Debra in Bulgaria and Bali
March 19, 2011
I had a very special time in Sophia, Bulgaria! My hostess was Daniel, an amazing women who is working on many levels to create global awareness about ecology, human connectedness, and, more recently, about the importance of birth in our lives. We only had two dinners together as she was sick and staying at her other home. Despite the brief time together, I could feel the energy she brings to all.
The purpose of the visit was to present the first DONA international birth doula workshop. The doulas were a large group: 31 amazing women and 1 man, many babies and toddlers. The setting for our work together was Rossi’s prenatal yoga studio–a warm and welcoming space. Of the 31 women, 6 are nurse midwives. Many of the others are women who have had an unassisted free birth in the last two years and are now helping, attending and supporting each other. I tried to clarify the different roles of midwife and doula. Since many of them are reading and taking workshops with more traditional midwives, My hope is that in the near future they will find a way to honor their role as midwife (with woman) openly and legally.
The nurse midwives, while very open to doulas, are in a similar legal bind: they do not feel able to attend women birthing at home. The workshop was a heart-opening experience for all of us. May this experience help them to find the ways to introduce the doula in bulgaria and in time safe midwife-supported home birth.
One night, Liuba, a young mother, offered to take me to walk and see downtown Sophia. What a special night. The hard rain of the afternoon cleared just in time for our outing. As we began our walk, Liuba pointed out a large, othrodox church, but we ended up first in a smaller, quaint church. As we entered we heard monks chanting and learned it was a special service for the blessed mother. So appropriate for us to have been guided to this sacred ceremony.
Our walk then took us to many other houses of worship: synagogue, mosque and finally, the large orthodox cathedral, which was beautiful, but laked the warmth, charm, and magic of the chanting and candles of the service in the smaller church. We had dinner in a traditional Bulgarian restaurant with traditional music. It was a fun evening and the only one where i really was able to see the city, so I am thankful that Liuba took the time to share her country and traditions with me.
The day after the workshop, Elena and Diana took me to visit some of the hospitals. The first one was a public hospital. When we arrived at the first hospital, a public facility, we waited in the hall for our host doctor to complete his work. I watch as three women, who didn’t even appear to be in labor were admitted. They entered all alone, apparently to be shaved, given an enema and their clothes placed in a bag and returned to their families. They labor and birth all alone in a labor ward with many women in one room and then wheeled to a delivery room when ready to give birth. Soon a new mother who had just given birth appeared in the busy, drab hallway. Her husband quickly and emotionally joined her. He had been waiting here in the hallway to see her. . She pulled out her cell phone and showed him their baby, his first glimpse of his child on her cell phone. In the hustle and bustle of the hall, he cried. For the two of them we didn’t exist. This was their first moment together as new parents. their first opportunity to share their joy. It happened in a very public hallway, as people came and went. I, too felt teary eyes– at the thought that she had labored all alone, that he could not go in and hold his baby in his arms and the three of t hem could not share these special sensitive moments together. I felt outrage: how can a facility justify these procedures, disconnecting women, babies and families at this precious time?! It requires that they ignore all the scientific evidence for them to be able to subject women to procedures we now know are unnecessary and harmful.
The second hospital we visited in Bulgaria was a small private maternity hospital that was open to our message. They immediately embraced the idea of doulas as soon as we presented the role and the benefits. Already, their policy is that women can have all the support they want in labor. Hospital staff expressed that they are open to using water and upright birth. As I write, they are meeting to develop bulgarias first hospital doula program. Their director, a woman physician with quite a vision, is welcoming the change to a nurturing family centered way.
I wish the the people I met in Bulgaria could see some of what I am witnessing in Bali, especially the water birth tonight in the small birth center in Bali. It does not take lots of money, technology or space, despite what I hear when policy-makers and practitioners hold onto their old models and hide behind excuses. It costs so little to provide nurturing, heart and hands that make the biggest change in humanizing birth and welcoming each new life into love and peace.
Tonight, after arriving in Bali to Bumi Sehat birth center A young first time mother arrived at the birth center around 6 pm for what she thought was a routine check and found to be in labor. She is greeted by her midwife and several midwifery students. She is 1 cm so her husband goes to get some things. Her surges are every 3 minutes. Two hours later, Robin and I are called as things are moving quickly. I hold the young mother’s hand and begin hoku an acupressure point that often eases the discomforts of labor. She held tight to my hand. Although we didn’t share a common language, our hearts connected. I could feel her fear and knew that she would feel the amazing circle of women that had gathered and trust that all was ok. Soon she was fully dilated and the tub was prepared for her. Beautiful flowers were gathered to put into the tub. Their sweet aroma filled the early evening air. I poured water over her belly as Ibu Robin Lim guided her with her words. Her husband arrived just as she began to push to offer his comfort and encouragement. His smile glowed with excitement that he would soon meet his baby. No words, just gentle glances, touch, and a roomful of wise women who trust birth and the miracles that it holds for all. Soon she pushed and as the head neared she was encouraged to squat. Out slid a beautiful baby girl into the water, wide eyed and alert . This new creature was greeted by her father and the midwives singing their traditional song of greeting. Flowers, songs, warmth, and love surrounded both the baby and her parents.
So different, my first two births on this trip: In each case the women trusted that the midwives would care for them, but the care received and the stories these families will carry forward into their lives together, could not be more different. As people all over the planet are waking up to the possibilities of birth… women and men and babies deserve an experience that supports, nurtures and protects their memory of birth and provides them with the nurturing and trust so they can face the challenges of childbirth and find within their strengths that will aid them on the transformative journey into parenthood
I feel blessed to have shared these sacred moments on two different continents this week,