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Catching Up With Robin

August 7, 2012

Nestled in a sleepy neighborhood in Ubud, Bali is Bumi Sehat, a clinic dedicated to gentle birth practices and to providing healthcare, free of charge, to families in need. Founded by American Midwife, Robin Lim, Bumi Sehat, is proving that when it comes to childbirth, often ancient methods, combined with love and respect trump technology.

Robin emanates an energy and enthusiasm that is inescapably contagious. I had the pleasure of catching up with her on my latest trip to Bali to find out just what this hero is up to now.

Congratulations on being named CNN’s Hero for 2011.  How has winning impacted you/the work you are doing (i.e. what has become easier? Has any aspect gotten harder?)?

hummmm…. still in shock. Did that really happen? How ~ considering most of Bumi Sehat’s patients do not have computers, so they could not vote on the CNN website. I feel it proved that the world cares about healthcare as a human right. We Occupied healthcare and we occupied LOVE for an audience of over 16 million people that night. It gives me hope that “Every Mother (really does) Count” as does every baby, every family.

The waiting area at Bumi Sehat.

What’s Easier… At long last I feel the Midwifery to Mother model of care has become better known. Gentle birth is more accepted now, worldwide.  I am busier than ever, today I had a group of 63 midwives arrive for a 1/2 day Gentle Childbirth Seminar at Bumi Sehat, Bali. They took a bus from Semarang, Java. This was the second such group, since last week, when I broke my foot.  I know I am supposed to stay off of the foot, but these young midwives are so eager to learn all about gentle birth… they wish to learn how protecting brand new infants from trauma is peace building, one baby at a time. I love their open hearts, eager minds, and their hands hold the future generation in kindness and safely. I’m supposed to inspire them, but they inspire me! Ten days ago I was in Jakarta, and did a Gentle Childbirth seminar for 1,500 Indonesian midwifery students, and their teachers. Last month I was honored to speak 900 Midwives at the Philippine League of Midwives and 600 nurses.

Even with all the speaking engagements, I still just love the quiet time, spent rubbing a mom’s back in labor.  I love kneeling beside her, as she brings her baby earth side. My daughter-in-love had our 3 grandchild last month, miracles, miracles, each arrival.

Fundraising is a bit easier, but I do need to get our new clinic built, and the $300.000 from CNN is not enough, plus I must keep operational funds flowing. Some people think; “Well she won the hero thing, so Bumi Sehat is set up financially.” I wish it were so. My day to day fundraising efforts continue. Patient care is growing… people need healthcare… and though Bumi Sehat provides it for free, someone has to pay for it. In this case the donors. And, our educational programs are growing, we just published a new book in Bahasa Indonesia, which we are giving away (5,000 copies), “IbuAlami” (Natural Mother).

I keep fantasizing about a quieter life, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

People probably assume that building a new clinic in Bali would be easy.  Anyone who has lived in Indonesia knows better.  What are your challenges, and what can people do to help today?

Robin Lim with a few friends.

You are so right when you speak of building in Indonesia (or anywhere) being a challenge. A clinic this size must be earthquake resistant. There are the Dept. of Health regulations to meet. Our patient care is so increased, it will need to be much bigger that the present clinic. The midwives, the doctors, the nurses, the educators, the administration team, all need space to do their work, plus we want it to be solar powered, like our clinic in Aceh. So the new clinic is a design challenge. I have faith that the vision will take shape; it must quite soon, as our lease in the current clinic is finished in 3 years.

Your poetry book The Geometry of Splitting Souls, was a poignant read.  Any plans for another?  How do you find time to write with everything else going on?

A New Mom at Bumi Sehat

At the moment the Genie of poetry is not speaking to me. I have just completed a new book: “The Natural Family Planning Workbook… a Lifestyle of nonviolence”. Earlier this year I wrote: “Eat Pray Doula” which will be released on-line very soon.  I am rewriting “After the Baby’s Birth” for a Filipino edition. I am also making an English version of “Natural Mother” to be released in Tagalog next year (It was already released in Bahasa Indonesia). More of my childbirth books will be coming out in Italian soon. So you can see why the poetry Genie is leaving me alone. I miss writing poetry, but it is something that comes or it does not.  I am most excited about a book I am finishing now, it’s fiction, based on the real-life stories of women, called; “Bali… a Cage in Paradise.” I am always happy to stop writing and run off to the clinic, day or night, and help the midwives receive a baby into the world.

The Prenatal Check-up Room at Bumi Sehat

What don’t people understand about the work you do and the challenges you face?

I don’t feel nearly as misunderstood or lonely in this work as I used to.  The fact that doing a very grassroots, Maternal and Child health project, that tries to be as natural and culturally appropriate as possible, means getting passed over for the Gates Foundation Grants, is frustrating. The big players in the funding world want to find high technology. Childbirth is ancient, and I like it that way. Sure, technology can save lives, but when not needed it interferes with the authenticity that is an essential part of becoming a mother.  The USA is now #50 in maternal mortality, meaning it is safer to give birth in 49 other countries that spend less than the USA on Childbirth technology. This is shameful. It also points to the fact that technology alone cannot make motherhood safer. Technology must be married to good old fashioned wisdom. This is where the midwives come in. I feel that the challenge of helping people understand this is getting easier now.  However, two nights ago a young Balinese woman was frightened into having her baby by cesarean. The OBGYN I work with and our midwives felt there was no reading at all for this young woman to suffer surgery, and her family is still trying to pay for it. The doctor she was seeing simply lied; he told her blood pressure of 113/74 was dangerously high. We knew that was not the truth, but she did not believe us. Her doctor also pointed out that her baby was a boy, and because there is so much pressure to produce a male child in Balinese culture, her husband’s family all pressured her to have a cesarean, so as not to take chances on losing a male child. Natural childbirth is considered dangerous, at least those in medicine who stand to make more money, and faster, by doing cesareans make it seem so. It just hurts my heart when women are driven by fear and lies into surgery. Hurts even more when medical institutions sabotage breastfeeding.

In those moments when things seem overwhelming, what moves you forward and keeps you motivated?

Robin Lim & her new grandson

My family, they are just amazing. Our 19 year old youngest son just qualified as an EMT, and passed his National Exams in the USA, so that he can help with our free ambulance and emergency medical services at Bumi Sehat. All of my children and my husband are supportive and amazing. The Bumi Sehat team in Bali and in Aceh are just the most devoted people to work with. Sometimes when we have 5 women in labor, and we are so tired, and it’s 3 a.m., we midwives burst out laughing and hugging, because we are working with our best friends. Bumi Sehat is just magical that way.

One night, not so long ago, Ibu Rusmini was having her 2nd baby, and two other moms were also about to give birth. Rusmini’s Baby’s heart rate dropped, to below 40 beats per minute (normal is 120 to 160). Rusmini was pushing, we were giving her oxygen and changing her position to side-lying, to try to help relieve the stress on the baby, but nothing was working, we feared the baby would be stillborn. Then, Ibu Maria, our midwife from TimorLeste, remembered our secret… she said, “Wait a minute… I LOVE YOU!” to Rusmini. The mother pushing as heard as she could, smiled, and said to all of us, “I LOVE YOU!” All the midwives and the young father said, “I LOVE YOU!” We checked the baby’s heart rate; it was 120BPM, right back up to normal!  This baby boy was born with a cleft palate and harelip. But his parents were so full of gratitude that he made it. He will have free surgery withYayasan Senyum, as soon as he is 5 kilos. He’s growing and he’s strong, and Baby Kadek is alive, because of the power of LOVE. And, that’s how we do birth at Bumi Sehat.

If people wish to help Bumi Sehat here’s how:

From inside of the United States you may send a check to:
Bumi Sehat Foundation International
25 Colby Street
Barre, VT  05641
For both International and Domestic wires you need our name, address (above) and Account #: 1321649980
 RBS Citizens N. A. (Citizens Bank)
1 Citizens Drive
Riverside, RI 02915
for International wires you need this Swift Code: CTZIUS33
For domestic wires:  ABA/Routing # 011500120
PT. Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) 
Branch: Denpasar KLN Ubud 
Address: Jl. Gajah Mada, No. 30, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia 
Account Name: Yayasan Bumi Sehat, Ds. PKR Nyuh Kuning 
IDR Account # 117 765 425
Swift code: BNINI DJADPS 
Yayasan Bumi Sehat 
Nyuh Kuning Village  
PO Box 116, Ubud, Bali 80571 Indonesia 
Phone:  +62 361 970 002 
Fax: +62 361 972 969 
6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2012 11:35 am

    What an extra-ordinary and remarkable woman. Thank you for sharing. Lottie

    • August 15, 2012 1:29 am

      It’s always a pleasure to write about Robin : ) Thanks so much! ~Melany.

  2. August 7, 2012 12:19 pm

    It was my honor to be able to stand in the shadows while this story was being developed. Robin’s devotion and focus to her vision are mesmerizing. Being around her is like stepping into smoke, her energy surrounds you, you breathe it, you feel it, you can see can overwhelm the observer. However, without someone to guide you through that energy, channel it into words and stunning photos it would be just another amazing story sadly lost from the world. Melany took the smoke, gently captured its essence and guided it on to broader horizons.

    • August 15, 2012 1:30 am

      Thanks so much for your kind and lovely words! ~Melany.

  3. August 14, 2012 9:45 pm

    Hi – stumbled upon your blog. What a great find! Thank you for sharing this – I have lived in Indonesia for a while, and never knew Bumi Sehat existed. What a noble idea, and an even nobler person to make it happen.

    Enjoy reading about your Jakarta experiences! Keep it up.

    • August 15, 2012 1:33 am

      Thanks so much…next time you are in Bali, you should try and stop by Bumi Sehat. Robin is a remarkable woman (truly inspiring), and everyone who meets her instantly loves her. Thanks for reading!

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