Tag Archives: Midwife cape town

A Conversation with Independent Midwife Natasha Stadler

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Natasha Stadler is a midwife based in Somerset West, 30min out of Cape Town, we met at the Midwifery & Birth Conference hosted by Home Birth SA in 2015, when I photographed her portrait amongst many other South African midwives and doulas that were present. 

We chatted at the event and, a while later, in March 2016, I visited her home-based birthing and meeting space which is in a private cottage apartment in her peaceful  neighborhood. Natasha has been in her profession since 1990 and we spent quite some time chatting about her experiences with women.

Birth: a perfect process

Natasha spoke about the somewhat magical element of protection she observes taking place in the labouring mothers body and that of the birthing baby. Many of her observations and remarks where new to me and totally intriguing. For example, Natasha observed how, often, babies that were not receiving what they needed in utero  often arrived earlier than expected. She saw similarly aligned elements occurred when for instance, a knot was found in the umbilical cord, the labour had been far quicker and the contractions shorter , perhaps as an automatic protection of the life of the baby. 

Details from Natasha’s home birth space in Somerset West. The picture on the left is a capture from the Vietnam war,- a soldier assists a local giving birth.

We discussed how, very often, labor begins in a safe place, at night when we would naturally be in a sheltered environment. When potential problems occur or labour is not progressing as it should, it is often natures indication that something is wrong… and it gives time for the body to respond as best it can. 

Another intriguing observation,- Women seldom go into labour when they are ill or stressed. Generally when the process of labour is quietly observed and a pregnancy has been closely monitored, elements have the opportunity to fall into place, to align. 

I imagine midwives as the guardians and story-keepers of natural birth, the ones who allow the process to unfold, a womans wisdom to stay intact and she and her babe to be supported. 

Their personalized approach to midwifery, and astute observations, create space for birthing mothers to labour in their own way. It struck me how straight forward birth could be when not interfered with, a safe environment is created and when fear is eliminated from the process..

The power in sharing information and the changes happening in the birth arena:

Women are the source of life, the choices we make directly influence the generations to come”  

Interestingly, there has been much pro-natural birth talk in the last decade and thus, it seems, media has picked it up and past it on as well. Natasha has noticed a steady increase in requests for natural births in the last 4 years. I believe the sharing of stories, a very feminine characteristic, is responsible for carrying this information between women.

Details from Natasha’s home birth space in Somerset West.

Fact sharing and communication are shining light on topics women have not properly informed themselves about in the more recent past (so many alarming reasons for this). I like to think that the changes seen during birth and in early motherhood (such as immediate umbilical cord clamping and the value of breastmilk and breastfeeding) have started to shift (as a result of an increase in research and information available) after much more analysis has taken place about such practices.

50% of Natasha’s clients wanted home births in the past, now an incredible 95% of her mothers-to-be request this from the outset… 

Details from Natasha’s home birth space in Somerset West.

The empowering process of letting go- observations from a midwife:

“Never are life and death so close together than (as) during birth. The mother has two lives and the possibility of two deaths (her own and that of her child) at stake”, Natasha pointed out during our conversation , which I found  humbling.

Natasha spoke about how labour and birth can open up portals to any trauma a woman may have experienced up to that point in her life. It’s a well known fact that many women revisit past abuse or traumatic experiences during birth, coming face to face with their subconscious in these moments. It’s at these junctions that one leaves much of one’s past behind and steps into the new and compromising role as Mother.

We spoke about the healing elements  birth has brought to many of the women , in her care. In Natasha’s words,

“Because birth is a process of letting go and trusting, (yourself, your body, any higher powers you may believe in) it grossly effects a women’s experience of being, after the process of labour and birthing her baby”.

Being informed, prepared and incorporating the wisdom of a midwife or doula to investigate and prepare for the process is an obvious solution to my mind.  Thanks for your wisdom Natasha!

 

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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.
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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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A Conversation with Independent Midwife Angela Wakeford

I met Angela in her home in Fish Hoek at the end of 2015. She qualified and began working in nursing and midwifery in 1993 in South Africa and spent 15 years gaining extensive knowledge in the UK where she worked in varied care systems spanning prenatal, birth and perinatal care as well as advanced models of training: working intensively on hands-on “case studies” with immigrant women from India and Somalia.

She returned to South Africa in 2010 and immediately set up her own independent midwifery practice which functions from her home base where we met to chat.

Portrait-of-Midwife-Angela-Wakeford-Cape-Town-005-Photograph-by-Leah-Hawker

Being a midwife verses working in government facilities, or, “the system”:

Angela spoke about her experiences working in South African Government run hospitals, which, apart from being badly subsidised, are also a space where most forms of the natural processes of birth have been lost by overworked staff who have lost sight of holistic midwifery due to the systemised nature of government hospital practices. One of the typical outcomes of government facilities are therefore the fast offer of drugged pain relief and swiftly diverted labours which may show any complications directly into the hands of surgeons.

Angela’s experience of witnessing labouring and pregnant women processed through this system is predominantly what led her to independent practice,- a space with both a better income, kinder working hours and a holistic approach to midwifery, one which really encompasses individualised care, and the treatment of labour and birth.

Our birthing industry is money and fear driven:

It is cheaper and safer to have a natural, home birth attended by a highly qualified midwife and doula as apposed to entering the hospital system. This fact is true for every woman who can afford medical aid in SA yet the insurance companies have set surprisingly low rates for natural birthing. Thus, those who can afford to make the choices are goaded into medicalised birthing and those women who can’t afford to make choices are fear driven to deliver their babies in hospitals due to, very often, a lack of access to knowledge.

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Medicalised birth, Hollywood and the difficulties in wanting to be informed in our society…

Last year when I started looking into birthing and pregnancy in South Africa I became increasingly aware that I needed to explain myself to others when seeking information. I questioned this need to defend myself and came to the occlusion that, basically, its not ok to know about birth, but it is ok to sexualise women’s bodies.

Funnily enough Angela brought this up herself when she spoke about a recent add campaign launched by South African Stationary brand BIC who, in celebration of Women’s Day last year posted the below add with the text reading: “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss”.

HappyWomensDay controversial advert by BIC

The advert which went viral on all online platforms defines how I feel when needing to explain that I’d like to educate myself about my body and birthing.

Images have become such a central point in much of our interpretations of our bodies: Round bellied and romantic portraits of happy couples and rosey-cheeked newborns are what we’ve learned is the expected and normal. Everything in-between (birth and labour specifically) is illustrated by Hollywood. Screaming women in stirrups, the doctor-hero, the partner: emasculated and helpless. Birth is apparently not a place for us at all, leave it to the professionals, since our bodies obviously don’t know what they’re doing…so well illustrated by Monty Python in their 1983 film The Meaning of Life, they were so ahead of their time!

Monty Pythons Meaning Of Life BIRTH 001

“What do I do?!”, to which the reply “Nothing Dear, you’re not qualified!”.

Monty Pythons Meaning Of Life BIRTH 002

The Positive Birth Movement

The Positive Birth Movement which Angela initiated in the Cape Peninsula and Southern Suburbs areas as well as the CBD is her proactive way of implementing change.

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The monthly PBM meetings she hosts consist of a mix of clients, doulas, midwives and other interested parties. The gatherings provide a sharing platform which is ultimately empowering for expecting parents. It provides discussions and information sharing in a relaxed setting which is conducive to creating a mind-set shift for how we approach birth.

This sounds like such an obvious, simple concept yet its not at all easy-to-come-by knowledge in South Africa.

Topics Angela mentioned had recently been covered included:

  • Giving men a more empowered role in birthing
  • The importance of seeing realistic images of labour and birth
  • The incorrect expectations created by media and Hollywood about birth

She’s found that opening communication channels like the PBM, has led to women making more natural decisions with regard to their birth.

How she works with her clients.

Midwives need a very supportive family since their working hours are so variable. Angela has created a structure and system that works beautifully for her: she only consults and does meetings/ classes (antenatal classes) in the morning and stands on-call for around five births a month (making her very much in demand!). As of January this year Angela has joined Birth Options Midwifery Team.

Portrait-of-Midwife-Angela-Wakeford-Cape-Town-002-Photograph-by-Leah-Hawker

65% of her clients choose homebirths and the majority are water births. She works with her clients from 6 weeks onward, building a detailed knowledge about the their history and pregnancy.

Because independent midwives have such an intimate and ongoing relationship with their clients it translates into excellent and very educated choices during pregnancy and the onset of labour.

During the last months of pregnancy she sees her patients weekly. This harmonious approach, (in comparison to an obstetrical who walks into the delivery ward, while pulling on a pair of gloves, during the last 30 minutes of labour) seems, to me, to be the most obvious and natural way forward in the process.

Portrait-of-Midwife-Angela-Wakeford-Cape-Town-001-Photograph-by-Leah-Hawker

In conclusion we discussed statistics on birthing in SA and some ideas around this which could bring change.

Angela had a student, shadowing her for some time recently who had had the brilliant idea to create a new data base or set of statistics for independent midwives. This platform would enable them to add data regarding the births they attend and the outcomes, thus creating a new set of statistics, one which would of course not be effected my medical aids and the like. A way to provide women with better information on which to make decisions regarding birth.

Portrait-of-Midwife-Angela-Wakeford-Cape-Town-10-Photograph-by-Leah-Hawker

After meeting with Angela I realise how important it is for individuals (and communities of women like the PBM) to instigate changes through education and information sharing.

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A Home Birth Gathering
Cape Town, November 2014

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Birth and pregnancy have pretty much always interested and fascinated me. The body’s ability to house, create and nourish as well as birth another perfect being is a marvel.
The first time I really read or looked into birth was through a book by Dr Christiane Northrup called Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom when I was at school (amazing birth stories as well as attitudes towards the body and birth) and I also count myself lucky that I was surrounded by the kind of people, teachers, friends and parents alike, that were open to a more natural way of being (probably because it was a Waldorf School).

I heard about the Home Birth Gathering through Facebook and followed links to the event and other connected websites. The gathering was held in a beautiful old mansion in Muizenberg with about 22 guests and two hosting midwives/doulas Lana and Ruth. The gathering was relaxed and basically an open conversation with questions, answers and discussions about a mix of things related to birth.
Questions raised by other attendees ranged from concerns about what the most common problems one could face during labour, how midwives are equipped, how long it would take to get to a hospital should the situation arise and the subject of when to cut the umbilical cord if at all (see Lotus Birth).

HomeBirth Gathering Cape Town 003

Ive started doing a lot more research online into birth, clinics, midwifery, etc as I’m really excited to shoot more on this subject, in fact, attending a natural birth is on my “bucket list”.

I noticed how people looked quizzically at me when I said I was attending a home birth gathering and realised how I felt I had to defend myself about going which is bizarre.
Ive been reading so much about the taboos associated with the subject as well as how women have such differing ideas and experiences of the pregnancy and the birth process.

More on home birth on Lana & Ruths great resource website here.

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