Submitted by Debra
Today is a special day as Ibu Robin will bring our group to a Nyabutan Ceremony, where a baby first touches the Mother Earth. In Bali, babies do not touch the ground until they are three months old. The first months are sacred as a baby’s connection to spirit is kept intact, they are not ready to touch the earth yet. Many have a lotus birth, keeping their connection to spirit and placenta with them in the first hours, and sometimes days. Ibu Robin believes delayed cord cutting and clamping is essential for a gentle birth. Her book “Placenta the Forgotten Chakra”, is a gift to open our minds and hearts to the importance of how we care for placentas and keep babies life giving connection intact. In the next days and weeks after birth, Balinese baby’s are always held in someone’s arms, Mother, Father, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, community. Families and communities are intact and vital in Bali. The saying “It takes a village” is put to action.
Bali is a culture full of many rituals. There are many surrounding pregnancy, birth and the first months of a baby’s life. Last year our doulas participated in the 42 days old blessing to honor, name and welcome the baby into the family. Now at three months, on Koming’s 105th day, another ceremony as important, or even more significant, than the child’s wedding.
We are honored to be invited and included in this sacred ceremony for baby Koming. In their modest family home, they welcome Ibu Robin Lim and all of the doulas from Eat Pray Doula 2013. We learn that Koming’s father is very sick- so sick he has not been able to work and cannot attend the ceremony. The grandmother is going blind and desperately needs cataract surgery as she struggles to see. The mother shares how hard times are and sometimes there is not enough food, but they get by. I am so humbled and honored to be here with them today.
For the ceremony, the family has invited a priest to their family temple where they provide offerings to the Sun God and the Five Elements. The child is blessed with holy water and her feet are allowed to touch the earth. The parents or in this case the mother and grandfather (the mother’s father) carry Koming three times around the water representing the passage of birth, life, and death. There are many symbols and rituals and the priest is in almost a trance-like state as he chants and speaks many sacred blessings. Although I do not understand the words, the sacred moment and symbolism transcends language and we are all so moved.
After a long day, on our way home Katherine and I stopped at Bumi Sehat to check in. Two mothers were laboring, one had just given birth and another was pushing. We gently joined the circle in the room with the young mother pushing. I slid behind her on the bed to hold her and offer my comfort and support. Katherine offered love and support to both the mother and to the student midwife, as this was her first catch. Wow, the circle of women, including one of the Balinese Bidan’s ( midwife). As is tradition at Bumi Sehat as the baby’s head begins to emerge- we all sang the baby earth side with the Gayatri Mantra.
Before I knew it we were back on our motorbike heading home from a long day. Thoughts of the birth, baby Koming and her blessing ceremony, the needs of her family, the rituals of Bali swirl in my head. Rituals play such a vital role in Bali.
What are the rituals and traditions in your culture?