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Interview with Ibu Robin Lim – 2011 “CNN” Hero

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I am sitting With 2011 CNN Nominee Hero Robin Lim in her bungalow in Ubud Bali. This unassuming midwife has been a true hero in her village taking many low income women and giving them the opportunity to bringing their babies into this world naturally and with love. As we sat over a cup of tea I asked her a few questions.

What inspired you to become a midwife?

Thirty-five years ago I became a teenage mom. My daughter, Déjà, was born gently and safely at home. My first experience of having a baby was about as natural as birth can be, and though I didn’ t know it at the time, it set my feet on a path that eventually led me to become a childbirth author and a midwife. I became a passionate seeker of childbirth knowledge. I found that the research points to the fact that being born without trauma is the foundation for having an intact capacity to love and trust. I learned that a healthy society is made up of loving, trusting individuals, and that these individuals in turn protect their environment, become stewards of our land, air and water, and they make peace, rather than war. I came to the conclusion that bringing Humans to earth with an intact ability to LOVE is essential if we are to survive as a species. So, I became a fierce advocate for gentle birth as a solution for the most pressing problems of our times. A solution that begins at the source. Gentle Birth, protecting mother and baby, is a solution that I believe will result in positive change for our society.

And then, something else happened that fired my passion into action . . .
Twenty years ago Christine Jehle Kim died due to a complication of her third pregnancy. Medical interventions beginning in her youth led to hypertension related difficulties with Christine’ s heart and circulation. Toward the end of her pregnancy, she suffered a stroke in her sleep, and never woke up. Christine was my younger sister. My sister and the baby she was carrying died in the United States of America. They died in the country that spends more money on pregnancy and birth technology than any other country in this world.
Statistically, the United States rates number thirty-nine in maternal mortality. This means that it is safer to be pregnant and to give birth in thirty-eight other countries than the US . . . and less expensive too.

According to Amnesty International’ s report Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the US, there is a largely ignored health care calamity in the United States of America that sees between two and three women die every day during pregnancy and childbirth.

World wide that number is exponentially higher: nearly a thousand women die every day from pregnancy and birth related complications. What is even more discouraging is that according to Amnesty International, the number of maternal deaths is significantly understated because of a lack of effective data collection in the USA, and may I add, in the world. Pregnant women who are at risk for suffering complications and even dying, are in the prime of their lives; minorities, those living in poverty, Native American and immigrant women, and those who speak little or no English are most affected.

My sister had health insurance; she should have been warned by her doctors that she was at risk, but she was a minority. The doctors took little interest in her as an individual, and she fell through the cracks. And died.

My passion for maternal and child health led me to continue my studies and pursue the path of midwifery. Not long after my sister’s death, I moved to Bali, Indonesia with my family. While I was pregnant with my fifth child, my son Hanoman, I faced inadequate healthcare for myself and the other pregnant women I came to know in Bali.

Dr. Inne Susante came to my home, she showed me the study she had conducted for UNICEF on Maternal Mortality in Bali, and it proved that complications of pregnancy and childbirth were the leading cause of adult deaths on this island. She encouraged me to do something about it.

So how did you begin?
With the help of many concerned Indonesian volunteers, we started by providing prenatal care in my home. We involved midwives and the Dinas Kesehata (Dept. of Health) in our regency, and eventually, Yayasan Bumi Sehat opened its Community Health and Childbirth clinic in Bali. A grass roots service not-for-profit organization, run primarily by the people it most benefits, was born.

What does Yaysasan Bumi Sehat mean?
In Bahasa Indonesia, Yayasan means Not-for-profit, Bumi is the Earth as a Mother, Sehat means healthy—Yayasan Bumi Sehat means “Healthy Mother Earth Foundation”. Bumi Sehat is built on three simple principals: Respect for Nature, Respect for Culture, and the wise implementation of the Science of Medicine.

Our focus is equality in reproductive health, including prenatal care, birth services, postpartum and breastfeeding support. We also run projects that support education, capacity building, recycling and environmental protection.

We build clinics and we staff them, we educate midwifery students, we pick up trash, we patch up wounds, treat illnesses, and we receive babies into the world. We advocate for marginalized, displaced, low-income people from all islands, faiths and cultures.

How did you become involved in Disaster Relief?
Following disasters reproductive health care falls by the wayside. Yet babies continue to be born. When all infrastructures fall apart, when the hospitals and all their technological equipment are destroyed, midwives come in handy. They can help women give birth with or without electricity, running water, equipment, even shelter is optional when babies are ready, they come.

In December 2004 a 9.3 earthquakes and subsequent Tsunami devastated Aceh, Indonesia. Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Maldives were all affected. Bumi Sehat was an early responder, we transported supplies, some tents, and we trucked in food and drinking water. When Aceh was utterly destroyed, we helped with our hearts and our hands.

We trained midwives and grandmothers in protocols to safely deliver babies, even in a disaster zone. With a lot of help from International and Indonesian donors, especially the Rotary and Direct Relief Int., we built a Bumi Sehat Community Health clinic in Samatiga, West Aceh.

Long after other NGOs have left Aceh, the Bumi Sehat Tsunami Relief Clinic continues to be the only viable medical care resource the people of Samatiga have. Bumi Sehat has no exit strategy. We work hard, and we’re stubborn.

This is how from our humble beginning as a community health and childbirth clinic in Bali, we ended up going to Aceh following the Tsunami of 2004. And when earthquakes struck, we took Bumi Sehat’ s heart and hands to Yogyakarta in 2006, Padang in 2008 and to Haiti in 2010.

Right now, somewhere on our planet someone’s mother is dying from a complication of pregnancy or childbirth. This tragedy will occur 981 times today, and every day, according to a new report, Trends in maternal mortality, released by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, and the World Bank.

We will lose forty-two moms every hour. The lion’s share of these deaths is related to poverty and malnutrition. This means the loss of these mother’s lives could be prevented.

Also, because the cost of childbirth often exhausts the family’ s income, the poor and even the middle income people of the world find themselves in a downward spiral of suffering and loss, just when they should be celebrating the births of their babies.

Midwifery is fraught with responsibility and stress. Not to mention, the hours are awful! One would have to be some kind of crazy woman . . . even a witch . . . to want to be a midwife!

The rewards . . . are bringing healthy babies into the arms of healthy mothers. The rewards are in helping build families, who have a foundation in gentle peaceful living. The rewards are of the heart.

There are so many more questions I have for this angel, but our time is up as she gets called off to a birth. I encourage all of you to vote so she can become the 2011 CNN hero and she can build her beautiful clinic and make so many deserving women’ s dream come true. To vote for her visit this page you can vote up to ten times, it will not cost you anything but you can make a significant difference.

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