Finding my way to Bali

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by Megan Stark

I’ve had the honor to work with Debra – world-renowned doula trainer, businesswoman, and mother/grandmother – for over 5 years. I was lucky enough to stumble upon her doula training back in 2013, and became enchanted by both her and the work in the field of childbirth. Since then I’ve worked closely by her side as an administrator, planner, organizer, writer, blogger and all-things-helper so she could focus on the important work she does reminding humanity that birth can be pleasurable and full of delight.

Postpartum Doula Training in 2013

Just a couple of years ago she approached me about helping her and Ibu Robin plan and organize Eat Pray Doula, a retreat they had been holding in Bali for many years. Their previous coordinator, Katherine, had a busy midwifery practice that needed her full attention. I was honored to begin to update their website, materials, and begin marketing this most pleasurable doula training!

Ibu Robin, Me and Debra before a special event in NYC

In 2019, Ibu Robin and Debra decided it was time I learned for myself the magic of Bali and Eat Pray Doula and magic barely even covers how enchanting this training is.

Midwife Ibu Robin Lim, 2011 CNN Hero of the Year is the founder of Yayasan Bumi Sehat Clinic, a free birth clinic in Bali, Indonesia. She works tirelessly to care for MotherBabies who would otherwise have limited or no maternity care services. Her clinic practices gentle birth and has outstanding outcomes for the Mothers and Babies they serve. 

Debra Pascali-Bonaro, as mentioned, is a DONA Doula Trainer and Co-Chair of the Executive Committee for FIGO’s International Childbirth Initiative (ICI). She has trained doula in over 40 countries and continues to fight for Human Rights in Childbirth through the ICI. 
Me and Debra on our way to a beautiful lakeside template
Me and Mala
Me and Ibu Robin at Bumi Sehat

Together they join Mala Landt, a Hawaiian based homebirth midwife and each year they host Eat Pray Doula serving Birth Practitioners from around the globe at Peace Kitchen, Ibu Robin’s very special retreat home. Our advanced retreat also includes special guests each year, and I was excited to meet Dr. Sarah Buckley again and learn her wisdom about the hormones of birth. (For 2020 Dr. Buckley will join us again as well as first-time guest teacher Jennie Joseph.)

I can’t say I wasn’t a bit hesitant about flying to the other side of the earth by myself, leaving my family and going to an unknown place. I’d spent so much time reassuring our doulas that we HAD them. They no matter what we had love, care, nurturing, education – problem-solving, support, airport pick up, lodging and food! I knew that all of this was true, and that I’d be met by Debra and Ibu Robin – who I love, respect and idolize a bit too 😉

Wear your helmet! We don't recommend renting your ownt scooter, here I am with Saffira and I wore my helmet after the picture was taken.

And all of it – right down to the moment I arrived was true. I flew from Charlotte, NC to Seoul, South Korea, and then onto Denpasar, Indonesia. Our incredible friend, driver and tour guide Congtit picked me up – just as planned (TIP: Congtit or his friends will pick you up too!). The drive from the airport takes a bit of time, but Congtit is wonderful to visit with, learn about Bali Culture, and his own art skills as a carver. After a deep night’s rest, I was greeted by Debra, Ibu Robin and Ibu Robin’s Assistant, Eat Pray Doula Alumnus and practicing doula, Saffira. Saffira is our “on-site” coordinator, we like to call her our “Bali Doula”. After so many emails, Whatsapp chats and more, it was wonderful to finally connect with our team! Saffira helps our doulas coordinate Bali based activities – massages, lost luggage, transport and more. She is kind, warm, and so much fun to spend time with. 

I also had the honor of meeting Ibu Robin’s daughter, Lakota, who has been a huge part of the team for years, and Robin’s beautiful mother who we are honored to spend time with during Eat Pray Doula. 

From Left: Saffira, Debra, Mala, Cris, Lakota, Me and Ibu Robin

My first day was a gentle easing into my new surroundings. I enjoyed the most relaxing semi-outdoor massage alongside Mala and Debra. It was one of the most blissful experiences of my life – the green surroundings, gorgeous people, stunning architectural details, textiles, colors, and vibrancy. (TIP: Massage and spa services are quite affordable – work some into your budget, as they are a wonderful experience and so different to more western-style spas).

The next few days I enjoyed a few more massages, a tour of the incredible Jatiluwih Rice Terrace UNESCO World Heritage Site, gorgeous ancient and holy temples by lakes and beaches, (TIP: Some temples do allow you to respectfully enter them, but you are required to wear traditional temple clothing), incredible food and fruit juices, and so much pleasure, laughter, and love. I’ve only been there a couple of days but the trip was already one of the most incredible in my life. (TIP: Arrive a few days early to allow for jet lag, time to explore and ease into Bali life before the retreat begins).

It was finally time for our welcome dinner and to meet all of our arriving doulas. We had practitioners from all over the world for our advanced retreat. Our group included Midwives, Doctors, Childbirth Educators, Lactation Counselors, Doulas, Yoga Teachers, and Homeopaths. Dinner was a relaxed time together at Peace Kitchen – our retreat hOMe, to connect, eat, swim and settle in. The flurry was excitement was palpable, as we knew the very next day the learning would begin.

Eat Pray Doula open circle

And what a learning it was! We sang and danced with Mala – our ceremonial, wise teacher. She began our days with true connection and joy. Dancing and singing in circle song we were able to let down our guards and truly open to what the day had in store. Ibu Robin and Debra would share stories, wisdom, and their deep passion for birth, MotherBabies and Families. Our group itself was such a diverse set of people, experiences, education, and culture, and each person brought their own stories, experiences, and tips for a gentle birth. Every day we dove deeper into self-care, challenging births, hormones, the placenta, breastfeeding, the effects of climate change, all while walking away understanding how deeply needed the work we do on this earth is. Ibu Robin brought us to Bumi Sehat for a tour, where we got to donate items we’d collected from back home, say hello and thank you to the Midwives and Staff there, and see Ibu Robin’s vision turned reality. The space is gorgeous and flowing, with a wonderful group space for classes or yoga for the community. Beyond a birth clinic, Bumi Sehat is a community space and even offers a walk-in clinic and acupuncture clinic for the community.

Every day of the retreat we could join in morning yoga, and breakfast with the group. A slow opening to what was ahead of us. Lunch and snack breaks were plentiful, giving us time to hydrate, nourish, take a swim and relax. Bali time means everything happens in its own time – giving great space for everyone to take care of themselves as needed. Our rest day was a much needed and looked forward to break from learning. Everyone was excited to do a bit of exploring. Eat Pray Doula arranges a special event for this day, which you can join as an add-on, or skip and do your own thing as well. This time the add-on was a lovely lunch out, and a hike to a gorgeous waterfall. We rounded the day out with some shopping and dinner, and it was one of the first nights I explored with our doulas outside of our “Eat Pray Doula” team. Bali makes you feel safe and cared for, the people are kind and warm, full of smiles, and welcomes. The Ubud Market is a wonderful place to go shopping for souvenirs and gifts, you can go early before the retreat begins, or afterward. It’s within walking distance, but on a hot day, it may be more enjoyable to share a taxi cab ride with some new friends. Monkey Forest is also just around the corner from our retreat, go early before the Monkeys get too wild! They are beautiful and fun to watch, and Monkey Forest is a gorgeous place, but remember not to feed or touch the monkeys, they can bite! Dinners each night (aside from Welcome dinner and final farewell dinner) are on your own – with your new friends or your family if they join you in Bali. Just within walking distance are a handful of great spots to eat, or as mentioned above you could share a taxi to Ubud for even more eating and shopping options. It’s fun to wander around in the evenings when the temperature has cooled a bit and window shop or have a nice drink and connect with others. 

A few more wonderful days of learning after our break day, Dr. Sarah Buckley and her husband joined us to share about her incredible work studying the Hormones of Birth. Dr. Buckley joins us again in 2020, along with the wonderful Midwife Jennie Joseph (In 2020, Jennie will share about her work eliminating racial disparities at her birth clinic in Florida, USA and how she is sharing that vision.)

Our final farewell celebration was emotional and so lovely. Together we made pizza at Ibu Robin’s home, reminiscing about week together, the things we’d learned, the healing we’d felt and our excitement to go out and continue to help bring Peace on Earth one birth at a time. 

Will you join Eat Pray Doula? What’s holding you back from following your dreams? Just like our team had me, our team has YOU. 


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