The Pink Glow

Life has been so incredibly beautiful and crazy and scary and scary, crazy beautiful since arriving home from Bali. Kris commented yesterday that Bali feels like a dream now and I don’t disagree. Especially when looking back on pictures of the trip. My memories of a year ago, here in our cabin are clearer than my memories of Bali. This seems like a normal experience, but the part that is strange is how my work at the birth center has changed me. Since the whole experience seems dreamlike, how the knowledge I picked up there has become integrated into my midwifery thinking feels a bit like a vulcan mind meld. I suddenly find that there is information in there to guide my thinking! It has been a really beautiful and terrifying feeling to realize that I am starting to have opinions and thoughts about a woman’s care. I hope that I will always have the curiosity and humble heart of a beginner but though I’m FAR from being an expert or even “advanced”…I’m not a beginner any more. Maybe a better way to put it is that I’m no longer a beginning student, I’m an advanced student and creeping up on being a (very) beginning midwife. I have attended 76 births, 28 of those babes were born through my hands. That thought brings tears to my eyes. What an incredible honor this work is. Last week, I headed to a birth at 5am. It was the most incredible morning I think I’ve driven through. Both the Cascades and the Olympics lit up in the pink glow of the sunrise while my heart mirrored that glow from the love of my work.  A wonderful midwife I know recently described this feeling as a “sticky heart”. No other description has felt more accurate. And I know that my sticky heart that carries all these stories and memories is always glowing pink.

The engagement

It’s really quite amazing that my last post was one week ago. Feels like a lifetime ago! As you all know by now, Kris and I are getting married! So here’s the story you have patiently (and some not so patiently) asked for.

As we watched Shorty and Gunilla get into their car with our new buddy Bapak (father) Putu, to wisk them away to their fabulous 48 hrs of travelling, we hopped on the scooter and headed to Taco Casa. Which is our favorite (maybe only) Mexican restaurant in Bali. Just as we arrived a heavy rain started. Rain that we hadn’t seen except in the middle of the night for almost two weeks! It felt wonderful to sit watching the much awaited rain, eating much awaited tacos, reflecting on a really wonderful visit with his parents. We had done so much and truly enjoyed each others company and it also felt good to be back to just the two of us.

I turned to him and said something along the lines of, “I’ve been obsessing about this for a while and I just want to ask, because if the answer is yes, then I can stop thinking about it. Do you think that it would be crazy for us to get married this summer?” He looked up from his taco and said very easily and casually, “no.” And that was that. It felt very us, just a conversation. No grand gesture, just a question and an answer. And so we started talking, laughing and planning. And so we find ourselves engaged to be married September of this year!

What has two thumbs and is walking on clouds? This girl right here.

Out and About

We have just over 4 weeks until our return! And I have just over 2 weeks until my completion at the clinic and my start of 2 week vacation!!!! Kris’ parents have been here with us for the last 11 days and leave this evening to fly back to their home, kitty and awaiting trout stream. Again, part of me wishes I was pocket-sized and they could just bring me with and drop me out of the plane over my sweet cabin…but I know I still have work to do her. Both at the clinic and in my heart. We’ve had so many outings with Al “Shorty” and Gunilla, it’s been really awesome. Gunilla loves to read and so she picked up a travel book and ended up being a bit of a tour guide which was a lot of fun. Kris will likely post pictures later this week of all the escapades after he finishes uploading and editing. But the short version is: temples, beaches, volcanoes, monkeys, “cat” poo coffee plantation, massages, great food, Balinese dancing and relaxing around the pool time!  It has been really a wonderful visit!! It all culminated last night with a sunset seafood dinner on a beach in Jimbaran which is Southwest Bali.

I’ve kept my regular schedule at the clinic despite their visit and had 6 births this week! A few very interesting ones that maybe I’ll elaborate more on later. I feel like in the last two weeks I’ve finally got the Gayatri Mantra learned and have really enjoyed the meditation of it as I sit at the woman’s feet waiting for her baby to come forth. Singing at the time of birth really asks you to be present, but also soften yourself and give space. There is not room for being tense or nervous. Just patiently waiting and taking things in as they come. I’d like to somehow find a way to incorporate this into my practice at home…maybe not necessarily the Gayatri Mantra…but maybe singing of some sort if the parents are interested…

A good friend left today, Kate, who was here at the clinic as a student midwife as well. Though we only spent a month together, I very quickly realized that it was likely we’d be in each other’s lives for some time. She lives in Bangkok, but will be in Cali for a training this summer and we’re both hoping she and her two lovely girls will be able to make the trek to PT at some point. It just really makes me realize that timing is everything and I’m endlessly grateful I shared a month here with her. I learned so much from and alongside her and I will never forget that.

I’m struggling this week with not only missing home, but missing homebirth. I’m so grateful for EVERYTHING that I’m learning, seeing and experiencing…but I also really miss the “relationship”. I miss seeing the woman the whole 9 months and seeing that baby until it is 8 weeks old. Being able to ACTUALLY ask a woman how she is doing. I love what I’m learning despite and sometimes because of the language barrier…but I feel like I am not able to give these women the type of care that I’d like to and that is hard for me. I love and have deep respect for the midwives whose hearts are with women overseas…I think I’m a US midwife though. I think the community of women that I am drawn to help is right there on the Olympic Penninsula.

For those “midwifey” types…the new NARM application guidelines came out and have me hustling just a little. It looks like when I get home I’ll have 2 continuity catches, some initial prenatals, some nb exams and finishing up my skills checklist! The new rules make it so that if I want to not start ALL over again with my paperwork, I have to get all my clinical work for NARM done by Sept. 2012 and have my application in by January. Which lovely enough, was my personal goal anyway…this just lights the extra fire!!

I’ll add more details about the ‘rents visit and about births soon!

Cium-cium! (kisses)

Birth Story

I decided I wanted to share this birth story as a separate post and not in the previous one. This was one of the 2 births that happened on Nyepi here. (Read all about Nyepi and the VERY fun day before on Kris’ blog!) This mama, we’ll call her Kadek, had come from Java to have a water birth at the birth center. She had been staying with the woman that runs the birth center the last few weeks as she waiting for her sweet one’s arrival. He husband had been waiting with her but had to fly home for work for just a few days. Then…her water broke at 4:30am on Nyepi. A quick note about Nyepi…EVERYTHING shuts down. No one goes outside, uses electricity, cooks or is even supposed to talk for 24 hours. Everyone is held to this, including tourists, by people patroling. This means…the airport is closed for Nyepi too. So Kadek’s husband wasn’t going to be able to come until the next day.
She had been laboring at the house for her early labor as she was there with 2 other midwives and just resting and eating. By the time she headed in she was in good, hard, active labor. Soon she was in the tub and in the zone. Talking to her baby and telling her how ready she was for her to come and how much she loved her. Since the women that had been with Kadek at the house had come to the birth center with her and there were 3 midwives on, not including myself, she was surrounded by a circle of 10 women. All ten, holding space and sending love. We got her husband on the phone during her labor a bit before she was complete to make sure he knew to be near the phone and they exchanged words of love, devotion and excitement. Kadek was so present, she would look up and make eye contact with each and every woman in the room during contractions, surveying her net of safety and love. When the baby started to come we called the husband back and he waited. When his girl was born, we put the phone up to her ear and he gave her the Muslim welcoming prayer. Her eyes opened and she looked around for the face to match the voice she knew so well. It was really beautiful to see the connection of this new family, that not even this distance could interrupt.

Adventuress…?

Oops…kind of got behind! I’ve been writing this blog entry in my head for weeks, and I just keep adding to it! We’ve been in Bali 4.5 weeks and I’ve been at the clinic for 4 weeks. I’ve been to 16 births and 11 of those Bali babes were born into my hands. What an honor!! I’m so in love with each of these families that I’m able to share this amazing time with. That is certainly something that a different language/culture does NOT take away.  Monday was the craziest day to date, with 4 births between 5pm and 4:30am. I’m definitely still recovering and trying to find the balance between working, enjoying Bali and resting. I’m coming to realize that working 72 hours a week really takes it out of a person.

Monday was also a day of a HUGE first for me. I’ve started suturing!!! Of those 4 births, I sutured up 3 of the mamas! It felt so intimidating and terrifying at first, but I definitely feel like I’m going to get the experience here to help me normalize it and feel much more confident as I go on in my practice.

The other big first for me this week was a FUN ONE. I went snorkeling for the first time!! Sunday we went back to the beach that we had gone to a few weeks previous and our housemates brought their snorkeling gear. They said sometimes there are no fish at all, but it’s still beautiful. This day was NOT like that. I saw THOUSANDS of amazingly patterned and colored tropical fish. From small to big, pink to blue to yellow. The beauty of the natural world was truly taking my breath away. It made me think of  a line of an Ani DiFranco song, “Let the divinity of nature speak”. I also saw a small black tipped shark and swam with 2 big turtles. Even after all the aquariums I’ve been to and watching the full series of both Planet Earth and Blue Planet…I was not prepared for what it’s like to see all this in person. I was beaming for days.

I also had my first big bout of homesickness. Of course it hit me when I was extra hormonal, but it still really took me by surprise. I don’t know why I thought I wouldn’t get homesick. We’re gone for a long time and we’re REALLY far from home…and I REALLY LOVE my home. In the end the thing I struggled with most was how I felt about being homesick. It made me feel weak, young, silly and unadventuress (spelling intentional). I want to be a brave crazy adventuress that is interested in traveling the world, experiencing dozens of other cultures and brings back that knowledge to share. So what if I just like home? What if I love living close to the land, MY land (even if not by ownership), among my community. Does this make me boring? Does this mean I won’t grow and learn from the world around me? It took a wonderful breakfast conversation with my truly amazing partner to realize that no, it doesn’t mean any of those things. It means that my kind of adventure is just different. My kind of adventure is planting seeds in the garden and watching them grow, investing in lifelong friendships with people I love and respect, exploring the lake near our house, or our moutain range, or kayaking out in the sound…or um…I don’t know BEING A MIDWIFE! I couldn’t be more grateful to be with someone that gets me well enough to help me find myself again when I’ve strayed a bit.

Today is my mama’s 60th birthday and when I caught a little sweetie yesterday (her bday here)…my heart was with her, wondering what it was like when she slid Earthside. Happy 60th birthday mama. May your year be full of joy, love and inspiration!

“It’s not about catching babies”…and then…sometimes…it is TOTALLY about catching babies!

Alright alright…I haven’t written in over a week! I had some processing to do. AND I got sick last weekend. BUT now I have oodles to share. I’m going to break this post up into 3 chapters.

Chapter 1-The heart of birth work

Last thursday at the clinic was an incredibly impactful day for me. There were many things I expected that I would learn while in Bali. But I did not expect to have the opportunity to exercise what I had learned about the power of walking with a woman as she navigates mountains of emotional and psychological roadblocks in prelabor. This is something that I feel like I watched Carol do time and time again, but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to stretch my own legs in that walk. Thursday blew me away. Frankly, Thursday I blew myself away. A mama came in with concerns over fetal movement at 39.5 weeks, we’ll call her Ayu common Indonesian name, but not infact her name for privacy purposes). Her baby’s HR was hanging out in the 110’s which did mean there was a bit of cause for concern as you want it to be between 120-160. When I heard a little about her history, something triggered. In my heart I really felt this baby was ok, she was just going through some hormonal turmoil due to her mother’s emotional state. Ayu was G4P1 (pregnant 4 times including this one with one living child) with a history of newborn loss due to Edwards syndrome and a miscarriage.  The former of which she admitted not talking about in over 2 years since neither her mother or husband were willing to touch the subject. It was also clear she suffered from emotional abuse from her mother and piles of guilt over the loss of her children and some decisions she had made regarding her living daughter. So I held her hand as she opened up to me. I encouraged her to be feeling all she was feeling. I somehow deep down found the right thing to say time and time again to open a new door to Ayu’s feeling and healing processes. After hours of this work,she dried her tears looked at me and said, “I’m going to be ok, this baby is ok, I’m ready”. She then ate some lunch. Baby’s HR never dropped below 126 and was bouncing around in the 130’s and 140’s from then on. Since she wasn’t really in labor, I gave her a moxibustion treatment to help send her into good hard labor or send her into sleep. The later occurred. Throughout the rest of the day and evening I would pop in and out and visit with her. Still dilegently listening to heart tones every 20-30 minutes to be safe. Ayu slept through the night and with her baby still sounding great in the morning, she was sent home until labor truly started. Later that day was when I got sick, but I didn’t stop thinking about her. When feeling better 2 days later and eating dinner at a local Warung, Kris mentioned to an ex-pat that always seems to be there hanging out I was working at the clinic. This man then told a quick story about how he just passed an Asian man with a young girl (Ayu’s husband was Japanese), and when he asked how his daughter was the man responded…I just had another little girl too! I knew immediately, paid our tab and ran to the birth center. There she was, lying in bed with her beautiful new baby girl. Apparently the labor had been a piece of cake. I stayed about 10 minutes, never wanting to leave, but knowing that this mama/baby space was sacred. This baby girl was/is a healthy, alert, quiet, peaceful little being. Ayu and I exchanged many meaningful words in these 10 minutes. And I know with certainty that Thursday will be with both of us for the rest of our lives. Though I missed the moment that she actually came into this world, this is the most important birth work I’ve ever done.

Chapter 2- Illness in Bali

Last week I was given the opportunity to grow as a person as I explored the balance between anxiety/fear and intuition/listening to what my body is telling me. I felt fine all day Friday though into the evening I started feeling a bit lethargic. Lethergy is NOT uncommon for us here since it’s so freakin’ hot and we keep ourselves pretty darn busy, so I just kind of pushed through since we were headed to dinner. Though I had briefly meantioned to Kris, I feel a bit weird it came as a shock to him when as soon as we sat down for dinner I said, “I need to go home, I’m not ok”. We had just ordered so he stayed and got our food to go and I quickly walked home and passed out on the bed. I was overcome with what felt like a pretty high fever and complete exhaustion. As the night progressed the fever stayed hot in my core, but my limbs started to get really cold, clamy and numb. The numbness REALLY freaked me out. Pins and needles up and down both arms and legs was strange. I lay in bed wondering if something was seriously wrong with me. Many of you know that I did a decent amount of worrying a few weeks before leaving about getting sick here. Unknown, unfamiliar disease was definitely exactly what I was afraid of. (That’s right, definitely exactly) Kris was amazing. Making me tea, cooking me food and telling me it was going to be ok. The next day I woke up feeling better and thinking that maybe I would work my shift at the clinic after all…an hour after being up my body quickly told me that was a terrible idea and I was back down for the day. My volunteer coordinator had asked around a bit and called to say that maybe I should get a blood test since my symptoms sounded pretty spot on for Dengue. We quickly got ready and headed to the prodia (the lab). Closed. Not to re-open until Monday (It was Saturday afternoon). Well that was that. I was going to grow sicker and die of a tropical illness before it would even be diagnosed in 2 days time. Sunday I woke up feeling…could it be…kinda fine. Took it really easy all day. Continued to feel fine. And that’s pretty much where the “I got sick in Bali” story ends…pretty anti-climactic huh?

Chapter 3- Balinese Baby Catching

I hadn’t had a birth in over a week and was feeling a bit…hmmm…empty handed? (funny or no…you tell me) Well…last night my hands were filled up again. With real, honest to god BABY CATCHING! It’s true, I have caught 1 baby before almost a year ago now, and boy do I love that sweet thing. BUT as that was a waterbirth that mama really did the majority of the catching and I just did some cord unraveling and brought passed her her baby through her legs in the water so she could pull her up. The head volunteer coordinator for the clinic has been in Bali this month for a doula workshop and has been doing preceptor work with me when available which has been really awesome. Case studies and clinical questioning to get the gears turning. She was planning on being with me through the night and we happened to have TWO mama’s in labor! The first was a sweet first time mama who spoke enough English to make supporting her much easier. She was really amazing. So intuitive. Such a hard worker. So ready to meet her baby and do the work that it would take to make that happen. Never complained. Never tensed up. When it came time for pushing Katherine invited me to sit next to her on the bed to prepare for catching the baby. She provided perineal support and I encouraged flexion of the head to protect the mothers tissues up top. (sorry for all who don’t want to hear this part…birth work talk!). I checked for a cord, there was one, but loose and held the being and mama delivered her baby boy forth. Up to the mama’s chest went he with eyes wide open to the new world. I then waited, watched her bleeding, and when it came time delivered her placenta. Katherine also asked me to draw up and administer the injection for suturing her tear. I was soaring and grounded all at the same time. But wait…there’s MORE! There was still another mama in labor who was almost complete and getting ready for pushing. She had been struggling emotionally during her labor and I suggested we give her a homeopathic remedy to get her over this last hurdle and made a suggestion to her doula (my friend Harmony) to help bring her energy back down and make it more effective. Her energy changed and it was clear she was back with us getting ready to do the job at hand. I stood back to continue to give my support and encouragement and helpful hands if needed one of the bidans asked me if I wanted to catch…YA PASTI! So I gloved up and took my place for this baby’s main entrance! After this babies head was born, there was clearly a tight cord, so as we wait for the next contraction Katherine reminded me to “somersault” this baby out. And out he came, up to his mama’s waiting arms. I kept an eye on her bleeding and waited for the placenta to separate. When mama got her first contraction sakit (pain) to deliver the placenta she pushed like wonderwoman and let’s just say that I”m glad I didn’t have my mouth open…because I got BATHED in blood. The bidan’s of course thought this and the look on my very surprised face was HI.larious! No time to be surpised, time to help this mama deliver her placenta. Though there were some trailing membranes, I felt grounded and slowly “teased” them out. Mama happy healthy stable, baby happy healthy stable…Maya in the shower with lots of soap and clean clothes waiting.

I cannot truly describe to you all how I feel today. After all that transpired over the last 7 days. For now, let’s just say…sigh…I love this work. I am changed.

Adventures

I’m sorry if this post is all over the place…I’m writing a second one because I feel as though I have SO much to say about our experience so far…but admittedly haven’t gotten any sleep.

We got a scooter. Our original plan was to get bicycles to avoid risking out lives on a daily basis…but…frankly…they’re just as dangerous if not more so. See more on scooter driving on Kris’ blog. We waited about a week to get one so that we could get acclimated at bit and get used to looking right before left. During this time we walked into Ubud almost every day and explored a bit while picking up groceries and other things to equip our home. This walk includes a trip along the edges of the Monkey Forest which absolutely lives up to it’s name and is filled with thoroughly entertaining and trouble making long tailed macaques. Those of you that know about my monkey obsession know that I am a bit like Kristen Bell and sloths. (Thanks Julie for sharing this video and yes…you should all watch it!) Monkey’s are all I hoped they would be and MORE! Through this Ubud exploring we’re able to start finding our favorite places for shopping, eating, coffee etc. We both love the Indonesian food already and have an AMAZING warung (small family restaurant) just a 5 minute walk from our house. It’s different from other food in Southeast Asia, but hard to describe how. Nice to try new things each day but also cook at home a lot and get the occasional eggs Benedict or chocolate croissant (We found a killer bakery). 

Sunday and Monday are my 2 days off in a row so on Sunday we made out first beach trip!! The 60 minute scooter ride there was amazingly gorgeous. Beautiful rice paddy and volcano views. While clinging on VERY tightly to Kris I found myself mouthing, “OH MY GOD!” over and over and over again! Though actual pictures of our trip will come soon…here’s one from someone else to tide (pun intended) you over. The beach is BEAUTIFUL! And there were only maybe 30 other people there. Though we did get a downpour (an everyday occurrence right now) we got a bit sunburned, swam in warm but refreshing water, ate some delicious food, made local friends and visited lots with our housemates, Ken and Alexa,  who had showed us the way and accompanied us on the trip. As it was only my second time swimming in warm ocean waters…I can’t WAIT to go back!! And next time we’ll bring snorkeling gear since we’ve heard there are lots of turtles. 

This afternoon we’re heading to check out The Green School and explore a bit on the scoot since we picked up and awesome map yesterday. Each day brings new adventures, some bigger some smaller but all incredible. 

I promise to try to post pictures soon…we can’t do it from home, and we’ve just figured out how to take the computer out with the high risk of torrential downpour. All my love to all of you!!