I recently had the treat of spending 10 days on the island of Bali, Indonesia. I was there for a Dancing for Birth retreat with a handful of other Dancing for Birth Instructors and Stephanie Larson, DFB’s founder. Many Balinese believe that Bali is the last step before reaching heaven. That can’t be far from the truth.
Feasting on organically grown food and bathing in outdoor showers was just an accent to the daily discussions and dance filled workshops we had everyday. Dancing for Birth uses dance to build confidence in pregnant and postpartum mothers and to support shorter, easier and safer births. Our daily workshops introduced us to a new palate of dances from around the world as well as nuggets of tried and true birth wisdom. For a doula, spending a week in an oxytocin induced birth high is about as close to heaven as one can get.
In the middle of our week we were welcomed for a tour of Bali’s famous birth center, Bumi Sehat, and a casual chat with her founder and CNN Hero of the Year, Ibu Robin Lim. According to Lim, it costs $400 - $600 to have a vaginal birth in Bali and $1,000 to $1,500 to have a Cesarean birth. The average monthly wage in Bali is $200. And, if a family can’t pay before time to leave the hospital, the baby stays, mostly unattended. Bumi Sehat provides free prenatal, birth services and basic medical care for families from all over Bali. On two occasions we told a cab driver where we were staying, by Bumi Sehat. They would immediately know where to take us and energetically tell us about precious sons and daughters who had been born there. What Bumi Sehat has coined as “Gentle Birth,” is making a difference in the lives of people all over the island who wouldn’t otherwise be able to pay and take home their babies.
Lim is a busy woman. She sat to tell us about the Italian doctor who came to Bumi Sehat as a PR stunt, but left changed. “He left an asshole, but came back (from Bali) a doula,” his staff told Lim when the doctor asked her to speak to every obstetrician and gynecologist at his hospital about delayed cord-clamping. As she told similar stories, she also tolds us that the baby who is crying is a day old and that his parents are still getting to know him. She waved to a long-time donor who was visiting. She directed a foreigner and his daughter to one of the local practitioners to see about an ear-ache. All this the day after she returned from The Philippines to check on a birth center there. I asked her how she does it all. She first credits her dedicated staff and friends and adds, “and I’m always high on oxytocin.”
The week after we left, of Orgasmic Birth and Pain to Pleasure was hosting a two-week long doula training in Bali. Women from the United States to China and everywhere inbetween attended this two-week workshop where they began their certification as doulas, childbirth educators and lactation consultants.
Amid ancient statues adorned with marigold garlands and banana leaf offerings, smiles and warm greetings from the Balinese and their healing touch received through massages and herbal scrubs, I kept wondering, why Bali? Why did these birthkeepers choose Bali? Why do they train future birthkeepers in Bali? I asked Stephanie Larson this question. Her immediate response was, “I think it’s the love here.” The after a moment she said, “There is so much music, dance, art and celebration. All of those are a part of birth.”
Yes, that’s it. The Balinese I spoke with loved life and their music, dance, art and celebration were testament of that. Of course Bali - who wouldn’t want to birth so close to heaven.
I have tremendous gratitude and respect for Stephanie, Robin and Debra and for all the work they have done as birth keepers. Please, continue bringing us to Bali and showing the world that birth is as beautiful as Bali.
Photos: Above - Ibu Robin Less (right) sharing birth wisdom with Stephanie Larson (middle) and other Dancing for Birth instructors. Below - Rice paddies in Bali
Lisa Marie is a birth doula, supporting and empowering women through the birth experience in Portland, Oregon. She teaches Dancing for Birth, a childbirth education and fitness combo class using bellydance, Latin and African dance to help mommas be more comfortable and confident in thier bodies through birth and beyond. One of her specialties includes supporting laboring mommas with Type 1 Diabetes.
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