Tag Archives: birth

Reflections on Christmas, by a Doula (me), and not a Theologian (the hub).

I love Christmas. There is so much to love about it – the food, the festivities, the giving, the joy. Only this year did I calculate exactly how many family traditions (or events) we shmoosh into this beautiful period of celebration. There are many.

Between my husband and my family, I could count over 10. From baking our own mince pies, to acting the nativity scene (dressed up and with specific roles!), to Uncle Paul’s Christmas Party and Carols at Kirstenbosch. This season is full – and wonderful.

And so full of WONDER. For so many years we celebrated Jesus’s birth – in the manger, with angels and shepherds and that all important star – all so neat and tidy and lovely sitting in the church pew thinking ‘let’s hurry home now and open presents’ (a firm childhood memory of mine)…

Only after having my own kids (and falling in love with birth) have I begun to imagine that birth differently. I love to imagine how hard it must’ve been for Mary and Joseph to (physically) escape to Bethlehem. (If you’ve had those STABBING pains UP your vajay-jay as if you’re about to give birth there and then can you imagine what that must have been like for Mary). I wonder how often she thought she might not make it – with the bobbing up and down on a donkey and Jesus most likely decending into position, pushing on her bladder. I imagine her fear and desperation not finding a place to stay, and then the mix of relief and discomfort finding a stable, a place to finally sit down, and then ‘prepare for the birth’. I wonder how long her birth was, how long did she push for (birth-nerd talk), and how the baby was delivered? At what point did her waters break? Was he breach? Was he posterior? How did Joseph handle it all? Did he freak out? Had either of them seen birth before – they were young… What did they do with the umbilical cord? Was there a moment of divine intervention from heaven above, or was it all really… human. This is BIRTH. Real, raw, scary, beautiful, empowering BIRTH. Yet the birth of a King.

Was there a split second of Peace on Earth? I doubt Mary was wearing white cloths neatly wrapped around her body (for one, there was no Aerial or Omo back in that day). If you’ve seen birth, nothing remains white. The cloth Jesus was wrapped in must have been covered with amniotic fluid, vernix and blood. This was the very messy, very real, very on-the-run birth of Christ. The Christ, the Saviour of the World. I wonder how long Mary and Joseph stared at Jesus wondering if he really was their Saviour.

And so as I reflect this Christmas, I think what I’m realising is that things often don’t look ‘right’. Surely Jesus should’ve had more to wear than swaddling cloths and a more comfy bed than a used animal trough? This picture is nothing like immaculately wrapped up gifts under the tree and the perfectly roasted gammon presented on a Pinterest worthy dining room table. There is nothing wrong with those things – I too love to celebrate WELL – but it seems the picture of Jesus’ birth and the deeper truth sometimes don’t seem to match up in ways we might imagine. This messy birth, and our Saviour on earth. This confusion leads us to Trust; to have Faith – two things it seems we need to possess in larger and larger quantities nowadays, in a world spinning off its axis and one in which we control far less than what we like to believe. Life is hard, and life can be scary; there are unknowns, and mess seems to be everywhere. In our humanness, we cannot understand it – well, I sure can’t.

Luke 2:12: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men.”

Wherever you find yourself currently… It’s coming. He is Hope. Be it in your heart, or here again in his Creation, we await his coming. We sit in the labour pains of the mysteries to come.

It’s almost time. Keep pushing, keep breathing. Behold, He is coming soon.

Image Credit: Photo by Jaimie Trueblood/newline.wireimage.com, https://brandonacox.com/advent-always-hope/.

Packing your Hospital Bag

If you’ve had a bub before, did you find packing your hospital bag strange? I kinda do. Maybe it’s admitting that birth is imminent and you’re ‘heading somewhere important’ or it’s just that packing your phone and charger can’t be done until the last minute so it’s all a bit ‘meh’?

Anyways, since my mom has been convincing me this bub is coming early (which now I’m not so sure of), I figured I’d better get it done. Also, thanks to Dischem and Discovery, half my goodies were all over the house and so ‘Nesting Debbie’ needed to put them in their place.

As a doula, I have a list called Packing Your Hospital Bag I usually send expectant moms, but I had to do a bit more research as it seems things are different in SA (they don’t give you nappies, pads or sexy stretchy undies in hospital? – WHAAAAT?).

I combined my doula list with the ones given to me by my midwife, HypnoBirthing instructor, and hospital and so here’s my summary of what you need to pack: (of course this all depends on your personal preference and how long you plan to stay in hospital).

Mom’s Bag: 
Clothes pre and post birth (with easy access allowing breastfeeding)
Slippers, socks and dressing gown
Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deo, lip balm, shampoo, conditioner, hairband, hair brush, face cloth)
Breast pads (not many, as your milk will only come in on day 3 or 4)
Nursing/comfy bra
Those super sexy stretchy (but admittedly, very comfortable) hot pants.

Dad’s Bag: 
If planning a water birth, dad might need his boardies. (I refrain from suggesting a speedo type suit because really, that’s just not appropriate, unless you plan on laughing that baby out).
Change of clothes
Toiletries (if staying overnight).

Baby’s Bag: 
Change of clothes (for hospital and going home), beanies, socks, vests, baby grows etc.
Swaddling blanket/s
Bum cream (this is most NB for that first meconium poo – slap your natural bum cream all over that kids tush to prevent the meconium from glueing itself to your newborns bum).
*I plan to cloth diaper but that’s not so kosher for while you’re in the hospital, so I’m using the samples sent to me by all the baby marketers.

Dare I be so bold as to say you DON’T need to use Vaseline or Surgical Spirits on your freshie? You can use a natural bum cream or pure organic oil (such as coconut) for his/her first nappy, and that belly button cord would be much happier with weeping wound or graze powder over surgical spirits.

Labouring Bag: 
Anything you have that will assist in labour, although your doula will have lots of tricks if you’ve hired one.
Massage oil, massager, TENS machine, hot/cold pack rebozo etc.
SNACKS! Including sugary drinks (such as Powerade/Energade), and any other nibbles of your choice.

Added Creature Comforts: Pillows, blankets, photos, visualization pictures (and prestick), music, iPod/phone docker, candles (check the hospital regulations on what they allow regarding naked flames), essential oil diffusers etc.

FINALLY, things like: your birth plan, pregnancy card (if you’ve been seeing a midwife), hospital authorization forms, ID books/cards, camera, phone, chargers (and adapter), car seat, cash/credit cards etc.

Anything I’m missing? 


Back to HypnoBirthing… Did it Work?

And here we find ourselves on the other side of birth. Phew.

And yes, I’ve been asked from my fellow HypnoBirthing moms in the know, the skeptics, and everyone in between… Did it work?


My answer: Ask my husband, who you can find on the corner of the street holding a huge placard reading ‘HYPNOBIRTHING REALLY WORKS’.

I guess it also depends on what you imagine HypnoBirthing being. I didn’t imagine a pain-free birth, and, well… my birth certainly wasn’t pain-free. I also didn’t imagine any rainbows, silver gloves, thermometers, control switches, and I didn’t tap into any deeeep, hypno, out of body experiences. Nada. None of that.


Here are excerpts from the text I sent my fellow hypnobirthers (when I was all post-partum-hormoney) the day after our daughter was born:


‘My last two births were similar regarding their intensity and speed but were chalk and cheese! Hubby (as am I) is convinced the hypnobirthing helped tons.

1) Breathing was AMAAAAZING. The calm breathing gave me tons of energy in between contractions (at one point I was dozing off in the bath) and the surge breathing gave me something to focus on during surges.

2) I had highlighted a few affirmations but in labour all I could think about was ‘bringing oxygen to my uterus/womb’ – I think because the physical side of how the uterus works made such sense to me. So every time I took a quick 20 count breath in and out in (surge breathing) I was imagining filling all of my uterus’ blood vessels with oxygen. And knowing that 2 or 3 breaths will get you to the peaked the surge helps you handle each one.

3) Our daughter was born sleeping. She woke after a min or so, and then went back to sleep. Heart rate happy the whole time. Hubby is convinced it’s because she was calm and there was no panic.

4) A doula is a REALLY good idea. My doula was on form and so helpful because she embraced the hypnobirthing idea. I definitely felt intensity and (dare I say) pain and so knowing natural pain relief techniques (hip squeezes etc.), combined with the mental strength was incredible.

5) I felt empowered. As each surge approached, I wasn’t panicky and scared (or just anxious/tense). So I felt like I took charge of each one – as opposed to my middle child’s birth where each one smacked me across the face… Hubby said this was very apparent to him.

And here’s where (mid birth) I tossed the HypnoBirthing idea out the water…

‘Breathing baby down’ felt like saying “here’s a watermelon, now slice it in half with your eyes”. Impossible. I tried to keep with the birth breathing but that force to push is HARD-CORE and when baby is right there it’s hard not to so desperately GET.IT.OUT! Not purple pushing, but not breathing either. Aggg.. and after all that rehearsing on the loo…’


My biggest takeaway from the classes (and from the birth) which helped me, was UNDERSTANDING the body better (mainly the uterus, hormones, endorphins and what does what) and what my mind needs to do, to help my body get into its primed and ready birthing vibe. I’d recommend this course to ANYONE remotely interested in natural birth (be it with or without pain meds), but even just the education alone is incredibly empowering.

Have you done a HypnoBirthing class, or experienced a HypnoBirthing birth? If so, please share your experience…

Image credit: Rebecca from Love Made Visible. 

A Post Partum Hormone Inspired Post

You all know about the 3rd day bluesy/post partum/milk-coming-in day? If you’ve had a baby, you probably know what I’m talking about. I know it well. With all three kids, this day was real. Real as. I was warned about how the tears might flow, for unexplained reasons and how it’s hard to get a handle on it, but how it is also beautiful and emotional and hard and possibly a little out of control. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a feeler. I FEEL things. And so for me these days were full on. But I anticipated it.

What I had forgotten about, was the 1 week post baby endorphin high/low. Wow. Hormones man, they are HARD CORE. And so this past Friday it all came rushing back. I have to believe that for me the unknown of ‘going into labour’ has a lot to do with it – that hour by hour, reliving what went down exactly a week before, the ‘is this labour’ questioning, the call to the midwife/birth team, the drive to the hospital and the walking into (contraction-ing into) the delivery room… And then marking (and celebrating) the exact time of birth… Even the ‘settling into the quiet, safe, sacred space of your hospital room’… It all came flooding back.

And so after some tears trying to process this all with hubby, and some more tears upon messaging my midwife (and her always-beautiful replies), and some more tears in the shower (those are great hey?), hubby offered to take me back to where it all happened.

So last Friday at 6:30pm, we piled our new family of 5 into the car and went on our first official family adventure – back to the hospital where it all happened. Hubby pulled up at sunset, I hopped out the car with our 1 week old and paid the maternity ward a visit. And honestly… it was a bit random. Maybe I was expecting some ‘Hi Debbie, how are you, so lovely to see you again, would you like a coffee?!’ with the nurses I had befriended on my lone ranger (hubby-less) stay in the hospital. But it was random. I know, a little disappointing right?

Because it was on the way home, while listening to the CD we played when we brought all the kids home from the hospital, that it dawned on me. While place is significant, and always will be, PEOPLE are where it’s at.

It was my midwife (a hero of a woman, who, after being in her care makes me want to sign up for midwifery school immediately), who loved me, empowered me, lead me, and in return allowed me to lead in birth. It was my husband, who held my hand through it all, listened to my needs, encouraged encouraged encouraged, watched, witnessed, and believed I could birth our daughter into the world with grace and dignity. It was our doula, who was thinking about what I couldn’t think about at that time, whose mind was always on what I needed next, and who carried the journey of labour with me. And our friend and photographer, who I’m SOOO glad was there, to celebrate with us, to capture, to document the real life miracle that is birth (for which I am eternally grateful and will treasure the pictures forever!)

It was them. Sure, I loved my quiet, safe hospital stay with wonderfully supportive nursing staff. But that Team. Oh that Team.

They gave me courage, they believed, they knew, they guided, they inspired and they empowered me (in ones most vulnerable state), to do this crazy, beautiful, natural, wonderful, hard, tiring, unforgettable and mysterious thing called birth.

For you, Susan, Theran, Thato and Rebecca. Thank you. May we all do for each other in day to day life, what you did for me in Delivery Room 3, 16 September 2016.

All pics: Love Made Visible

My Experience with HypnoBirthing

I toyed for ages whether or not I should sign up for a HypnoBirthing® class, and then I just did. I mean, this was my 3rd pregnancy, I’d done all the prenatal stuff overseas, attended the breastfeeding lectures, the home birth info evenings, and had witnessed and assisted at many births, so did I need it? Gah! I tend to overthink these things, so I just jumped, which I guess is the best way to do stuff sometimes.

Like a number of people I’ve chatted to, I was a little put off (maybe confused is a better word) by the name, HypnoBirthing®. Kim from Beautifully Born suggested I come for the first week and if it wasn’t up my alley, I could duck and never return. Sounded like a sweet deal to me… of course she knew I’d fall in love with the concept and be itching to return – which I was.


Kim is the HypnoBirthing® Faculty Member, Regional Liaison, Practitioner trainer for South Africa, and Founder and Owner of Beautifully Born HypnoBirthing® – so you must know she knows her stuff. When you’re dealing in the potentially ‘airy fairy side’ of all this hippie birthing goodness, you want someone legit. Kim is legit.

TIME WILL TELL (ha ha ha) if my HypnoBirthing® training will be effective or not (look out for THAT blog post!) but I thought pre-birth, let me inform you what HypnoBirthing® is all about… well, what I understood it be.

“I’ve been a Labor & Birthing nurse for 17 years; and after attending HypnoBirthings,  I’ll never look at birth in the same light. It’s incredible.”
– Traveling Nurse, Judy Richardson, RN

What is HypnoBirthing®?

HypnoBirthing® is a tried and proven method that guides and prepares a woman in giving birth in a peaceful and extraordinarily beautiful manner. It is a program that considers the psychological, as well as the physical, well-being of the mother, her birth partner, and the newborn, independent of context, whether that be in the quiet of a home, a hospital, or a birth center.

The HypnoBirthing® program is built around an educational process that includes special breathing, relaxation, visualization, meditative practice, attention to nutrition and positive body toning. Most importantly it fosters an air of mutual respect for the birthing family, as well as the health-care provider in a traditional health-care system or an alternative setting. (source)

The HypnoBirthing®  Premise

For me, a LOT of this made sense. Especially experiencing two different birthing cultures, in South Africa and Canada.pink-lineFor most of their lives, women have been inundated with the negative stories of other women’s birth experiences. Everyone, from their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, and even strangers, wants to tell them the horrors of giving birth. They have been conditioned to believe that excruciating pain is associated with labor; and because of this, women today hold an unprecedented fear of giving birth. This extreme fear causes their bodies to become tense, and that tension prohibits their bodies from easily performing a normal physiological function. The result is exactly what they feared most–long, painful birthing or unnecessary intervention.

People who are drawn to HypnoBirthing® have long been searching for a way to give birth confidently and as calmly, safely, and gently as possible, whether they have chosen to birth in a hospital, a birthing center, or at home. Until HypnoBirthing®, this kind of birthing almost seemed unattainable for the general population.

Through a very simple program of self-hypnosis and education, healthy, low-risk women, as well as women who need medical assistance because of special circumstances, learn to dismiss fear-based stories, misinformation, and birthing myths; and they are helped to see birth as normal. They learn to trust that their bodies know how to bring their babies into the world in the calm and gentle way that Nature intended. (source)pink-lineNot all HypnoBirthing is the same. Make sure you find a legit teacher, teaching the Marie Mongan Method.

Got it? Easy peasy, right? Ha. There are more details at the very bottom, but for the majority of you, I think you’re reading this to find out what I (the average human) thought of the class. I’ll put it in bullet point for you:

  • Liberating and Empowering – reminding me that natural childbirth is just that, natural. Possible. Beautiful. Doable.
  • I understood it as finding a state of relaxed-ness where your body can do what it was designed to do.
  • The importance of understanding the fear – tension – pain cycle and how it can inhibit birth.
  • Learning about the uterus’ muscles and what your body is doing when the beautiful, gentle and shy hormone Oxytocin leads the way…
  • Rephrasing birth/labour lingo (this was interesting, and refreshing).
  • Remembering the importance of positive thinking, the role of the subconscious, visualization and affirmations.
  • Some of the mild hypnosis (deep relaxation) stuff was a bit out-there, and I’m nervous I might struggle without the lead of someone like Kim, but I’m very keen to give it a go and see how it all plays out.

Practically, here’s what I’ve been doing over the last 5 weeks: Reading the book (NB!), listening to the Rainbow Relaxation track on my phone every night (I fall asleep after about 20 seconds), and listening to positive birth affirmations in the car. Hubby has been practising the light touch massage (like a back tickle – so good!) and I’ve been rehearsing my 3 different types of breathing: calm, surge and birth breathing.


Honestly, I could ramble on and on and on about this (ask our Friday night dinner friends). Pre-birth, I would recommend this course to anyone who is inclined towards a natural labour (not augmented) and birth and is wanting to be instructed as to how to think about birth differently – with a fresh, new mindset, and NOT one where you feel like you’re out of control and are being filmed for the next horror movie.

Now tell me, have you tried HypnoBirthing? Did it help? What worked, what didn’t? Talk to me… but really… I need to implement this stuff within days. Yeeeee…


I’m sure you have questions. Some of them might be answered here. If you are playing with the idea of attending a class, chat to Kim. You can contact Beautifully Born online and on Facebook.

The Deets: HypnoBirthing® Classes are taught in a format of five, 2 1/2-hour classes.

You will be provided with the official HypnoBirthing® book, Rainbow relaxation CD and all course materials. Refreshments will be provided during classes.

Course prices

  • The cost per couple for a group course is R1950.
  • There are private courses available in your own home or at a practitioner’s venue – contact Kim to find out about your nearest practitioner, prices and availability

Payment terms for all courses can be arranged, please ask your practitioner.

Here is the outline as to what is covered:

Week 1 – Building A Positive Expectancy

Introduction to the remarkable HypnoBirthing® philosophy
The History of Women and Birthing
Why and how you can have an easier, more comfortable, and safer birthing
How Nature perfectly designed women’s bodies to birth
How to assist, rather than resist, your natural birthing instincts
The vocabulary for calm and gentle birthing
Visualizing gentle births by viewing beautiful birthing videos.

Week 2 – Falling in Love with Your Baby/Preparing Mind & Body

The remarkable mind of your newborn baby—Prenatal bonding techniques
Rapid and instant self-relaxation techniques and deepening techniques
Breathing techniques for labor and birthing
Hypnotic relaxation and visualization
Selecting the right care provider
The Birth companion’s role in birthing
Preparing your body for birthing with massage and toning.

Week 3 – Getting Ready to Welcome your Baby

Preparing Birth Preference Sheets
Preparing the Body for Birthing
Light Touch Labor Massage
Your body working for and with you
Avoiding artificial induction and achieving a natural start to labor
Releasing negative emotions, fears and limiting thoughts.

Week 4 – An Overview of Birthing – A Labor of Love

Onset of Labor – Thinning and Opening Phase
Birth explained simply
Settling in at the hospital or birthing center
Preparing for home birth – or baby’s choice of birth
As labor moves along – passing time through labor
Hallmarks of labor
If labor rests or slows – Companion’s  prompts and activities
As labor advances – birthing with your baby
Protecting the natural birthing experience
Birth rehearsal imagery.

Week 5 – Birth, Breathing Love, Bringing Life

Moving into birthing
Positions for descent and birthing
Breathing baby down to birth
Baby moves to the breast
Family bonding with your baby.

Image credit: andrewmicahornoch.tumblr.commombodystroll.com, www.beautifullyborn.co.za, https://us.hypnobirthing.com.

Let the journey begin…

Debbie Pregnancy Journey

It feels as if my name has been called, I’ve walked onto a stage and I’ve been crowned – a Pure Beginnings Pregnancy Ambassador! And as the music plays, (natural) bath bubbles fall from the sky and Ruby the Rhino, Max & Minky (the Monkeys) and Ollie the Owl have joined me. (To me, this is WAY more exciting than any other pageant).

I am thrilled to partner with Pure Beginnings, one of my favorite organic and eco-certified South African brands, to document the journey of this, our 3rd pregnancy and the birth and newborn life that follows. I can’t imagine a better brand to walk this road with.

Let’s recap…

It was in January that this little life made itself known, and from the minute I saw those two pink lines, I knew this one would be different (least of which, was that it would be a she and not a he, which came as a HUGE surprise after 2 boys!). Waaa… what do I do with a girl?

It was roughly 3 minutes and 47 seconds after seeing those lines that the indescribable, inhumane, unlike-anything-ever-known-to-man exhaustion hit. If you’ve been pregnant, I’m sure you know the feeling. It’s not fun, especially with 2 boys in the house. Wow.


Having had both our boys in Vancouver, I was not new to pregnancy but somehow this pregnancy seemed new to me. Which prenatal vitamins and supplements should I take? Who would my midwife be? How would I find a doula? Where would I birth? How would I birth? It all seemed so different. My immediate thought was to run back to Canada, but alas, that wasn’t a viable option.

clay and ryler at midwives

Over the years in which I have been thinking, researching and getting my hands really dirty (more like oily) in the ‘natural world’, and as I’ve blogged my findings, I’ve become more and more aware (and at times terrified) of how much is going on around us or within us that we simply don’t know or question. Slowly, and (more importantly) consistently, my choice of skincare has changed. While I could be better in the eating department (my month of strict Paleo starts soon – it’s birthday season and the cake is out of control), there are some new(ish) non-negotiables in our house regarding skincare. Having read an alarming article on the horrific number of chemicals found in a baby’s umbilical cord compared to generations ago, I now have a fresh start, and during this pregnancy I want to expose myself (and my helpless unborn) to as little nonsense as possible. Studies have shown that the average woman directly applies more than 200 chemicals to her skin via personal care products every day. Ermmm… that is terrifying… because we have no idea what these chemicals are or what they do.

So what does this change look like? Well regarding pregnancy, my prenatals don’t need to be coated in sugar, coloured pink and look like over-sized smarties. I’ve done enough research to know to take folate over folic acid and I’m upping my number of magnesium baths and probiotics (to avoid GBS). I won’t be bringing aluminium anywhere near my ever-growing breasts (did you know your off-the-counter deo most likely contains aluminium) and the nasties such as parabens, SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS) and other hard-to-pronounce, no-one-really-knows-what-they-are ingredients won’t be coming near my skin (as much as I can control).

Pregnancy is a beautiful gift. I’ve always thought of it as carrying the most incredible responsibility with the least amount of control. I cannot control the growth of this little life, the amount of amniotic fluid I have, my baby’s sex, eye colour or the number of chambers in its heart. What I can control, is what I expose myself to, what I consume and what I smear on my skin. I can read, research and learn, and with that, make better choices for myself and this little life. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m trying.

I’d love for you to join me in this conversation, and on this journey!


*WIN* a Pure Beginnings Organic Baby Gift Set! Enter on our Facebook page by commenting on what your fave PB product is and tag a friend for an extra entry! Compo is nationwide and closes on Monday 23 May, 2016.

Baby-Gift-Pack-large-510x600Good Luck!

Just Engage’s Online Antenatal Classes

If you know me at ALL, you know that I literally get goosebumps at the talk of birth, babies and all things labour. Trained as a Doula in North America, I love love LOVE end of pregnancy everything and get secretly gushy as woman start to talk about labour, birth and post birth (or even red raspberry leaf tea, herbal soaks for the perineum, stretch and sweeps and mucus plugs – weird right?). One of the things it’s not customary to discuss with potential clients is ones own birth (as everyone has a distinctly different birth experience), but it was the significance of my births that grew the desire to support and empower women in labour. You can read more about how much I looooove all this here.

And so I’m very passionate (especially after returning to South Africa from a very ‘informed consent about everything’ city such as Vancouver) that pregnant moms have AS MUCH information as possible when they make decisions towards the end of their pregnancy. I also desire moms to question, think, re-question, re-think and not just go with the flow or succumb to the fear of the unknown surrounding birth. There is grace and glory in the unknown! There is empowerment, indescribable joy and a mysterious disbelief in birth which deeply touches women, whichever way you birth.

If my days are anything like yours, it includes chaos, business, exhaustion, work, play, multiple cups of coffee, driving, meetings, groceries, events… and and and. And as a pregnant mom approaches due day, exhaustion can hit an all time high, but, you need to be in the know about what’s ahead.

So… I have the perfect way to inspire you into being labour-ready amidst all your goings-on… Online Antenatal Classes (!!), with our friends at Just Engage.

Hang on. Online? “Don’t I need to (drag my husband) to a weekly meeting for all this stuff”, you may ask? Well, you can, but you certainly don’t have to! Read on…

This is what Just Engage’s Antenatal Courses cover:

Course 1: Healthy pregnancies
Course 2: Stages of natural labour and birth
Course 3: Caring for mom and babe after birth and breastfeeding
Course 4: Cesarean births, inductions, VBACs and pain relief
Course 5: Early parenting
Course 6: Life after the birth.

Here is a sneak peak on the topic of water birth. I had a water birth with my second and I even learned something after watching this.

If you watched the link above, you would have met Sharon Kloppers, who began Just Engage in August 2012. She wanted to offer an antenatal class that was convenient and practical for busy working couples.

Her heart behind Just Engage is to offer expecting couples information and resources around all their birth and parenting choices, and to realistically connect them to networks of support depending on the choices they make.

She is most passionate about expecting moms feeling confident and supported in their decisions enabling them to have the best chance of a positive birth experience and beginning to motherhood (and fatherhood). Ah, I couldn’t agree more. Sharon also wants to expose this community of expecting families to the incredible professionals, organisations and resources that exist in South Africa which are maybe less visible or known.


For generations South African women have attended antenatal classes. Usually run by a midwife or physiotherapist, a group of pregnant ladies (and their reluctant significant others) gather in a hospital basement or someone’s home to learn about pregnancy, labour, childbirth and early parenting. While they have never been compulsory, it’s been a preferred method of meeting other expecting couples who will have babies and toddlers of a similar age as well as preparing yourself mentally for the changes ahead. Antenatal classes can help you and your partner focus on your pregnancy, and help you prepare for labour and birth as well as for the practicalities, and the realities of parenthood.


However, times are changing. Many women work for as long as possible before baby arrives and so committing to a class with many sessions over many weeks is off-putting or simply impossible. The modern woman might ask ‘So what is the point of antenatal courses anyway?‘ and has turned to resources online to prepare herself for the transition from woman to mother. If you google antenatal class (online) you will find multiple options but not all of these will genuinely be helpful. Some classes are free, others are paid-for and there are now so many different approaches and techniques being taught.


Divided into 6 online courses, Just Engage offers video lectures that you can watch on a desktop, laptop or mobile device. You can work through the content at your own pace and in your own time, just log in on the website and pick up exactly where you left off. Basically, you can do your entire antenatal course online! Once you’ve watched a video lecture (usually by Sharon, the main facilitator and mentor, or a specialist lecturing on their area of expertise) you can download the notes from that lecture which you can keep in a PDF format. You can invite other pregnant friends to sign up with you so you are working through similar content and you can post comments on any video at any stage in the class. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter or follow the Just Engage blog to get updates on new video content, blogposts, related products or services now available and personal stories of mothers and fathers from the trenches of parenthood. Perfect for the busy family, right?


Here in South Africa antenatal classes cost roughtly R1000+ for 6-10 classes you have to attend. The Just Engage class costs R780 to join which gives you access to all the content as well as ongoing access to new content as it gets added. A refresher antenatal class is an available extra. You also gain access to the online community, the blogposts, the forum and the online shop (but these are available to the public too).

CONTACT THEM – they’re here to help!

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to speed with what they’re doing. You can also read all their FAQs here. SIGN UP NOW and enter the code ‘Debbie‘ at checkout and receive 20% OFF your online class subscription! Do it, do it now!

Keen to know more? Sharon is currently working on a new blog series on Down’s Syndrome. Downs is often a bit of a mystery to those not directly affected by it and she’s digging in and cracking it open for the rest of us. You can read her first post on it here.

If you’d like to know any more about Sharon, the antenatal classes, how to sign up, or what she’s currently working on, please contact her at admin@justengage.co.za.

5 things to think through before you give Birth

Don’t get me started on my birth stories. I could go on forever in so much detail it will either get creepy, weepy, gory or intriguing – depending on who you are and whether you actually asked to hear the stories or not. After my first son was born, I was so blown away by the experience I studied to become a doula (because I felt drawn to attend any and every birth thereafter) and so you can imagine I’m a little obsessed when it comes to (late) pregnancy, labour, birth and squishy, gooey, vernix-covered newborns. I even very seriously considered getting a tattoo of the coordinates of BC Women’s Hospital (the most phenomenal, miraculous, beautifully life changing maternity hospital in Vancouver). Sometimes I used to just drive past, and gaze longingly inside imagining women in the beautiful state of labour. I warned you this could get creepy.

And so, when my (fairly naive) hubby and I arrived at our first pre-natal class in the ‘Couve and the nose-pierced, harem-pants-wearing, tattoo-covered, hair-braided doula-instructor encouraged us to bring rolls of white paper to the hospital to make ‘placenta art’ post-birth, you can imagine we were mentally packing up our ‘birth manual’, breathing exercise CD, incense sticks, and the hypno-birthing business card and running for the hills. Even considering a medication free hospital birth was a huge step for us.

All that to say, I’ve come a looooong loooong way from that first terrifying night of prenatal classes and I think I have given birth (a significant amount) more of the respect I feel it’s due. I’ve taken the time to think through things one might overlook in the signing of the hospital papers and donning of the hospital gown.

Here are a few things that, until I got my head into this big, beautiful birthing world, I’d never considered or even thought much about. But after being on this side of it all, I would highly encourage. (These are mainly directed at those planning a natural delivery, but can most certainly apply to both natural and caesar births).

Doula. Get a doula. A good doula is an INCREDIBLE gift to a birth team. She is consistent, wise, forward thinking, reassuring, safe, hands on, and very, very helpful. She’s not intrusive, and knows the birth is not about her. I can’t imagine having had my babies without a good, supportive birth team, especially my doulas who never left me and knew what I needed before I could articulate it (in nonsense-speak during active labour). I felt so cared for, understood and loved during birth. Good doulas will bring up most of these points below in consultations – and give you even more to think about, such as positions to labour in, natural pain relief options and ways to encourage a natural induction if you’re headed over the 42 week mark, as well as home birth, water birth, or hypnobirth information. Read up on the invaluable benefits of doulas here.

‘If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it’ – John H. Kennell, MD.

Delayed Cord Clamping. Delayed cord clamping is a birth practice ‘where the umbilical cord is not clamped or cut until after pulsations have ceased, or until after the placenta is delivered’. A growing number of new mums are choosing delayed cord clamping for their baby.

Umbilical cord blood is a baby’s life blood until birth. It contains many wonderfully precious cells, like stem cells, red blood cells and white blood cells (including cancer-fighting T-cells) to help fight disease and infection. Yet common practice is to quickly cut off this source of valuable cells at the moment of birth. More and more, people are holding off from this immediate ‘clamp’. Unless there is a medical reason for baby to be checked immediately after birth (which can definitely happen – it almost did with my first), there shouldn’t be any rush to have your cord clamped. In many cases, baby is birthed, lifted up and given to the mother with the cord still connected and held on mums tummy or chest (depending on how long the cord is) until the pulsations have decreased or until the placenta has been birthed. Chat to your care provider about it. (Also, on a side note – how about having your partner cut the cord?).

Your Placenta. Have you even seen one, or pondered the significance of that ‘afterbirth’ (or afterthought?). Friends of mine planted theirs under a tree at each of their childs’ first birthdays (which I think is incredibly special), and others have encapsulated theirs. Once you are holding a baby, who cares about the placenta right? Wrooooong. It is a beautifully fascinating and mysterious nutrient rich organ. It fed your baby. It sustained it. Instead of just checking its all there (which is very important in post partum!) and then tossing it, consider donating it to medical science, encapsulating it, keeping it, or at least giving it a little wink of thanks for all its hard work.

Kangaroo Care (skin on skin). Fight for skin on skin time with baby as much as you can. If for some reason you can’t have your bub on you, get your partner to strip down and put baby on them. It seems obvious, yet most of the time baby is wrapped up in a blanket and placed in a bassinet. There is so much research about the incredible benefits of (naked) skin on (naked) skin, this one is a no-brainer. And it goes beyond the delivery room – continue intentional skin on skin into the early days, weeks and months of life.

Lactation Support. Breastfeeding is not only beautiful, but very healthy, very normal and creates a particularly significant bond between mum and bub. As everyone says ‘breast is best’, but some new mums really struggle to breastfeed. Find help if need be. There are plenty of lactation consultants around, and heaps of advice online (such as La Leche League SA). And if you can’t breastfeed, don’t beat yourself up about it. Your body made a baby, and that’s pretty darn miraculous.

Featured image credit: Evidence Based Birth Blog.
(It is such a beautiful picture I want to cry.)