Eighty-year-old Annette Innes gave birth to her third child at home by candlelight in Tanzania, assisted only by the local vet (who happened to be her husband).
She hadn’t planned it that way, but her home-birth experience proved to be her most enjoyable.
It was the 1960s and Annette’s husband - who had been the vet at Chester Zoo - was working as the vet officer for the Northern Province in Tanzania.
The plan was to give birth at hospital, but the baby had other ideas.
“My husband had to take the other children down to the manager’s house and got a flat tyre on the way, so here I was flashing Morse code with a torch out the window trying to get his attention.
“The generator stopped at 10pm and this was 1am, so there was no electricity and I delivered by candle power.”
The next day, Annette was up making bread and on the Saturday, was at a dance.
It was a world away from her experiences in the UK, where she gave birth to her first two children.
“The thing that sticks in my mind from the first baby is a snotty sister in the nursing home saying ‘don’t make too much noise’,” she said.
As were the customs of the time, her husband was not allowed in the room and the baby was whisked away to the nursery, only to be seen at feeding times.
And because it was a breech birth, she was bed-ridden for 10 days.
“With the birth in Africa, I felt I was in control, with the other ones I was just an object,” she said.
Annette’s story is just one of the remarkable birth experiences that will be shared at the women-only Red Tent Festival at Federal on Saturday.
Eight women will speak about their births, from Aboriginal elder Aunty June Gordon, a Widajabul Elder, to a Sudanese refugee talking about her experience in war-torn Sudan, to local comedian Mandy Nolan, who will share the stories of her four births.
The festival will be a celebration of women and birth, with workshops, talks and films focussing on positive birth messages as well as giving women the opportunity to reflect on previous birth experiences.
“No matter what experience you’ve had, it’s important to debrief,” said Annie Bryant, one of the festival’s organisers.
There will be lots of space to relax, along with Middle Eastern food and entertainment such as belly dancing and poetry.
It’s the first Red Tent Festival and it’s part of a worldwide initiative called Be Bold, an organisation based in New York that encourages women to come together in their community and share their birth stories.
Local midwife and festival organiser Suzanne Weir said the festival was for women of all ages and stages of life.
The Red Tent Festival is on Saturday (November 7) at the Federal Hall and surrounding area.
Proceeds will go to the Northern Rivers Maternity Action Group.
For more information see www.redtentfestival.com.au
ABOVE: Red Tent organiser Annie Bryant (centre) with Dani Ilic (and daughter Remy), of Mullumbimby and Annette Innes, also of Mullumbimby, who will both be sharing their birth stories at the Red Tent Festival on Saturday.
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