Bali Memoirs Part 3: Natural Birth
“The miracle, which once belonged to families, was now the property of medical establishments. Medicine became divorced from nature and and forgot to respect the diversity of human culture and tradition. Somehow in the application of such efficiency, we lost our humanity at the fulcrum of the most tender of life’s moments: the birth of a child”. – Robin Lim
There is a little book shop inside of one of favorite places to eat in Bali called Biku. I was browsing through the books while waiting to be seated and a book called ‘Memoirs of a Singing Birth’ caught my eye. Immediately I picked it up and was drawn in. Maybe because the title encompassed a word I relate to so well ‘Singing’ but one I had not seen paired with the word ‘Birth’ before. I’ve always had this saying around writing songs: I say writing a new song is like giving birth to something new and therefore I related to this book right away. The book is written by a Croatian women by the name of Elena Skoko and is about her giving birth to her daughter Koko and her journey in search of the perfect birthing experience for her and her daughter. Her research led her to a natural birthing center, Bumi Sehat, in Bali founded by who some consider is the ‘Mother Teresa of Indonesia”, Robin Lim.
Robin Lim won the CNN Hero of the Year award in 2011. She is a midwife and founder of Bumi Sehat health clinics in Bali & Aceh, which offer free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid to anyone who needs it. As I started delving into this amazing book so many questions came to mind. I had always thought about why women give birth in hospitals, laying on our backs which defies the law of gravity. Are there other options available to women? how come no one ever talks about or considers something other than hospital birth? I have always been fascinated by the idea of water birth since I was a teenager. I remember a moment where I was 16 years old and as I was driving I passed by a building that said ‘Water Birthing Center’ and remember thinking to myself, what is that? and how come I’ve never heard of this before? I remember reading about it later and finding out how good water birth can be for woman and their babies and how much it can relieve the birthing pains and pressures on our bodies just by emerging our bodies under water. This made so much sense to me and I thought someday I would look more into this.
Elena’s book was so raw and real and it touched upon a lot of these questions. We go to hospitals when we are ill but why do go when we are giving birth? and why do women get induced where there is a natural process to when a baby is ready to come into this world? Why do we just cut the umbilical chord and throw away the placenta? does it have medicinal properties? and what if its way more valuable to us and our baby than we think? How can formula be better than a women’s natural milk? We just trust our doctors and do what we are told but women have been giving natural birth for centuries. How come maternal mortality doubled in the past 25 years when we have what would be considered a more advanced medical system. 32.6% of births now end in C-section when The World Health Organization recommends no higher than 15%.
This book raised so many questions for me as a women and inspired me to learn more about my choices when the time comes. In hopes to answer some of these questions I decided I would go visit Robin Lim and the Bumi Sehat center. Its about a 2 hour drive from where I was staying but thought it would be more than worth the visit and so it was. I called the center a few days before and they gave me Robin’s cell phone number. I called her, a bit nervous, cause by this time I had already watched some clips online about her and was blown away by who she was. She was so kind to me on the phone and even though she was very busy, she took time to speak to me and then even later sent me a text saying sorry I was so busy but looking forward to meeting you.
When I showed up at the clinic Robin wasn’t there yet. I met her staff who were so kind and immediately they started giving me a tour of the clinic and educating me about what they do there. About 20 minutes later Robin showed up on her bike with a big smile on her face. She automatically hugged me and gave me a warm welcome. You know Robin is a special spirit within the first second of meeting her. There is aura around her that is full of love and willingness to give that is so clear. The center was small and only had a few rooms. One for birthing which had a tub, one for resting after birth and an outdoor area for acupuncture and other services. I met some babies who were newly born and even got to hold one. She was telling me stories about what goes on there. Some were beautiful and some I just wanted to start crying. One story in particular I will never forget. She was telling me recently a prostitute had given birth at the center and when prostitutes give birth one of the common things that happen in Southeast Asia is they sell their babies for human trafficking. When I heard this I couldn’t believe it. It just seem liked something out of horrible movie but this was a reality for Robin and one she dealt with at the clinic. So her goal was to convince this Mom not to sell her baby but find a home for her instead. Robin did exactly that. She found a home for the baby, one in which these people were wanting to provide for a child but could not have one of their own. I can’t tell you how much I was moved by this.
CNN awarded Robin & Bumi Sehat $300,000 to build a new clinic. This was a dream come true for them and the plans are underway. Its amazing what they do at Bumi Sehat and the care for Mother’s from all walks of life and cultures. Here are some photos from my visit and a video clip of Robin Lim CNN Hero (be warned it can bring you to tears but so worth watching):