Birth Buddies was founded by Jane Fraser in 2006.
Who is Jane?
I have been interested in pregnancy, birth and babies for as long as I can remember. Having children and being a mother was the only thing I was sure of for my future while I was growing up. At school biology was my favourite subject, and at university I did a semester of anatomy and physiology and I LOVED it. In fact in retrospect I should have studied medicine and become an obstetrician.
I really enjoyed being pregnant and fully immersed myself in the experience. I studied up about it and knew everything that was happening, when and how. I understood my symptoms and why they were there, and how to work with them. I prepared for birth by reading literally hundreds of birth stories so that I would know what was normal and what wasn’t and what to expect. I couldn’t get enough! I am one of the few people I know who can actually say I enjoyed labouring and giving birth. That doesn’t mean it was easy, and it doesn’t mean I would want to do it every day. But it’s like running a race (or climbing a mountain I guess), you have to be sensible and prepare yourself well, and it feels just awesome when you actually manage to do it!
In October 1997 I was thrilled to find out I was pregnant – even though it was a bit earlier than planned. After a friend showed us photos and told the story of her birth, which was a home water birth attended by a mid-wife, I knew that was what I wanted. It all looked so right. Calm, and special and not at all like the screaming, sterile medical births often portrayed in movies.
So we went off to meet the mid-wife and planned a similar birth for our baby. Unfortunately 6-months into what had been a text book pregnancy up until then, I went into preterm labour. We were on the train between Johannesburg and Cape Town at the time. A long and traumatic experience followed, with a lot of terrible and incorrect medical intervention, culminating in our live and healthy baby girl Angelique being born, and then left with us to die with no assistance or empathy in Kimberly hospital. It was simply an horrific experience which no one should ever have to endure.
A year later I conceived again, and we were more sure than ever that we wanted to have a natural mid-wife assisted birth. During this pregnancy we met a wonderful mid-wife Kate Christie and immediately bonded with her.
Kate attended the birth of my son Quinn. We ended up checking into Vincent Pallotti, instead of the planned home birth, as at 12 days overdue I still was not showing signs of going into labour, and so I opted for a gel induction. Kate was fantastic and just her calm presence with her firm reassuring hand on my back arm or leg gave me all the strength and courage I needed. Quinn was born via a natural water-birth weighing in at 4.47kgs, and 57cm long.
2 years later I had another son. We had planned exactly the same birth as Quinn, but this time after a very slow start to labour (again kick started via gel induction just past due date) Kate recommended delaying using the birth tub. After waiting 2 more hours we decided to do an examination. Suddenly I needed to push (after being only 3-4cm before). There was no time for filling the bath or anything, I barely had time to squat down in front of a chair and Griffin was born within 6 minutes! Weighing in at 4.46kgs, 54cm long.
With each of my pregnancies and subsequently I read and researched everything I could get my hands on. I wanted to know as much as possible, about what to expect, how to plan and prepare and how to deal with complications. I often look at birth photos and still read birth stories on line when I have free time.
I was very inspired by Kate Christie. I love her calm, quiet and confident presence. She allows you to take the lead and will support you in the way you need it. I respect her and admire her strength and patience. I found it quite incredible how just having her near me while I was in labour would make me feel totally safe and calm, and how hearing her saying I was doing wonderfully made me feel like I could go on forever and manage anything. I have held a quiet dream of becoming a mid-wife ever since.
In 2005 I was honoured to be requested to attend my younger sister’s birth as her ‘Doula’. I was thrilled. It was a wonderful experience for me, as up until then I had only ever been the one in labour and giving birth, and had no idea what it was like to be attending as a bystander. I thought maybe I would feel anxious and out of control, and find it difficult to deal with. But I didn’t, I really loved that experience too. It was great to be with her and comfort her and support her and assure her when she felt she couldn’t do it, by pointing out that she WAS already doing, and doing it perfectly.
I felt completely relaxed and knew she was safe and that everything was progressing as it should. So I was able to assure her and her husband that all was well, and I do think that helped them to relax and stay calm too. It is a very special experience. I am grateful to been included.
My sister is extremely squeamish and had initially thought that she wouldn’t be able to cope with anything other than a general anaesthetic Caesarian birth so I immensely proud of her that she laboured drug-free and gave birth naturally.
I had worried that her husband would feel excluded or less involved if I was there, but that wasn’t the case at all. He was excellent and stayed by her face talking to her quietly while I rubbed her back, and he told me afterwards that he would have panicked if I wasn’t there because he didn’t know what to do or say and because I was calm and helping them to know that everything was going well, he was able to stay calm and follow my cues of supportiveness.
I have discussed pregnancy and birth with many of my friends, and explained the available choices to them, and described my experiences. I believe there is not one right way for labour and birth, just what is right for that person and for that pregnancy. Not everyone wants to give birth naturally, but if you do and if you prepare yourself I believe it can feel like your greatest life achievement.
I decided to begin my journey to become a qualified Doula at the end of 2006. After years of working in the IT industry it was finally time to follow my dream and expose myself to my passion of pregnancy, labour and birth and to help other people to realise their dreams. I have therefore enrolled in the local South African WOMBS (Women Offering Mothers Birth Support) as well as the international Birth Arts Doula certification courses and hope to certify officially with both during 2007.
Nothing compares to the natural wonder of birth. I would like to help other women feel confident and capable in their ability to birth their babies fearlessly and to feel the amazing achievement of bringing your baby into the world yourself.
I believe that a woman in labour just needs support and to feel safe, and to hear that all is well and that she doing ok. Given that, nature takes over and does the rest. The more a labouring woman hears that she is doing well the stronger she gets and the more resilient she feels, and the more she believes in herself. For all those people (probably many men) who don’t think they can do anything and are therefore not needed, you really can. Just being there and being caring and following the cues of what is needed at the time does make a major difference.
My aim is to help women to have positive and happy memories of their births, and hopefully to help in some way for tragedies, like that which we experienced with our baby girl Angelique, to be avoided.
Update: In 2014 I had another baby boy. His pregnancy was magical culminating in a simply phenomenal home water birth.
Jane’s Birth Stories:
Angelique – 1998 – my baby Angel, born too soon.
Pre-term Vaginal birth at 25 weeks.
Angelique’s birth story
Quinn – 2000 – Bright, creative, intuitive & entrepreneurial. Always challenging boundaries & questioning everything.
Vaginal water birth at 41+3 weeks.
Griffin – 2001 – Sensitive, loving, kind. Responsible, centred, mature and reliable.
Vaginal birth at 40 weeks.
Griffin’s birth story
Nathaniel – 2014 – Easy-going, happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine. Brings smiles, love and light wherever he goes.
Unassisted home water-birth at 41 +2 weeks.
Nathaniel’s birth story
All 4 of my children have defined me, and made me who I am today. I can’t imagine my life without them.