Positive Birth in South Africa: This is Thea Hurenkamp


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.

Thea Hurenkamp has been a doula for close on two years. She has a past in teaching, marketing and social work. Thea works predominantly in the CBD and Northern Suburbs of Cape Town.

Thea Hurenkamp 0 Doula South Africa Photographed by Leah Hawker

“One of the most important aspects of my Doula work, as I see it, is to talk about birth more – just talk! It’s what women do best. It’s connection. The more we talk about birth as an empowering and natural phenomenon, the more we shed light. All fear lives in silence and darkness.”

“My opinion is that there is so much fear in both the public and private sectors. We seem to have lost our collective trust in the process and in the birthing woman.
It manifests in different ways: emotional, verbal and physical abuse from care providers, coercion, hasty and often unnecessary intervention, elected caesarean births – and I think these manifestations will continue until women feel empowered enough to challenge it.
I don’t believe it is a problem unique to South Africa but we definitely have a host of aggravating factors to deal with concurrently which makes progress slow. I would like to see more emphasis placed on fostering trust, respect, compassion and empowerment in the birth space. Research shows us that when our women feel safe they birth better and our children don’t deserve to be born into fear.”

“As a young woman I faced childbirth for the first time with absolutely no preparation from the women in my family. Nobody ever spoke about it. Ever. All I had to go by was the media and my vivid imagination. By some stroke of luck I was blessed with incredibly gentle team of care providers who guided me through it with such respect for my authority over my body and I emerged on the other side feeling strong and in awe of my ability.
It’s something I want more women to know about and to experience – that’s what being a Doula means to me.”

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

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