In this podcast, a mother describes her first birth at a hospital in New Zealand, followed by her second birth nearly 10 years later at the Bumi Sehat Clinic in Bali, Indonesia with midwife Ibu Robin Lim.
In this story, we learn that when a woman gives birth in an atmosphere where she feels loved and supported, birth can be, not just a beautiful and magical event, but that it also has the power to heal.
Below, a poem she wrote about the experience of giving birth with Robin at Bumi Sehat.
Conversation in a birthing bath with Ibu Robin
Written by Robyn Yudana Wellwood
I sat in a water birthing pool into the night
Flowers and oils floated on the water and a small torch light shone through the darkness
It was dark, it was dark, it was so dark
I could hear
I could hear everything for miles around me
I could hear the midwives talking in a low voice
Check the water temperature
It’s too warm
It should be 38 degrees only.
I can hear the frogs outside singing in unison with my breathing
My son giving me wise words and counting in my breathing
My husband holding my hand
While I crush his fingers until they turn purple and almost break
He can feel
And then I tell him to multiply it by 10
And he’ll know how painful birth is.
I am centered
Connected to the universe around me.
You come in
Cool down the water pretty much straight away
Turn to me and we start musing between labour pain.
“Make as much noise as you like,” you say.
“I’m sure your neighbors love you,” I answer.
“Yeah, we used to have the neighbor throw stones on the roof during birthing but he did it to one of the Cok dads in here and got told off, so he never did it again.”
You smile at the memory
I want to giggle so I do
I want to yell a little bit while the pain kicks in so I do.
And then I’m overwhelmed by everything.
I just need time by myself.
“Can I have a little bit of time by myself?
You know, to have a pee?” I ask.
“Sure. It’s totally up to you what you want,” you turn to the midwives and everyone leaves
I simply cannot believe how easy it is to ask
I can’t believe I’m the master of my own birth
I can’t believe I’m alone
On an island called Bali.
I kind of smile to myself.
“What the fuck?” I wonder to myself.
I have a pee.
Then faster labour convulsions kick in.
“You OK in there?” you are calling.
Slowly you come in the door.
Suddenly the pain is so intense I think I’m going to actually rise up and scrape the ceiling with my head.
I just need that water –
Both calming and anaesthetizing at the same time
I scramble for the water
It’s probably not the most elegant sight and thank God nobody else is there to see it
But we kind of laugh
About the amazing quality of water
How on earth
I ever got through my first birth
Time to call in the troops. The baby is close.
My 10 year old son counts me in
“Breathe mum, hold for 3 and breathe out.”
He’s like a rock.
He steps into big shoes as he counts me through.
I look at him
Right at him
And I know he’s becoming a beautiful man
With a wisdom beyond his years.
He looks right back at me
And keeps counting in
“Fully dilated, don’t push too hard,” you say.
Actually, I’d quite like to stop.
I want to stop now.
This is too much
I really can’t do this
I ask if I can change my mind
I’m hoping that it’s going to be as easy as asking everyone to leave the room
What was I thinking?
Did I really think I could do this at 40?
How truly ridiculous is this?
What was I thinking…
I start up and you laugh gently
A low, fun laugh
Like you know that I know
It’s all kind of taking the piss out of the situation to try to deal with pain
Not just breaking your arm pain
Or smacking out a tooth pain
Really, really cut and twist in multiple, salted wounds pain and then pouring vinegar in there too and jabbing 20 more times as hard as is humanly possible.
“You’re actually there already. Just one final push…”
You gently laugh again.
“But actually I can’t.
I just can’t.
Look at me?
Look at the size of my vagina in comparison to the baby’s head
I’m sorry but it’s just not possible.”
Another skin tearing push comes and I yell again.
“Yeah well, millions of millions of women are with you on this one over millions of years,” you point out.
“I’m sorry I just give in,
You are laughing now, “You would be surprised how many women say the same thing
But I’m telling you,
I can see the crown of your baby’s head.
One more push.”
So then you offer to speed it up
By pulling back some unpronounceable flap of skin that lives down there.
As you do this it’s so painful it’s like,
It’s actually like having my tongue pulled out of my mouth as hard as possible
And nailing it to the table
And we all stop that one
And just before dawn my daughter starts to arrive.
Every doula, every midwife starts a Balinese prayer
Chanting in unison
My son and husband chant too
The energy in the room jumps ten fold
I am honoured
Like I have never
In my life been honoured.
As I give the last
We are honoured.
My memories of pain
They float and evaporate into dust
My daughter arrives
In a double flip and is pulled up onto my chest.
She latches on and I feel such a highly elated sense of success
That can’t be measured in any bounded sense of success
I feel a goddess form of success
I feel honoured by the humanity that lies in gentle births
I feel deeply healed and changed in every way
My unforgiving world
That hard, brittle anger that the world is a horrible place for women
Floats and evaporates into dust
Because I was honoured through birth as a woman.
Thank you deeply for your patience, deep love and wonderful sense of humour Robin.