She’s still trying to find her feet, though, and is bombarded with many questions. And everyone has different opinions. While a healthy baby is the first priority, it is not the only goal. Birth can – and should – be an amazing experience; an empowering, comfortable start to your journey as a mother.
The author of the groundbreaking Immaculate Deception, Suzanne Arms, says: “When we respect the power and knowing of every childbearing woman and baby, we help birth a better future and a thriving world.”
Every woman has the right to make her own choice and be in control of her own birth experience. However, new medicines have taken what should be limited to precautionary medical intervention and characterised it as the norm. Natural birthing methods were once the primary form of delivery, but they’ve been largely replaced by more invasive surgical procedures, simply because it is more convenient.
Today, private hospitals in South Africa are performing far more caesareans than natural births. According to Fedhealth, this is up to 80% of all births in private hospitals and this number continues to grow annually. The World Health Organisation said in an ideal situation, the rate of caesareans should not exceed more than 15%. The Netherlands, where natural birth is the norm, is considered one of the safest places in the world to have a baby.
Arms’s involvement in birthing education has allowed her to spread her message – and her plea is to once again “humanise” the childbirth experience.
“For too long our approach to childbearing and caring for mothers and babies has been fear-based,” she says.
“The hallmarks of that approach are isolation, intervention in natural processes, hyper-stimu-lation and maternal deprivation. Women’s experiences and their feelings about themselves, their babies and motherhood translate directly into thoughts and biochemistry that lay down patterns in their baby’s developing nervous system and brain. These patterns shape not only how we see ourselves as children, but the relationships we form as adults and how we care for others and our world. The mother-baby relationship is crucial.”
To back similar views and provide another childbirth facility locally, Jude Polack, a mother of two, founded the Genesis Clinic. It is a private maternity clinic in Saxonwold that specialises in natural models of birth. Instead of being placed on their backs, mothers are free to move around and choose positions during labour (this is known as “active birth”).
Mothers who give birth naturally recover a lot faster than those who undergo medical procedures. Although painful and tiring, natural birth allows the mother the opportunity to interact and bond with her infant from the very beginning. Once the birth is over, the pain of contractions is quickly forgotten.
The clinic employs midwives with the aim of creating a safe and tranquil environment for new mothers and babies. Midwife and natural birth consultant Robyn Sheldon says: “Being fully present at birth is the greatest gift we can give our children. If you don’t fear birth, the baby has no reason to fear life.”
This is not to say that there aren’t precautionary measures in place. The clinic has state-of-the-art equipment and a fully functional medical theatre for emergency cases where medical intervention is needed.
Fathers are also encouraged to be part of the birthing process and new dads are welcome to stay over. Some patients even find it useful to bring a few special objects – a photograph or favourite cushion – from home to help them settle in and feel more comfortable.