I grew up with two very strong women in my life: my mother and my grandmother. They both had a profound and lasting effect on my life, providing me, through their example and guidance, the foundations for what I am today. Whilst my mother was the closest person to me in my life, my grandmother provided the role model for my vocation in midwifery. My grandmother was a strong, tough but caring and compassionate woman and despite the formidable personality that she presented to the world, I have fond memories of her.
She raised her own seven children and took care of anyone else’s children that needed a helping hand. This particularly so after the early death of my father, grandma stood in the breach and was a pillar of strength in those dark days. I attach myself to her and my grandfather like a muscle on a rock. She educated me by example and I am forever grateful for the inner strength she passed on to me. She was the sweetest grandmother imaginable, very special to me, and the best anybody could wish for. Her love was palpable, but tempered with a touch call as if it was made of steel.
My grandmother was a traditional midwife in an age when midwifery was more appreciated and much less complicated than is today. She became the rural community midwife because of her experience; her services were constantly in demand, and she was happy and proud to fulfill the duties and obligations that her calling presented.
My mother was born on a farm situated outside a small town called Beaufort West, situated in mid South Africa. She became in time the midwife for all the farms in the region, which went by names such as, La Rochelle, Leeukuil, Soutrivier, and Tweeling. The nearest of these farms is situated approximately 25 km from the nearest town. Those years in South Africa, gradnmother made her midwiery rounds on a donkey-cart.
I am pleased to say that we as a family were fortunate that my grandmother was the midwife in of me, and all my siblings. However, grandmother was not the only member of my family with caring skills, my ancestry was enriched by a long line of midwives and healers, including my grandfather, who was a firm believer in the benefits of natural healing long before it was fashionable. This may have been a consequence of the circumstances of his life, or, as I like to think, he was perceptive enough to have seen the effects of natural healing. My grandfather taught us that the best way to take care of our bodies was to eat garden fresh foods and to use herbal medicine. Grandfather had his own herb garden and we were treated with herbs when we were sick; he and grandmother worked together on the garden most every day.
I have vivid memories of seeing my grandmother massaging women on her many antenatal visits. She used massage as a comfort method and for pain control. I remember how she massaged us as children when we did not feel well. She told us the massage would rid us of the sickness that made our bodies unwell.
I remember how my grandmother visited women after birth and in my mind; I can still see her bathing the babies. I see her preparing food too because she told us that a pregnant woman must eat well. Nutrition was an important issue for her; she believed that breastfeeding must be encouraged so that babies can have good nourishment. It was very important to her that those in her care maintained good nutrition and hygiene. However, I remember most vividly her most important advice, which she often repeated: that the entire family must be prepared for the new baby. That is how she guided the community in all aspects of their social and psychological welfare.