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Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, GP/Family Physician, Queensland, Australia
Author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: The wisdom and science of gentle choices in pregnancy, birth and parenting
It is hard to believe how quickly the 8 days at Eat Pray Doula went together. There were still more topics I wish I could have covered and wishing there was time to spend with each woman/doula to learn more about them. We shared many special moments together - gathered on our platform by the rice field, nestled in between the organic gardens, greeting each day with Gabby, our yoga teacher, to many stories and lessons shared by all. I savored each last image as we take our group photo and break to prepare for our dinner celebration. In this blog I want to share with you some of the special moments from Bali and the Eat Pray Doula workshop. Here they are....
Here they are....
EVENING WALK with my new doula sisters at Sari Organic:
I will always remember when we returned from the baby naming and quickly many of the doulas and I changed and went out to find taxi to take us to Sari Organic so we could enjoy the walk thru the rice fields before sunset. We walked through the rice fields on a narrow path, the view was like a movie set. I am walking in a rice field in Bali, Indonesia, in Asia. Something I could not have every imagined I would have the opportunity to experience. The hot humid air brought sweat, that I have come to welcome and enjoy - a natural cleanse. The late afternoon breeze blew, providing a gentle break, refreshing all my senses. The greens of the rice fields blowing in the breeze, glistened. The rich vibrant color, the bluest sky, white soft clouds, palm trees scattered amongst the lush vegetation, I could feel the energy of the earth in a way that life in my town does not provide. I wondered what it would be like to live like this every day. To live with a connection and reverence to nature, heaven, and earth. In gratitude, celebration and rituals that frame life and its mysteries and transitions with honor and dignity. I looked up to follow the path of my new doula sisters.
Coming from distant lands, my new doula sisters and I have come together for our first annual Eat Pray Doula Bali workshop - we felt like long time friends. Sharing a moment in time that will always be treasured. I hope our connection continues as I can feel the many dreams and visions they are waiting to fulfill. We arrived at Sari Organic in a mystical setting as the sun was beginning to sink behind the clouds on the horizon creating a waterfall of colors, reds, pinks, oranges and blue, no camera could catch the magic of the moment, but my memory will hold this image forever. After dinner walked through the rice fields on our narrow path with the light of fireflies, like fairies shining their magic on our path. The stars sparkled above and soon my eyes adjusted to the darkness and found my footing. As we emerged to the street with the Eat Pray Doulas - there was our driver, Congtit's, warm smile, waiting for us with his van.
MELASTI CEREMONY: The Melasti ceremony is where the statues of the gods and goddesses are carried to the sea in a colorful procession to be cleansed and blessed with the holy water.
CONGTIT shares his incense that we use to cleanse or, as we do in Native american, smudge. Next we hold flowers in our hands, putting our hands to prayer position and lifting our flower offerings to our third eye, our forehead, praying, and placing the flowers in our hair, again and again, we repeat this. I can sense each time we are praying for something slightly deeper or different, but I don't need to know, I trust my prayers are the right ones. Next the high priest comes with water to bless us - tossing drops on my already wet and muddy body. I follow Congtit’s example, and place my hands in a cup, right over left, we are given water to drink, several times sipping. Last we take our water and place it on our heads, I feel completely cleansed, the sun has risen over the sea. I watch the waves roll in, the rain has stopped, but the clouds block the sun. The sound of the waves, the gamalon plays, the sounds of Bali fill my ears and I breath in the magic of the village of Nyuh Kuning and all the other villages that are joining and will follow us in this ritual of prayer and cleansing. We walk to our van and drive back in procession, arriving back to Nyuh Kuning by 9 am. Many others are just waking as I walk into Swasti I feel like I have taken a trip back in time. I am filled with gratitude that Congtit invited me to be a part of this sacred blessings.
NYEPI BIRTH: March 23 Selamat hari raya Nyepi!
(mother's name has been changed)
It was the early morning of Nyepi, the Balinese new year, a day filled with prayers and silence.
“Hi are you up?
Leila is in good labor @ my house.
Want to film her birth? are you up for it?
Best you come to my home before sunrise.
Yes, a little sad, as this is the one day her husband
can not fly to Bali to join her :(
She will labor quietly at my home and we will see what happens.”
So on a sacred day when everyone is meant to be inside and quiet - I was outside in the early morning of Nyepi, with only a chorus of frogs, gecko lizards and birds beginning to call to the new day. I could not use my flash light as I do not want to disturb the spirits, so I take each step softly, remembering the way, praying for protection and that Leila’s birth is as gentle as she is.
I arrived at Ibu Robin's to find Mala in the kitchen making Leila some breakfast. Today I am in the role of the filmmaker and am honored that Leila welcomes my camera. Leila is grateful to talk to the camera since her husband is away and can not travel on Nyepi. Now she hopes to create a memory she can share with him in the future, honoring his presence with her. Nalanti, a naturopath who is living in Robin's guest house joins us. Robin wakes and joins us and the circle of women forms.
We had a busy day with a different beautiful, gentle waterbirth at Bumi Sehat and by late afternoon returned to Leila. We quietly moving through the streets, where we are met by a guard - the guard sees it is Ibu Robin and knows why she is out on this day, so he escorts us.
We return to find Leila’s labor is strong. Chrissy joined our circle as another doula. Raina and the other bidens (midwives) joined in. They were setting up Skype to try to reach Leila’s husband so he could join the circle. They were able to reach his cell and hearing his voice she lit up. Soon the tub was filling and the flowers that had been gathered on our walk down were scattered in the water. Leila entered, as the circle of women surrounded her. Moving with her sensations and resting in between, she was aglow. The female energy was so strong and yet her husbands presence was with us all. In the quiet of the later afternoon, baby was born. Immediately Raina called Leila's husband and placed the phone near mother and baby. He began to sing. My eyes filled with tears. He was in Java, an island away, but singing to his wife and daughter - joining them with sacred Muslim song as we celebrated this Hindu New Year. All the traditions merging to a sacred birth and beginning for their baby.
After some issues with the placenta, soon MotherBaby were nested in bed together breastfeeding, the placenta still attached for a lotus birth covered in the remaining flowers. We were ready to return to Robin’s to see what the rest of Nyepi had in store for us. It was dark and with some cloud in the sky, there was not much light, so Robin and I held hands, walking with gentle steps in the dark quiet village of Nyuh Kuning. I savored each step, this moments forever preserved in my memory. Two beautiful water births, the stillness of Nyepi, holding Robin, a true hero's hand and without words, feeling the sacredness of this day in so many ways.
SCOOTER RIDE with KATHERINE: Another amazing memory was with Katherine... I was going to go with Congtit to see the silver jewelry again to purchase Harmony Balls when Katherine invited me to go out for a scooter ride and dinner. I could not pass the chance to ride with her. To continue our bond, that started years ago when she attended one of my doula workshops. I could not have imagined our connection now in Bali to Ibu Robin, Bumi Sehat (that she now chairs the board of) and more recently our the realization of our Eat Pray Doula workshop. Our hair was flying behind us, sweat dripping down as I held the curves of her hips, watching the rice fields drift away to the traffic of Ubud. Scooters vying for their position amongst the cars and taxis. Yet, I felt relaxed at peace. Both of us in our 50s, savoring the moment and how life has brought us together.
EAT PRAY DOULA CLOSING NIGHT: Our Eat Pray Doula celebration dinner and Balinese traditional dance was amazing. The little girls, the first group 10 and 11 years old and the second group 9 years old, danced with perfection. Each eye movement, step, hand movement completely together, with intent. Their eyes and face made up like goddesses making them look so much older than their age. The Balinese dance tells a story and these young girls did it with every part of their body. Sharing their tradition, stories and what I can’t even imagine is hours and hours of practice and pride to create such beautiful dances.
I grabbed Robin’s hand to dance and we reached for Katherine. Our vision had happened, our hard work was over, it was a celebration dance, the three of us, moving, holding hands, connected sisters, twirling and spinning the circle changing but always connected. Such a great ending and symbol of our connection and unique roles, each essential to bring forward such a deep passionate doula workshop. Before long, the doulas began to join us, our eyes connected, the oxytocin flowing, our love felt in all our being. Soon the entire staff came out to be introduced and then to dance for us and with us. The doulas were great... Dionne showed them a few steps and Anita, Kim, and others joined in sharing our gratitude for all their hard work and nurturing us all week long. Each staff felt like we were leaving good friends as they had worked hard to learn our names and offer us their warmth and hospitality. Swasti Eco Cottages will always have a very special place in my heart.
I share my prayers from Nyepi, prayers of gratitude for the day of Nyepi, for the two new babes and their families. My prayers for the new year, for cleansing and peace for Bali, the world and all my family, friends and our growing global doula community.
Debra Pascali Bonaro is the director of Orgasmic Birth and co-author of the book Orgasmic Birth, Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying and Pleasurable Birth Experience. Debra helps birth pros and new families all over the world learn about the details of gentle birth. Visit www.debrapascalibonaro.com to join in a webinar, attend a destination workshop and learn more about natural childbirth.