by Jordan Christopher
Originally posted Maternal Beginnings
“What happened to your hands?” This was the question that was asked to us many times as we strolled through Ubud market on a warm sunny afternoon in Bali.
We were greeted with many smiles in the shops we entered, that quickly turned quizzical as they looked down at our yellow stained hands. “Tumeric” was our constant reply, and with that came some realization, but still lots of questions in their eyes.
Why would tourists hands be stained with tumeric? “You do cooking class?” Was usually the follow up question, as their curiosity peaked.
“No” we would reply, “we made medicine”. “Oh, jamu!” smiled one man, as it all began to make sense. “Why you make jamu?” We then began to tell him of our day spent in Ibu Robin’s kitchen gratering lots of ginger and tumeric as we made traditional medicine. When we mentioned Bumi Sehat birth center, it was met with instant recognition, and was always quickly followed with “you are Bidan -midwife-?”
Having long given up on explaining that we were doulas early into our stay in Bali, we replied “yes, Bidan”. Our yellow hands were no longer met with caution after the people we came across knew we were “bidans”. You see here in Indonesia a midwife wasn’t just a midwife. After attending the birth of a family’s child, it wasn’t unusual to be then invited to every special or sacred life event of that family. From attending a marriage, to welcoming a new life, and even the passing of one. The midwife played many roles; and when one was sick, a midwife could even be found at the foot of that bed to offer healing.
My yellow hands stained everything I touched. My phone is now turquoise and yellow, my white wallet permanently marked and even some clothes that may never be the same, but I regret not a single moment. A hot afternoon of birthkeepers gathered in a kitchen making jamu and talking about birth, gave me the hands of a Bidan. The hands of a healer.