Robin LimKellyPhD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Millions of people around the world watched as Ibu Robin Lim became the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year for her work providing free prenatal and birthing services to low-income Indonesian women through her "Yayasan Bumi Sehat" (Healthy Mother Earth) clinics. She became a professional midwife after her younger sister died from pregnancy complications and since 2003 has dedicated her life to providing medical assistance to thousands of women in Bali and Aceh, Indonesia. No one is turned away, no matter how poor. With the average family earning just $8 a day, a normal uncomplicated birth costing $70 and a C Section $700, you soon realize the urgency of the situation for many mothers to be. In developed countries, women are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than women in developed countries.
So just who is this guardian angel of women and babies, Ibu Robin Lim? The facts from her website say that Ibu Robin Lim was born in the U.S.A. in 1956 when a Filipino, Chinese woman married a German, Irish, Native American, against all advice. She was raised in the U.S. and the Philippines while her father was serving with the U.S. military in Vietnam and attended Santa Barbara City College. Robin is married to William Hemmerle and has eight children, Deja, Noel, Zhou, Lakota, Zion, Thoreau, Hanoman, Ellyanna and 2 grandchildren Zhouie Martinez and Bodhi Padma Edzra. Ibu Robin and her husband moved from Hawaii to Bali with their family after several personal tragedies made her want to change her life in a drastic fashion. She is a Certified Professional Midwife in North America and Indonesia. Along with welcoming babies, Ibu Robin is also an author and poet. (see extra info below.)
William Hemmerle and Robin LimKellyPhD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
The My Hero Project recently caught up with Ibu Robin in cyberspace for the following interview.
Do you prefer being called Ibu Robin, instead of just Robin?
"Either, however, I LOVE being called "Ibu Robin" as Ibu means simply mother, and it joins me with ALL mothers."
Can you explain to our audience what a midwife is and what a midwife does?
"We midwives are the guardians of normal birth. We are the bridge that a woman may cross over into motherhood, safely. We are the gentle first line of defense against complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Midwives kneel at the star~gate of birth and make a balance between knowledge and just waiting. We sing the babies to Earth. Midwives do not deliver babies, the mothers deliver, we midwives do the catching, the receiving."
What made you decide to open your first clinic in Indonesia?
"Perhaps it was just fate. Anywhere in the world a Community Health and Childbirth clinic opens, it is so needed. When I was a small child my father was in the military, he was stationed in Indonesia. This was a time of separation in which my mother was left, a Filipino woman in America, with four small children and a baby on the way. It was hard for my father as well, being so far from us. He mailed me a gift, a small Wayang Kulit, a Shadow Puppet. I fell in love with Indonesia at the moment I opened the package and held a bit of this country's history and culture in my hand. Today my grandchildren are Indonesians!"
You obviously have a big heart and an affinity for babies. Can you talk a bit about your personal views relating to babies.
"Babies, the smallest most vulnerable citizens of this world. Unintentionally medical authorities set protocols for childbirth which are unkind for the mothers and terrible for babies. When childbirth is not gentle, when the mother is rushed through her passage with interventions, when episiotomy is used to widen the yoni, when the baby's umbilical cord is cut immediately upon birth, when the baby is separated from his or her mother, taken away to be observed in a plastic box, profound trauma has happened. The Baby traumatized at birth loses her trust and her capacity to love is impaired. She will need years of nurturing to heal this. What a wonderful world this will be, when all the birth-keepers, doctors and specialists included, protect the Mother~Baby bond at birth and respect the right of each newborn to arrive on Earth without trauma. Imagine a world in which each and every human being is living with an intact capacity to LOVE & Trust! This is the world I work day and night to build. This is the World Midwives and Nurses, Doulas and gentle Doctors believe in and are creating.
Remember, people who have an intact capacity to Love are going to be the Stewards of our Air, Land and Water. We should be worried about the environment. And there are many solutions being implemented. As a Midwife I believe that by protecting the babies and their moms at birth, we are building an army of Earth Keepers, to Save our precious Planet, Gaia."
Are you happier having dedicated your life to other people? Can you tell us how making this enormous life changing move has changed you?
"All LOVE bounces right back. Am I happier, oh yes. I can't give LOVE away; it just scurries back and fills me. Service is sometimes exhausting, especially for midwives who work day and night as birth-keepers, however, Oxytocin, the hormone of Love, which drives conception, gestation, childbirth and breastfeeding, as a midwife I am exposed to it constantly. Oxytocin is like a powerful multivitamin, so even when really tired, I feel the strength of LOVE holds me up."
What makes you laugh?
"Mothers, Babies, my Grandchildren, my children, my husband, music.... I am joyful and laughing quite a lot!!"
Makes you frustrated?
"There are so many true stories of suffering, which frustrate me. I am here on Earth to kick old "Suffering" right in the behind. And I actually believe that if a person like me, with an amazing team like Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation) can stubbornly just keep reducing suffering, there is a LOT to hope for our planet's future. I got to know ALL the Top 10 CNN Heroes for 2011, each of them is amazing and they are making that old monster "Suffering" shrink right up."
Has climate change affected where your clinics are?
"Perhaps the Earthquakes we experience in Indonesia and the Tsunami, where our Bumi Seaht clinic is in Aceh, are a result of climate change; I am not sure, as I am a midwife, not an expert. What I do feel is that our planet is in Crisis, and that these changes there are many potential threats. Remember Midwives can receive babies into the world without hospitals, electricity, shelter, even running water is not necessary, when Babies are ready, they come. When things fall apart, Midwives come in handy."
You must have met a lot of amazing people on this journey you are on. Do you have a hero and if so, why are they your hero?
"Each mother in labor and birthing and Breastfeeding is a HERO. I loved the late Mary Kroeger and Jeannine Parvati Baker, midwives and Heroes. Ina May Gaskin ~ amazing. My Mother, who suffered a difficult childhood growing up in a country ravished by poverty and war, only to marry away to America where she suffered medical abuse when she gave birth to her own children. My sister, who died in the USA from a complication of her third pregnancy, she is my guide and my Hero."
If you had the attention of the world for 5 minutes, what would you do or say?
"I am laughing, because on Dec 11th on CNN Heroes night, I did have the attention of the world. What did I do? I cried.
What I said was: "Every baby's first breath on Earth could be one of peace and love. Every Mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth should be safe and loving. But our world is not there yet. Bumi Sehat needs your help to build a permanent place where compassionate healthcare can happen. 981 mothers in the prime of their lives are dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Supporting your Midwife to Mother care is the answer, because Midwives are the bridge on which mothers may walk upon to cross over into Motherhood, Safely." I also said: "Every Mother Counts and Healthcare is a Human right."
Is there anything else you would like to say? To mothers or kids?
"I Believe in YOU. I LOVE YOU."
Robin LimAajim [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Do you have a favourite quote that you live by? Or one of your poems to share with us?
"These poems and many more can be found in my newly published collection of Poetry: "The Geometry of Splitting Souls"
I have shaved God's head and forged
the hum of bees,
to breath life into a flaccid born baby,
to trade a few years of my own time,
a bargain if this one
gasps and lives.
She will grow now and dance in a Hindu temple,
and make a shape against
the Balinese sky.
Long after I am resting in ash, one may trace her shadow.
The puppet master called me to her birth.
~ Robin Lim 2010
EllyAnna's Story Cloth
Upon the birth of a girl child -
see her life threads
warped onto the loom in shades
of purple responsibilities, indigo forbiddens, pale brown sorrows;
The weight of recipes calling for two cups of sugar,
when she only has one.
But when she opens her eyes
for the first time,
I sense the golden weft,
the over and under
of intention, invention,
and true love that she will weave
across each moment and movement of her days.
The yardage of her life's story cloth
will shimmer and change
when sunlight strikes it.
In the darkness,
her colors will rest,
and keep us warm.
~ Robin Lim 2011
Thank you Ibu Robin Lim for all you have done and continue to do for mother's, babies and families. We are SO glad YOU were born.
Ibu Robin is an author of books in the childbirth genre, in both English and Bahasa Indonesia. Lim has two published chapbooks of poetry, Stretch Marks and As a Child in the Religion of Gratitude, she was a contributor to the Tsunami Notebook (Half Angel Press, Bali, Indonesia, 2005). Also published in 2006 by Half Angel; Obat Asli . . . the Traditional Healing Herbs of Bali. In September 2009, Robin's novel, Butterfly People, was released by Anvil Press, in the Philippines. Ibu Robin's new book, Placenta . . . the Forgotten Chakra, promises to make gentle birth more gentle.
"Robin Lim is a woman of staggering energy, passion, goodness and talent. Her poems take all four of those traits, and weave them into wonder." -Elizabeth Gilbert
"Robin Lim's poems are born from the same womb as her devotion to midwifery. A womb that treasures each life, even faced with its darkest questions. She enters the world of words and of birth with equal humility, purpose, and a profound care for humanity. Her poetic images are clear and trenchant and they aim for the soul. Her language rises from a notable forthrightness, and ripens with a crone's articulation. We recognize: Yes, that is who we are. Yes, that is what frightens us. Yes, that is what leads us toward love. With these poems, and with her devotion to life, Lim is wise-on our behalf." -Margo Berdeshevsky
"Robin Lim is one of my heroes. Her dedication to mothers, babies and the health of the planet family, is matched only by her love of writing. In these pages you will feel the raw emotion, passion, humor, hope and tenacity that fuels this great woman warrior. I am certain that you too will discover that the world is a brighter place with her in it." -Michael Franti