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Finding a Cape Town Midwife: Q & A with Glynnis Garrod of Birth Options Midwifery Team

In an effort to spotlight exceptional birth professionals for expectant parents researching their options, I’ll be interviewing some of the best I work with (see the complete on-going series here).

We have incredible midwives in Cape Town, but not nearly enough. Every woman should have access to a midwife if she desires one. So as a general rule, if you are hoping to hire an independent private midwife, you should contact them early. They tend to book up quickly because they support fewer births a month than an obstetrician would. This is because they support a woman side by side throughout her whole labour, delivery, and just after birth, which requires more hours than just being present for the delivery. Independent midwives are specialised in low-risk natural births.

Today,I want to spotlight one of my personal favorites (I’m biased, admittedly). Glynnis Garrod from Birth Options Midwifery Team. Full disclaimer, Glynnis was MY midwife for my first birth.

I will never forget how close she stayed. I hung my head down in pain and found that absently turning her ring kept me focused during contractions. That’s what I marvel about with midwifery care. I respect the role of a doctor (and needed one) but they can not possibly give the kind of intensive-at-your-side-care that midwives can give. Its a huge time commitment.

Midwife means “with woman”. That’s exactly what they do, they stay near you if you need that kind of support. Or they hang back when you need space, available when called. Its a really beautiful thing to observe as a person attending a birth.

Here are some images of Glynnis in action. I credit her with saving my eldest daughter’s life. She paid attention and caught the signs something was dangerously wrong and so gently informed me while giving me my options. Being “with woman”, physically at my side for hours was what enabled her see what was happening. We called in obstetric support and a doctor performed a necessary c-section. Together they both worked harmoniously in their specialties.

Here’s my Q & A with her. I hope it helps in your research.

1) HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A MIDWIFE?

I qualified in 1990 and starting working in the labour ward at Groote Schuur, so 27 yrs.

2) IF YOU HAD TO GUESS, HOW MANY BABIES HAVE YOU WITNESSED BEING BORN?

After 9 yrs at GSH (a very busy unit), I had 4800 recorded births. Been in private practice for 18 years, so I guess add 1000 odd.

3) WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR WORK? WHAT IS THE MOST TAXING EMOTIONALLY?

Without a doubt empowering women and impacting on families by facilitating a positive birth experience has to be the reason I keep doing what I do. I have witnessed too many women alone and afraid.

Professionally the most emotionally taxing would be dealing with loss which is inevitable at some stage in any caregivers career. On the personal front, I find it extremely stressful not being able to be in two places at the same time. When I’m with a labouring woman, my full focus is there but sometimes it’s really hard knowing that I’m missing events, family memories etc. It usually turns out fine in the end though.

4) WHAT ARE YOUR COPING STRATEGIES FOR BEING A WORKING MOTHER WHO PULLS ALL-NIGHTERS WITH LABOURING MOTHERS?

Being surrounded by supportive family and a village of friends is imperative. There is no way I could do this without practical help some days. Coffee and Shzen hydrating spray helps! I guess I’ve also learnt to get by on minimal sleep. Although that is getting harder the older I get. Having some time alone in the bush with my camera has a great way of restoring the mind and body.

5) PRIVATE INDEPENDENT MIDWIVES ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR CONTINUOUS LABOUR SUPPORT. BUT WHAT IF ONE OF YOUR CLIENTS NEEDS A C-SECTION, DO YU STAY WITH HER?

If the necessity for a csection becomes apparent during labour, then absolutely we stay with her and go to the theatre. Our role as primary caregiver is shifted to the OB  and we receive the baby and facilitate early skin to skin and breastfeeding in recovery where possible. Also, provide emotional support for mom and dad and make sure they are kept informed.

6) WHAT HOSPITALS DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE PRIVILEGES IN?

We are able to do births at Vincent Pallotti Hospital and Tokai Melomed.

7) IS THERE AN ETHOS OR A GUIDING PRINCIPLE THAT YOU PRACTICE WITH?

Shew… a few. Humility I think is of utmost importance. Understanding the role of the midwife is to guide and support a labouring woman rather than prescribe or instruct. No matter how much experience, knowledge or skill I have, I am still not ultimately in control.  I worked with a doctor at GSH who once said, “Every action or intervention should first be questioned with, ‘how will this change my management to be of benefit?’ If there is no clear answer, don’t do it. Choose your words very carefully! And always be kind.

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