March 2012: Sunday was our day off from the Eat Pray Doula workshop. Today we had the great honor of being invited to share in a traditional Balinese baby naming ceremony that that is held when the baby is 42 days old. Suami: 1 Wayan Kartana and Istri: Ni Made Antari had given birth to their daughter Anac: 1 Wayan Wahyu Dharma Sentana at Bumi Sehat in Nyuh Kuning. They invited Ibu Robin Lim to join them at their blessing and Ibu Robin asked if they would share with all 25 doulas. Their generosity to open their home and their hearts to us this day left us all with such gratitude and awe.
The day started with our usual breakfast, but before long the doulas were gathering with Ibu Robin Lim, learning to tie the traditional sarongs and sashes, as we were going to temple. The heat of the morning was building as we went outside and there was a line of taxi’s waiting for us. We all piled in and began our journey winding in and out of the small streets, through little villages to arrive at a traditional family compound. The compound is a modest setting where many members of the extended family had their homes and share a family temple. The temple is a central area for weddings, celebrations, and where people rest when they pass on until their cremation ceremony.
We were greeted as family with warm Balinese smiles, hands in prayer honoring all with gratitude to share this special blessing. Food was prepared for us all and I imagine in this simple compound the women must have worked for days to weave the banana leaf plates, cook the vegetables and fruits with rice, and make the many offerings that we were soon to share in their temple.
As we ate, the priest sat and began his chanting and blessings in the area where the baby’s placenta had been buried. After a lotus birth, where the placenta is seen as the baby’s brother or sister, giving life, the tree of life, as it looks like when you view the arteries that have sustained the baby with blood and oxygen. The baby is carried with its placenta attached until it falls off in its own time. Like the petals of the lotus flower, it allows the baby to gentle unfold with its brother/sister from spirit world, until the baby is ready for the transition alone to our planet. Once the placenta is buried the baby will always be able to keep the connection to spirit and ancestors intact – if he/she travels in life, they can take some of the dirt from this area with them to always maintain their connection. Robin Lim’s book The Placenta: The Forgotten Chakra is a must read for all birth keepers.
I was filming today, with their permission, and the family was so excited that they would have a record of this day. I was soon escorted into the husband and wife’s bedroom for the traditional ritual of praying and blessing their bed, where mom, dad, and baby sleep. In this small traditional room, the music of Kenny G, played and their pillowcases were of the American flag. I smiled, feeling the traditions of past times so present and yet the current western trends seeping in. The sun shone in the window as I saw the doulas, family and friends still eating outside. It was time for the temple blessings. The priest in white, was sitting on the special stand chanting, blessing holy water, preparing the space for us. Ibu Robin taught us how to pray – to use incense to cleanse ourselves the first prayer, followed by three prayers where we held flowers in between our hands in prayer form, raised above our heads. Placing the flowers in our hair and last on the ground. As the priest comes around to bless us with holy water sprinkled over us, next we hold our hands open to heaven welcoming our cleansing and praying. Next, right hand over left, we make a cup with our hands to receive the holy water to sip, cleansing our mouths, words, and last to wash our face and head, purifying our thoughts and deeds.
Group by group we pray, the heat of the day upon us. The small sacred temple filled with all the doula’s prayers and gratitude for being part of this special ceremony.
We exited the temple to the main yard of the family compound and more food was served such as exotic fruits – many fruits I had never seen, let alone tasted. Just as I was about to sit to enjoy them, the father came and invited me to join them back in their bedroom. It was just the mother, father, baby, grandmother priest and me. They were inviting me in to film their private blessing. I had tears of gratitude, honor and without words or time, I maneuvered in front of the window to shoot into the small room so they would not be shadowed in the light. So with very little space and simultaneously trying to film while welling with my own emotion, I filmed and listened to the chants, the holy water blessings, and offerings made. The baby began to cry and was soon nestled at the mother’s breast. We all smiled with the universal understanding of the simple pleasure, comfort and nurturing that breastfeeding brings. The priest continues. Again I am struck by the ancient ceremony I am privileged to film and bear witness to and yet the contemporary music of Kenny G continues. I have my own internal smile as I wonder if Kenny G will give me permission to share this sacred footage since his music graces it.