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Our visit to a home birth gathering

Our home "birthing center"

Image by bbaltimore via Flickr

We went to a home birth gathering yesterday, it was both enlightening and alarming. Hearing people’s stories of their home birth experiences was fantastic and uplifting. The alarming thing was the same people’s accounts of the underhand scare tactics they have suffered at the hand’s of doctors and other so called medical expeerts under the guise of benevolent concern.

Now let me make it clear that this post is not about admonishing the entire medical profession. However judging all these diiferent people accounts and our experience it appears that birth defects are big business in any obstetrician’s practice.

I heard a grim tale of a woman who was forced to have an emergency c-section due to some irregularity with her baby, the c-section took place two days later! Hardly an emergency.

Hearing the stories of midwifes and mother’s alike was really shocking. So many of them had been lied to. I sat in fascination as these people recounted one sly trick after another that we have to be aware of in order to actually have a home birth without interference. The unscrupulous skulduggery these people had endured at the hands of medical experts (which of course all resulted in expensive procedures) was terrifying. Apparently Cape Town has the highest unnecessary C-section rate in South Africa and of course a C-section is most expensive way to give birth.

The most important insight I took from the experience was that being pregnant is not a condition that needs to be treated like some kind of disease and some doctors are rapidly making it so, which of course keeps them firmly in the pound seat. Of course are amazing when there is a problem however problems. The point being being ‘when there is a problem’. They do not appear to be so good at handling a normal healthy pregnancy.

Further more the way people are treated in the current system is inherently infantilizing because we are not really allowed to make any decisions at all. Our babies are not even allowed to decide when they want to be born anymore (a lot of babies are induced these days at convenient times so doctors do not have to get up in the middle of the night to deliver them) and so the chain continues from parent to child. Its no wonder people are struggling to be parents these days its hard to be an adult when your treated like a kid.

From my point of view we live in a culture of obedience and for the most part our obedience ensures survival. We learn through imitation so it was not surprising to me that the majority of home birth advocates at the gathering had all been born at home themselves.

We listen to men in white coats like they are strange gods and everything they say is honest and full of integrity like the blue eyed doctors on TV. The financial reality of a successful medical practice it appears is a different thing entirely, honest advice and integrity evidently don’t always pay for the BMW’s and skiing holidays.

If we probe further it is clear this infantilization of people at large does not stop at doctors. You only have to look at the world of consumerism and the advent of the internet to see that today more than ever we are being told what to do and what to buy. These days everything we look at online is used by companies to make helpful suggestions to us of stuff we might want. Good or bad?

It appears to me that the growth of the global economy is based on the systematic infantilization of people, to the point where we are simply mindless consumers who will buy and do anything we are told to. Unfortunately we are a lot closer to that than we like to think, but hey forget about it go and buy something and you will feel better.

It is no coincidence that as a consequence of this infantilzation,  people for the most part are struggling more than ever with mature, committed, long term relationships and divorce has become increasingly normalized along with infidelity.

Based on my own brief experiences I think that when a man goes through the medical birthing process with a partner he is exposed to numerous experiences that make him feel childish and as a consequence, impotent because he has absolutely no say in anything and it doesn’t really matter how he feels for the most part.

Firstly he is pushed aside by the doctor who immediately begins an exclusive relationship with his partner and all he can do about it is spectate.  The knowledge the doctor has and the power he exerts in his domain make him the clear alpha male. All of this is profoundly emasculating for a man.

Pushed aside no longer needed like a teenager ignored and sent to the kids table, he starts to feel impotent. The easiest way for a man to feel like a man again is of course sexual conquest. So off he goes to find a member of the female species he can hunt and dominate to restore his damaged self-concept as a potent male.

I heard recently that the majority of unfaithful men cheat on their partners in the first year of their kids life’s, I believe this could be the reason why. Whats more once the baby is born the man can again find himself playing third wheel to his wife and child.

Just as  most animals will not nurture their young if tainted by others a man experiences the same thing. His parental instincts are left dormant due to lack of involvement and no paternal bond is created with his child. Furthermore this can force the mother of the child  into a position where the child is to blame for what has happened to her man because everything was fine before it came along.

We have a problem people, it is industrialization of birth.

Our First Scan (and the morbid fascination of the medical profession)


The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)

Image via Wikipedia


We had our first scan yesterday at the hospital.We loved the way our beautiful baby is holding its left hand up to its head as if deep in thought, or maybe just irritated with the intrusion of the scan.

To my surprise however apart from seeing our beautiful child it was not the euphoric experience I had imagined.

We arrived at the hospital, a grayish brown concrete labyrinth of twisting tunnels, to say the least unwelcoming. We quickly saw the doctor and went for the scan. He did not even introduce himself to me and only acknowledged Itziar to begin with. Sitting in the scanning room the man just pretended I was not there.

Anyway he put the cream on Itziar’s stomach and began the ultrasound. We saw our beautiful baby, so tiny, so alive and so clearly put out by the intrusion. The poor child kept turning away from the radiation of the scanning equipment so obviously uncomfortable.I immediately experienced those pangs of paternal love all you parents know so much about. My child was being threatened and  I felt powerless.

The doctor treated the whole experience like a sort of video game playing with his keyboard and taking measurements. What really shocked me was when he started poking Itziar’s stomach with the scanning device saying:

“Come on little one, show us something”

Our poor baby was so clearly uncomfortable at the intrusion. It kept turning away from the scanner, until eventually forced to show it had eyes. As soon as he had what he wanted it was off to the next room where the real condescension began.

We have decided to have a home birth and use a midwife. The doctor we went to was recommended by her because it is law that a midwife must work with a doctor in case of emergencies during home birth.

It was unbelievable, from the word go like some kind of doom saying farmer the doctor began to sow one seed of doubt after another in our minds as we sat there, in his room covered in qualifications.

“Now listen I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a home birth but you must know we don’t recommend it because there is a slight chance that something can go wrong”

Was the first thing the doctor said, he then proceeded to harangue us with the idea that we are wrong and he is right which can be quite convincing in a room covered in bits of paper agreeing with him.

We got the impression that basically we are mad for allowing even the slightest chance of something going wrong. As if nothing can go wrong in a hospital! My grandmother went to hospital for an operation and caught pneumonia while she was there, which nearly killed her, bless her soul.

Anyway the icing on the cake for me was when he said that even though there is only the slightest chance something could happen and Itziar is a very low risk patient.

“You will never forgive yourself if something does.”

He then proceeded to take Itziar off to the room next door without even acknowledging me. He took this opportunity with her alone to make sure the seeds of doubt he had already sown were deeply impressed upon her mind. The sad thing is I don’t think he was even aware of it. He just exuded this air of self-assurance that he was right and that was that.

Furthermore he basically implied that we could ditch our midwife and come to him anytime we want. I feel so sorry for the midwifes who have to work with these people, they are obviously not taken seriously and I am sure they have lost many patients to them before as a result of this fear mongering.

This fear mongering is however the bread and butter of the medical profession and they cannot be blamed for trying to hustle the midwife’s out of their patients, can they?

Anyway feeling very uncomfortable like we had just been violated in some way we left the doctors room to go and pay the £100 for twenty minutes of his time. Now you would think the onslaught would end there but no his secretary stepped into the breach immediately.

“So you’re having a home birth,” she said in a gentle yet venomous tone.

“Well don’t think its the cheaper option because if something goes wrong you have to come to hospital anyway, and the doctor wont come to you because he wont work without fetal monitoring equipment”

And there we have it money; the first thought that crossed the poor benighted creatures mind was that we wanted to have a home birth because we are poor. I’m sure the idea that we want our child’s first experience of the world to be a warm and safe environment full of love did not even cross her mind. Never mind the fact that Itziar wants the freedom to allow the pregnancy to unfold naturally. Dumbstruck I simply kept my mouth shut.

We left, both of us feeling strangely violated as we walked down the Kafkaesque corridor to go and give blood.

We are arrived at the blood giving room, a converted broom cupboard. There is one chair for the nurse in there and one for the patient. After Itziar filled the form out I was told to leave and the door was slid closed behind me. I sat on the sofa opposite in a state of shock. I had not even asked Itziar if she wanted me to stay I simply obeyed the nurses order. Of course Itziar wanted me to be there but she was given no choice. It was all about what made the nurse comfortable not the patient.

This is it; they make you feel like you have no choice, when you do have a choice you can do whatever you want. At every opportunity the current medical system seems to impose their will on you in an attempt to make you do everything they want you to do and buy everything they are selling.

“You can’t put a price on piece of mind they say.”

Well they are certainly making a good go of it and I can tell you it is extremely expensive. What’s more if you want to do things your own way they are not going to let you be happy and confident about it they are going to make you feel like a completely irresponsible, social pariah who is at risk of killing your baby.

We got home and I had to go for surf just to cleanse myself of all the negativity I experienced. I got back feeling great after riding a couple of smoking waves even though I got dropped in on twice on the two best ones.

Itziar was lying on the sofa completely incapacitated by the loss of blood and all the mind games we had experienced.

“The doctor called,” She said

“Apparently our baby has a one in four thousand five hundred and fifty chance of down-syndrome”

(The way to be sure of preventing this is to pay them stick a huge needle into the placenta around the back of the babies neck. A wonderful thing if necessary but like a c-section only in emergencies)

I am imagining the doctor thought when he phoned:

“Sleep on that guys, sweet dreams.”

In reality all of this morbid fascination and resulting doom saying is the stuff of nightmares.

I mean did we really need to know that?

Now this account of my experience is by no means an attempt to take anything away from the incredible life saving work doctors do in emergency situations, however birth is simply not an emergency it a natural part of the cycle of life that we are at risk of completely de-humanizing.

The metaphor of bowl turning

Patternmaker's double lathe (Carpentry and Joi...

Image via Wikipedia

I had a great day yesterday making five short one minute movies of the wooden bowl turning process on a lathe. My business partner Helder is a master carpenter and we thought it would be cool to show people the highly skilled work that goes into what we are making.

It really inspired me to learn about the art myself and as a result I have decided to turn fifty small wooden bowls as a gift for our wedding guests. Watching my friend from behind the lense of my kodak camera on video mode so clearly in his element, was very calming. The hypnotic motion of the specially prepared piece of wood called a blank, spinning on the lathe whilst being refined with a gouge was a wonderful experience.

Bowl turning follows the same principle Michael Angelo used to guide his hand in the creation of his of statue David.  When asked how he had created one of greatest works of art known to man, the veritable  personification of perfection in stone. He simply said David was in the piece of marble already, all he  had to do was release him.

Speaking to Helder my friend he expressed  his deep appreciation for this quality in all things. There is a David in all of us. All we have to do is release him from the bonds of insecurity and self-consciousness.

When making a bowl the idea is to remove only what is necessary to remove. In doing this the bowl finds its own natural shape and is of course completely unique and very  beautiful. One cannot define how a bowl is going to be before making it, one can only really help it be what it really wants to be.

When I think of the coming challenge of being a father this principle warms my heart. For the world is spinning all the time like some giant lathe, and in a way we are all blanks attached to it. The best I wish for as a parent is to play some part in helping my child to remove the excess so his or her innate perfection can emerge.

The movies we made are fun to watch and short so if you have five minutes I recommend watching them

The seed of uncertainty

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

Image via Wikipedia

So after a few days break it is good to be back at my desk with a little time to write. We are nearly twelve weeks now and apparently our baby is about 1.5 inches and has started growing little tiny nails and hairs.

Itziar is really starting to get that radiant pregnant glow and her her anxiety about being pregnant and not showing it physically is subsiding everyday. She is so beautiful and literally full of life it pours like sunshine from her pores.

Life has been full of challenges lately both personal and professional. I find my self being pulled in a variety of directions and it is literally tearing me apart. Sitting here writing and actually doing something I want to be doing is a great way for me to clarify what else it is I really want to do and what  I really have to do.

It seems to me there is a seed of uncertainty in all of us. I have noticed this more than ever recently. The seed in me is being fed with doubt about my uncertain future and the journey into the unknown me and Itziar finds ourselves embarking on.

I sit here and  I ask myself, is it really my fear, or am i just supposed to be scared? I am not denying that yes times are tough and the future is unclear at the moment but is it necessary to fear that? Or do I fear the unknown simply because other people do? I believe the latter. There is a kind of mass hysteria I have become more aware of around childbirth and I want no part of it.

That seed of uncertainty in me needs not grow of fear but of wonder because like death uncertainty is an undeniable truth of life and not an enemy but a wise teacher. My clinging at security and certainty only makes me fear uncertainty even more.

I will do everything I can to protect my child from this fear that is so abundant in the world. Of course the only way to do that is to live with faith in the idea that there is a grand plan for my time on this planet.

For me to live with faith is to have conviction in the things I am inspired to do and not to give up when doubt is weighing heavy on my mind.

A moment present

I had a dream yesterday that I was chasing a child up a building shaped like an Inca pyramid. I could not catch up with the child as he bounded from step to step. All of a sudden I got a terrible case of vertigo and the horizontal slab I was scrambling up became vertical. I woke with a pounding start and my day began.

All day I could not find my feet time just kept running away from me. What did this dream mean? Deep down  I think I have a deep seated fear that  I will not be able to stay present and provide for my family. As a result of this I feel my child will slip away from me.

Taking ownership of this fear caused me to pause and reflect for a minute yesterday evening. I took a moment to breath in the cool night air of Cape Town’s Southern Peninsula and it felt good.

For the last ten weeks I do not think I have taken a single moment to breath, just breath. Sucking in the cool sea air last night emphasized this very clearly. The soothing yet enlivening sensation combined with the gentle song of the Indian ocean gifted me a moment present. Just a moment when the wheels of agitation halted their grinding passage through the pathways of my mind and stopped.

I am grateful for that and I realize that it is what its all about. No matter how many things I plan for and try to organize if I am not present to my child and my partner for a healthy period of time each day, none of it matters.

Flowers are our friends

White Orchids

Image by Tobyotter via Flickr

Finally we have arrived at our new house after a six week wait.

Our journey began when we had to flee from the flat we moved into due to rising damp! A lethal attack by fungal spores had me choking up blood and Itziar was getting nose bleeds.

It was incredible I had an orchid with me when we moved into the damp ridden place and the beautiful white flowers began picking up dark green fungal spots. After we moved the final bud on the plant flowered and it was perfect white.

The flower really showed us what was happening in the house and confirmed our belief that is was unhealthy. Amazing

Anyway we are finally in our own spot and I actually feel so peaceful. Judging by recent weeks this actually very unusual for me as I have been freaking out regularly due to the ridiculous amount of life changing events transpiring in my world at a very alarming rate.

From the pain of being a victim of some serious skulduggery to the joy of proposing to Itziar for the second time on a rock by the sea today (long story but I was supposed to take her engagement ring for resizing and  I put in my wallet and sat on it, squash!). My world is spinning at maximum velocity. There is no time to dwell as one thing after another just comes steaming towards me.

From charging round wedding venues in Stellenbosch (which continues at 10am tmrw) to trying to get my business off the ground despite the curve balls that regularly fly at my blind side. Not to mention preparing for our child, moving house, being a writer and trying to have a wave every and now and then  I can safely say my work is cut out for me. But you know what today  I am incredibly grateful, life is beautiful and I feel so blessed. I better enjoy it while it lasts!

Saying that though its the hard times that make the good times great…

the fine line between pushy and pushover

Sometimes life is just hard that’s how it is. Fear kicks in and everything starts to look pretty bad. I had a really huge  set back recently. A business partner has absconded with a huge quantity of totally original material that is of immense personal and professional value to me. I heard an ad on the radio today and my content is being cut pasted to suit another companies needs. To say I can’t believe it is a gross under statement I am foaming at the mouth, I feel totally violated.

What I can’t do is allow this set back to affect the rest of my life more than it has already. I really need to stop the buck where it is and not let the horrible thing that has happened erode my relationships with the other people in my life. Easier said than don.

When one is wrong everything becomes an attack, its much harder to let things go. Its that old thing of when someone has one over on you, you take it out on someone else and so on and so forth.

I am reeling from the shock of what has happened but in life I believe everything happens for a reason and its time to take a deep breath and move forward. On the plus side is a nice complement that my work is worth stealing.

I think one of the biggest challenges of parenting for me will be teaching my child to be kind yet assertive, confident yet humble, open yet prudent.


Finally we are moving into our own place after a six week wait. We visited today to drop some stuff in the garage and a feeling of peace permeated my being.

It feels so good to be finally getting back into our own space after so many moves. We have worked so hard to find what we want and we have had to wait for ages to get it. I kind of lost sight. Walking through the gate today just reminded of how important it is to be comfortable in my environment.

the place is right by the sea and it has a lovely little garden. I can’t wait to explore it with our child and see all the details I would usually skim right over. I must remeber to keep the windows closed so the Baboons don’t come in, but that’s OK.

Its funny living in a beautiful place like where we will be has so many pros and cons. The surrounding area is not the most cutting edge consumer friendly place, but its cool and people don’t really care. Its just chilled.

What can I learn from this waiting period I have endured. I can learn that when I am waiting for something it is very important not to lose sight of what it is. i hope I can my child patience because I know how pointless the pursuit of instant gratification really is.

Dealing with pain consciously…

I sit and write. I write about what I experience and I share it. Something happens when I do this its like I am reaching out to the world and saying “Hi” I am human and I need to talk about this.

Sharing our stories is something that has been essential to the human species since before we even had language. You only have to look at the cave paintings to realize this. For thousands of years people have been sharing their stories and as a result defining who they are. For so many of us who we are is the sum total of what has happened to us. That’s why people who get treated badly treat others the same way.

However there are some of us who take a different path. There are some of us who choose to do things differently.

There is a man I admire profoundly his name is John Muir. He was raised at the hands of unspeakable cruelty and somehow instead of becoming a monster he transmuted that suffering into tireless compassionate love for all beings. Despite his horrendous childhood he lived a resplendent and noble life that earned him the title ‘Father Of The Conservation Movement’ in America.

Muir said: “Every flower is a soul blossoming in the world”

I say: “Every idea is a flower blossoming in the soul”

Just because people betray us and let us down. It does not mean we have to betray ourselves and in doing so unconsciously validate their actions.

I was recently  dealt a crushing blow both personally and professionally and my first reaction was anger and indignation. However I am not going to let those reactions take over my life and cause me more misery than I have already endured.

I will move forward one step at a time and remain positive.  For if there is one thing  I am determined to do it is to teach my child to respond consciously to life’s challenges and not be a slave to his or her reactions.

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