Manghanita – Age 59


Age 59

My grandmother was a midwife – my midwife. Born at her home, she kept my navelstring (umbilical cord) until she died. A symbol of our connection. My mother had 8 children – most of us born at home, then adopted a 9th. I was the eldest daughter and the eldest granddaughter. My father was a teacher, author, journalist, and worked with community development programmes in various countries. My mother was a teacher and home schooled us. We grew up in a world of ‘grow your own’ fruit and veg (we were vegetarians) ‘sew your own’ clothes and ‘look after your own’ animals. Herbal remedies, massage and alternative therapies like reiki were normal to us. We were encouraged in our artistic creativities – these evolved into various art forms including dance, photography, writing, film, stage and screen, landscaping, and many other forms.

A wilful teenager, I ran away from home at 17 to live with a teacher 10 years older than me. We married and had 2 wonderful children – a boy and a girl. I had always intended to have children. I saw having them as an integral part of my life’s plan. My children were born naturally and breastfed easily – it seemed the only way to bring up children. It was what I had been brought up to understand. It was never a question of ‘how do I do this’. It just was. Years later my husband suffered from bipolar issues and committed suicide. My children were 10 and 12 years old – how could it not affect them … and me? A year later my mother, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer died young. Several years later my grandmother – she of my navelstring – died old. Distraught after the death of her only daughter, she was inconsolable.

I miss them all.

My father remarried and is a spritely 85 year old. I have lived with my partner for the past 25 years – a wonderful supportive man, an understanding hero who has loved me, and my children wholeheartedly and is continuously warm and affectionate. We got married recently! My children grew up strong and independent. I am proud of the way that they have forged their paths through life following their passions. Not always an easy route, but one that they honestly believe in. I have tried to show my unconditional love for them and proudly and continuously support them in whatever they do.

My business background in retailing, changed to education and training, as I launched into self-employment.

I retrained in Human Resources and eventually moved into the Charitable sector working with funders and groups of disabled people fighting for their own advocacy. Their enthusiasm was awe-inspiring. Their achievements were amazing.

I was invited to be at the birth of my first grandson. It was an all female birth – the father no longer part of her life. It was a tumultuous and emotional experience for us all – a great joy!

My 2nd and 3rd grandsons arrived by caesarian section – twins. Perfectly formed, but tiny. They soon flourished into strong, tall, handsome, young men.

My 4th grandson had a gentle birth, bringing a peaceful and thoughtful boy into the world.

My 5th grandson was born by c-section and surrounded immediately by love– his father, both grandmothers, and brothers.

These momentous occasions brought a new dimension and passion to my life… one I had not anticipated. A new direction. I embraced Doula training… ‘mothering the mother’, supporting women emotionally and physically through their labour and birth.

Spiritually, it feeds my soul. Pregnancy and birth are sacred rites of passage. Women becoming mothers. Emotionally, it is satisfying and rewarding. Serving mothers, babies and families is joyful.

Practically, it is a necessity for mothers to have help and support during labour and birth. Their babies should be born naturally and gently.

Socio-politically, I am a birth activist. Women need to reclaim their bodies and their birthing rights in any country. It is a human rights issue.

Birth is one of the most humbling and amazing experiences in life – to see a mother realising her own power and strength when she is giving birth naturally. Following her instincts, moving and listening to her inner self.

I am privileged to be a part of her experience.

As I approach my 60th birthday, I feel I am coming full circle –  coming back to my beginnings – my navelstring.