“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” ~ James Thurber
In order for me to become a mother, I needed mothers around.
In Bali, mothers are called Ibu. The moment I stepped into my choice of birthing centre in Ubud, Bali, Bumi Sehat Foundation, I was surrounded by Ibus or what French so appropriately called Sage-femme, wise women or midwives—the mothers I was looking for.
I felt an enormous amount of immediate relief by their touch, relaxed smiles and warmth.
Once my midwife did her regular checkup on me and my unborn baby, I expressed my biggest fear to her with my small voice, “what if I pass out because of pain?” Ibu Robin assured me that she has ways to calm my nerves but that if something happens, she had her ambulance ready to go 24/7.
That was two weeks ago.
All throughout my pregnancy, I did what I could. Daily coconut oil massage to meditation and breathing exercise, reading all that I can just like any other pregnant women. But really when it came down to actually giving birth, I knew nothing.
I had heard various stories: that the pain will be real, that if I ate six to seven dates a day, I would have an easier birth, that labour pain is overly exaggerated and it’s nothing to be feared.
When I arrived for a regular checkup at Bumi Sehat, just a few days before my due date, local nurses and midwives as well as Ibu Robin Lim, the owner herself welcomed me as usual and took me to a room. Ibu Robin said “My god, you’ve been doing your work! I’m so proud of you. You’re in labour!”
She sent me back to pack my things to the villa I was staying for this “labour week” that my partner specifically booked for me. I thought I would enjoy their tranquil sanctuary for at least another two days or so before my scary day.
That afternoon, local friends and family gathered, friends and family overseas have been texted to let them know it had begun. The author of many books, Ibu Robin has been just a text away during my pregnancy.
I was reading her books like I would the bible during my pregnancy.
As I waited in our villa, the on-site paramedic/owner/my driver checked on me every hour. Each time, I was starting to feel more and more uncomfortable, but the pain was still manageable. I had control of my breathing like a good yoga student and when I felt contractions, I closed my eyes to welcome the sensations.
Yoga practice has taught me that pain is just a sensation and we must directly look at it, not look away from it. I had faith and expectations that surely more than a decade of my yoga practice and thousands of hours of training have well prepared me for such a (as they say) natural process of life.
Little did I know that the real yoga of birthing had yet to begun at this point.
When I finally arrived at my birthing centre that night, midwives and nurses welcomed me again and led me to a room where I would spend more than 24 hours in labour.
For those waiting hours, my partner sat, slept beside me and did everything he could to support me, though we both knew there was nothing he could do to ease my pain. I told my partner that our friends and family could go ahead back to the villa and we could let them know should something happen but they insisted that they stayed.
Night engulfed us and it became rougher and rougher for me. In the quiet hours, I alone quietly endured the pain in the dark. This was work I had to do alone. There was nothing else for me to do other than breathe, feel the ever increasing intensity of sensations and cling to the idea that every contraction brought me closer to my baby.
Morning finally came and I was starting to feel that this is finally the yoga of birthing. I could barely walk, think or care for anything else. I was completely absorbed in the sensations which were similar to PMS but much much much worse. Then the afternoon came and I felt like I was not myself anymore. The Self that I knew had disappeared.
This feeling of dissociation from the Self was profound…I had completely forgotten who I was. I could no longer think properly. At some point during the evening, my partner brought my phone to show me texts from my best friends overseas, and I cried from then on. I felt like my whole life had come down to this moment—everyone I met, everything I did.
Despite the feeling of aloneness in dealing with this sensation, I felt an enormous amount of support at the same time. With my partner beside me, family outside my room, friends and family in Canada, France, Japan all stayed up awake despite their time zones, seven midwives and nurses gathered around the bed where my body was cocooned and surrounded by my partner’s body.
After a few more hours, I was no longer in charge. My body coiled and stretched the way it needed to do when it needed.
My voice was no longer what I recognised to be my voice and it came out when it needed to come out.
Then after a few more hours of what felt like one stretched out moment, Ibu Robin said “here reach down and touch here.” And I felt his head.
For the first time, I finally had a tangible understanding this baby really was coming. It had been nine months and 23 hours. In that moment, everything lifted off and I felt renewed energy flowing through my body though utterly exhausted beyond imagination. My midwives and nurses started singing a Balinese song to welcome the baby to this Earth. And just when I thought I could no longer handle it— at the height of all pain and sensations where no thought could be conjured in my mind, just simple breaths and all my might—he was finally born and let out his first cry.
The first night was truly magical. My partner sat and slept beside me and on the other side, my newborn baby slept peacefully with his umblical cord still attached to his placenta. Words could not describe the feeling other than euphoria and it engulfed me. My body of course was exhausted and it didn’t feel at all like my pre-birth body. Somehow, my feelings inside and my bodily sensations seemed to contrast greatly.
Yoga, I believe, is that dissociation from my own ideas of self when I could no longer remember who I was. And it truly made sense to me that our natural state is in fact bliss and happiness or what yoga calls the deepest core layer of our being, Anandamaya kosha. Stories, concepts and ideas started to become less and less important for me and the only thing existed that night was this feeling that filled my body and soul.
Of course, fast forward two weeks later, we are experiencing sleepless nights, screaming cries and explosive poopy diapers. We barely have enough time to shower in quiet privacy. But we have glimpses of pure joy in simple things like the way he sneezes.
I’m starting to finally understand in the core of my being that at the end of the day, life is about these ever changing feelings and experiences, which is yoga.
Author: Tomomi Kojima
Editor: Renée Picard
Images: courtesy of the author