Midwives: Unsung heroes?

I was six years old when I walked into the maternity ward with my father. My little sister was about to be born and I remember feeling excited and curious, but also anxious. I remember the people in the ward tending to new or soon-to-be mothers. The woman tending to my mother seemed to be the most remarkable of all, because she was there for us and she was helping my mom. She was the midwife, a role I didn’t fully understand at the time, but for which I developed a deep appreciation through my experiences with “Mama” Thembisa.

Midwives play a critical role during and after pregnancy for many women worldwide, yet they often go unrecognised and unappreciated. For those who do not know, midwives don’t just deliver babies – they provide pre- and post-natal advice, look after the women whose babies they deliver, and serve as psychological support women and families can rely on for guidance to raise healthy children.

“Mama” Thembisa is an inspirational midwife who has been serving the Kokstad community for more than 20 years. My creative team (including our creative director, Rob, and our videographer, Allen) had one task – to interview “Mama” and document the incredible work she does within her community. We also planned on interviewing some of her colleagues and community members, but we did not know what to expect. What we learned blew us away.

“Mama” Thembisa’s colleagues and patients had nothing but praise for her. The fact that one woman could empower, inspire, and help so many people was a beautiful revelation to me. In a field where nurses don’t always get the recognition they deserve, “Mama” Thembisa always goes above and beyond the call of duty to help those around her.

Four people stand smiling at the camera inside a hospital.
© 2018/South Africa/Red SeptemberThe author and her colleagues with “Mama” Thembisa at E.G. Usher Memorial Hospital in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

On the first day, we shadowed “Mama” Thembisa as she did her rounds in the maternity and children’s wards both of which are in her charge — a position she holds with great pride, at E.G. Usher Memorial Hospital. We had the privilege of observing her counselling new mothers on childcare and healthcare, but we also saw something else – how much joy she experiences on her duties and the sheer amount of energy and love she has to share with those around her. Even though it is not required of her, “Mama” is involved hands-on in her wards. If a mother or child leave the ward, one can be sure they have received the best care and will continue receiving excellent care – all because of “Mama” Thembisa and her team. Many of the women and children who fall under “Mama’s” care see her as a mother figure, because she is always there when you need her.

I myself was raised by a nurse, so “Mama” Thembisa’s story hit close to home. My experiences with “Mama” taught me many things, but most of all, I learned not to take anything for granted, to always be kind, and to act selflessly toward fellow human beings. “Mama’s” Thembisa’s story taught me that the love you share with those around you will always be returned tenfold. I think it is important to recognise midwives for the heroes they are, if only because of their essential role in their communities.


Tracey Prince is an Art Director at Red September, an independent advertising agency based in Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa.

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