It all started in Amsterdam in a student advisor’s office at the university. I didn’t get a place to study medicine after trying three years in a row. At the end of self and clueless what to study, she asked me if I ever thought about midwifery?
Up to today I am grateful for that suggestion. It led me to Belgium, Gent, where I did my basic degree in midwifery and back to the Netherlands to get my first work experience as a midwife. Born and raised in South Africa, the African in me never left. Curious to find out if there is something for me in my country of birth, the waves and people of Jeffrey’s bay lured me in and I re-located to South Africa.
It has been a humbling journey. Most people didn’t have a clue what a ‘midwife’ was and I had to explain myself. After registration with the Nursing Council I got green batches to put on my uniform. When I started to work in the local hospital the nursing sisters were kind of looking down on me, you are ‘just a midwife…?’ What do they mean ‘just a midwife’? I am a highly qualified and valued health care provider?’ Slowly but surely I started to understand what was going on in the ‘midwife world’ in South Africa.
I got involved in the community and was the co-founder of The Healthy Mom and Baby Clinic . On the side I started to work as a Private Midwife. Out of curiosity and because it is the degree to have as a midwife in South Africa, I enrolled for the post basic degree ‘Advanced Midwifery and Neonatal Nursing Science’ at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. And my picture of the ‘midwife world’ became even clearer. In order to obtain my degree, I had to do a research. I was stunned by the high cesarean section rate in the private sector and decided to look at the factors influencing the mode of delivery in the private sector. My take home point was the absence of midwives in the low-risk population. It was shocking. My supervisor decided to publish my article and all of a sudden I saw the value of my research: now I have a voice. When she suggested doing my Masters Research, it didn’t take much convincing. This time I looked at collaboration between midwives and obstetricians. Because that’s the only way a midwife can work; if she collaborates with the doctors. An article was published again I took home, we need more and better midwives.
Again, not much motivation needed to agree with my professor’s suggestion to do a PhD. I took a year ‘break’ of studies and carried on. This time I want to go big. I want to do something for the midwives in South Africa! The profession needs to be strengthened. The majority of midwives are working in public sector and I was done with private sector, so this time I was going to focus on public sector. What are the midwives saying? What is going on? I am still in the process of finding that out and I need your voice to be heard!
If you are a midwife working in the public sector of South Africa with more than three years experience in maternal health, please take some time to do my survey!