Category Archives: Personal Projects

An Interview: Breastfeeding101 – A portrayal of the pleasures & pains of breastfeeding

This is Emma

South African, age 43
Location At work, Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa
Expressing breastmilk
Photographed September 2018

Emma donated 532litres of her own breast milk to South African breast milk bank Milk Matters over seven years.

Once I got my milk supply going, I became the mother cow. I probably started expressing milk around seven weeks after giving birth. Of course I always made sure that my boys got first chance breastfeed, but the majority of my additional expressed milk was for those premature babies. It all started when I went to Milk Matters and saw the abandoned babies there, weighing under a kilo. In other countries, babies that weigh up to two kilograms are given donated milk, but here in South Africa there isn’t enough, so it’s saved for babies who weigh under a kilo. I’d get tired and think ah, do I really want to give up another 25 minutes, up to five times a day? But their tummies are so small and some are abandoned; they are too sick to feed, or their moms have passed away. I just wanted to help; it was important. There are so many good things about breast milk that you can’t duplicate with formula.

I had happy times and difficult times expressing milk. I had to travel all over: Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Malawi and even further, the UK. Before I left home, I’d express and build up stock for my own baby. Sometimes he couldn’t come with me – you know, with the outbreaks of polio and ebola and stuff. Then while away, I had to keep my milk supply going or otherwise I’d have burst! I would express four to five times a day. To save time, I used two separate pumps at the same time: I’d express from both breasts in 25 minutes. Did you know that there was nowhere at O.R Tambo airport or Cape Town International other than the toilets to express milk? Sometimes I’d make a point and sit on the floor at check-in as they all have plug points. I didn’t want to be one of those women [makes sounds of pump expressing]; the point is there should be a place.

While travelling, there was the mission of trying to find hotels where I could put my milk in the freezer. I would have to go through health and safety [protocols] and avoid contamination and mark it carefully. Even when I did a psychology postdoc at Stellenbosch University, I would put milk in the refrigerator during the day and a few times people would steal it for their tea and coffee. After I labelled it “Please do not drink – Breast Milk”, it never got touched again. It is also important to keep [containers] sterile, especially when travelling. I would have to sit with a kettle and a microwave in the middle of rural Madagascar, sanitizing equipment.

When travelling through borders, I used to have to explain what the breast milk was – and then I’d be asked, “Where is the baby?” If the baby was with me, I wouldn’t need to carry the milk! Now, I actually grab my boob as the universal sign for breast milk. In a good number of countries, I have had to sip it, just so they can see it really is what I say it is.

I think three quarters of the luggage I took on my travels was to deal with my breast milk expressing and storing. I had a whole system in place to keep it frozen. I’d wrap my clothes around my ice bricks and ice packs to keep it frozen, then get it to Milk Matters as soon as possible.

Eventually I stopped when I had to go away to Dar es Salaam for ten days. I’d actually wondered whether I should take the job or not, but then I thought, “Emma, you have given years to this. It is okay. Other moms need to come to the party.” I can’t carry the world.

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An Interview: Breastfeeding101 – A portrayal of the pleasures & pains of breastfeeding

This is Elmarina

South African, age 33
Location Outside a house in Delft, Cape Town, South Africa
Feeding her three-year-old child
Photographed August 2018

Whenever you give a child a bottle [that contains formula], they get sicker, more quickly. It’s because you get moms who don’t close the bottles properly. Flies get attracted to them, and there are more germs.

I’ve got three children. I didn’t breastfeed the first two, the boys. I had very small nipples and it wasn’t easy for me. For the first week, my eldest did drink from my breasts, but he couldn’t really get a grip on the nipple because it was so small. And I used to struggle with him the whole time.

But when my girl here came along, my husband hadn’t had work for a few months, so we decided we were going try the breast again. I couldn’t afford to buy the formula that worked for my two boys. I told myself, “Now Elmarina, you have to think. You must rather put her on the breast or what are you going to do? There is no money for formula.” So I had to try, and just do it and even though it was painful, try not to panic. But I would panic sometimes because my daughter would cry you know, because the nipple was so small, nè[not so]? I went to the clinic to speak to one of the ladies who works there. She really tried to help me with technique.

It was still really, really hard to feed my daughter, and she is still underweight. I cried with that nurse, asking her to just help me try to figure something out, because I didn’t have the finances for the milk. She told me to come whenever I’m ready, like every day, I could go to her for help. She was a little old lady, but a very nice one. You know how older people are: They know how to explain things to you down to the last detail. That’s why I think she showed me those techniques with my finger. She knew about my situation, the money, that there wasno money to buy a breastfeeding pump, you understand.*I wish the hospitals or clinics would give us pumps, or pills to help with the milk. I have a friend who was offered help by the clinic in Bishops Lavis. She didn’t have milk but she really wanted to breastfeed and not put her child on a bottle, so they gave her pills [probably sulpiride, believed by some doctors to increase serum prolactin and aid milk supply]. But I didn’t get that in the hospital I was at. Nobody even asked me: Do you want a pill to help you breastfeed? Nothing like that. I had to find a way to breastfeed.

My daughter was born very small, so I was often at the clinic, trying to get her weight and her iron right the whole time. When she was two, the doctor said she could drink till she’s five. She loves it; she doesn’t want to give it up [laughs]. Sometimes I tease her and tell her that she’s getting too big now and she says, “No, no!” and shakes her head [laughs].

<sidebar note>

South African public hospitals do not supply mothers with breastfeeding pumps.

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A Body of work

 14 Minutes in Addis Ababa

14 Minutes in Addis Ababa was shot at dawn on an overnight layover in Ethiopia while flying from Mombasa to Cape Town. 
 


The 3 star hotel (with a piece of photocopied paper and tape masking a once-held fourth star in the vague hope that it could one day be recovered) was strangely lush and neglected in equal measures. 
 


Having missed the connecting bus to the airport, my travel companions and I found ourselves with 20 minutes to spare. Between capturing the first and the final image, only 14 minutes elapsed. In these moments, we entered the limbo space of the in-between: the distance between arrivals and departures, wakefulness and dreaming.


The shoot was somewhat unplanned, hasty and fortuitous. A chance occurrence that unfolded in a crease of a bygone era.

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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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