwana Birth Centre in Muizenberg and specialises in natural births for which she is a fierce advocate.

Based in Cape Town, Marianne runs Antenatal Clinics in Rondebosch and Muizenberg, but travels to the northern suburbs for mothers who want homebirths.

Marianne Littlejohn Indipendent South African Midwife portrait by Leah Hawker

 “I have witnessed a lot of changes during my time as an active midwife and seen how birth has become more medicalized over the years in both the private and public sectors for different reasons.

In the public sector, the sheer numbers of women needing assistance and the decrease in the number of midwives, results in less one-on-one midwifery care for mothers.
Ideally midwifery care should be one midwife per each mother.
My approach is to educate and empower the mother to surrender to the physiological process of birth (yes, this innate knowledge is part of how we are made) and become conscious of the opportunity for growth and empowerment in the process of becoming a parent.”

• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).

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Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Sydney Grove


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize birth and the body.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Sydney Grove is an advanced midwife , specialises in neonatel nursing science, has a degree in nursing, education and health. Sydney has been in his profession for 40 years and has delivered too many babies to count. He now works in the birthing industry in service management and covers the whole CBD and peninsula.

Sydney Grove -Midwives & Doulas of South Africa - Portraits by Leah Hawker

“I am a male feminist doing advocacy for women in labour.
I believe that women should not be indoctrinated into intervention in labour unless strongly indicated.
I believe in informed consent and pro-active informed decision making.
Any women in labour and even during pregnancy should feel special and made to feel sacred.”

• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).

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Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Lynne Groenewald


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize birth and the body.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Lynne Groenewald is a birth educator, trained Mama Bamba Antenatal Facilitator and yoga teacher who focuses on prenatal yoga. Lynne has a background in fine arts, clothing and surface design and decided to follow her passion into the birthing arena.
She’s based in Woodstock where she shares suites with midwife Caitlyn Collins and Homeopath/GP Daphne Lyell but also travels all over for her clients.

Lynne Groenewald Doula and yoga south africa COMPRESSED

“It is time that we take responsibility for ourselves, our births and our families.   As a mother, the three things that I feel will support this are:

  • learning to trust our bodies, ourselves and our processes;
  • empowering ourselves through information;
  • and being supported by midwifes as a matter of course.

We have the power to find out all the information we need, so that we can make informed decisions…  We have information at our fingertips, and there are passionate people wanting to share their knowledge and experiences.  We cannot base our choices on ‘the way things are’, or the expected norm.”

• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).

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Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Nomvula Muriel Gxaka


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize birth and the body.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Nomvula is a doula and midwife-in-training at Busfare Babies in the Peddie District, Eastern Cape, South Africa. She’s been working with birthing for 5 years.

Nomvula Muriel Gxaka -Midwives & Doulas of South Africa - Portraits by Leah Hawker

 “What inspires me about my job is the way we do things here at Busfare Babies: I’m also so interested in helping others, supporting one another, especially as a midwife, here in the Eastern Cape.  I enjoy being there to support a  women in that hard process when she is scared and in pain, but we are there, watching and waiting respectfully, to make sure she is safe and to catch her innocent baby.”

“My experience is that as midwife you have to be someone whose got a passion for what you’re doing. Love and care is the best thing you can give a woman in birth, you have to be someone whose got a vision of a motherhood…”

• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).

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Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Sian Williams


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize birth and the body.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Sian Williams is a prenatal Vinyasa yoga instructor, a doula, and a baby massage instructor at Glow Prenatal Yoga in Cape Town.

Sian Williams -Midwives & Doulas of South Africa - Portraits by Leah Hawker

“My doula journey began with the birth of my divine son, North in 2013.  That was the moment I chose to support women during one of the most phenomenal phases of their life; pregnancy & birth.  I absolutely honor the gift of fully supporting and guiding women on their chosen journey to embrace the process of pregnancy and birth from a deeper, more meaningful place within.   This spiritual and sacred journey of pregnancy and birth that is bestowed upon women is an opportunity to tap into their profound and powerful wisdom nestled deep inside the layers of their existence, their minds, their hearts, and to truly follow their intuition for the birth that they desire.”

“I wish to see for every birthing woman
more trust, less rush
more confidence, less fear
more research, less doubt
more ‘how, why?’, less ‘okay’
more compassion, less external pressure
more voice, less silence
However, the ultimate wish for my birthing goddesses is the very wish of their own.”

• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).

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Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Vania Truter


The Gate-Keepers: A Portraiture Project

This is a portraiture project, documenting the “gatekeepers” of a growing movement regarding positive birth experiences in our country.  My aim: to promote those who are enabling women to identify with their power and femininity and therefore normalize birth and the body.

These are their stories / anecdotes / opinions about what they do and how they see it…accompanied by my portraits and some general information on each sitter.

Vania Truter is a doula. She works predominantly in the Northern suburbs and Belville. Vania has been a doula for just over 4 years now.

Vania Truter -Midwives & Doulas of South Africa - Portraits by Leah Hawker

“These are things I’d like to see changing in South Africa:

  • gynaecologists to be more supportive of vaginal births,
  • newborns to always have skin-to-skin directly after birth,
  • women to be more empowered and supported to breastfeed,
  • gentler c-sections,
  • more home births and
  • more VBAC births!”

• (I invite more participants to join the project, you are welcome to email me for more information).

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