CNN heroine, a guerrilla midwife


BAGUIO CITY — The audience was in awe as the film Guerrilla Midwife reeled off at an unlikely venue, the Victor Oteyza Community Art Space (VOCAS) at the heart of the central business district.

The film on Robin Lim, a documentary, was directed by Deja Bernhardt. It is not an ordinary midwife’s story. The protagonist, Baguio-born Filipino-American, with a Filipino-Chinese mother, was hailed a CNN hero in December last year.

Claiming inspiration from her grandmother Vicenta Munar-Lim,a traditional healer, Robin Lim exudes love as she greets her friends among those in the audience, made up mostly by nuns, midwives and health professionals from the Department of Health regional office in the Cordillera.

“Midwives are loving and compassionate because they tend to absorb the love hormone in the birthing process,” she reportedly told an equally awed crowd at the Mt. Cloud Bookstore in an earlier book launching that featured her book Butterfly People.

“I realized that the woman’s body is beautiful,” Baguio-based artist, writer and journalist Desiree Caluza commented after the film viewing.

With images of naked women giving birth on a tub of warm water filled with flower petals and the newborn being delivered into the world right underwater, one could not help but appreciate the beauty of the birthing process itself.

The film is not just on Robin Lim. It is also about the gentleness of a midwife assisting women who are giving birth. It is about natural birthing methods that is not traumatic not only for both the mother and the newborn but also the father and the midwife and everyone present in the birthing process.

Considered unconventional, Robin Lim employs the oriental methods of moxibustion, acupuncture and a birthing method that allows the mother to stay immersed in a tub of warm water.

In 1998 when she stayed for a year in Baguio City, a friend of hers came to ask for birthing assistance. Hers was a breach delivery and the baby was not breathing for a few minutes.

“I had to resuscitate her for around 19 minutes,” Lim announced as she held now 15-year old Natsuki, who met her for the first time. What she did after the attempt to revive her was ask her mother to talk to the child. As soon as the mother said, “I love you,” the baby girl opened her eyes.

Lim is planning to set up a midwifery clinic in Baguio City. She wished she could replicate her Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation), which she established in 1995 in Indonesia, where she lives. It is a non-profit, village-based organization that runs two by-donation community health centers in Bali and Aceh, Indonesia.

It is much more less painful to give birth under water, said Lim, who also had experienced the same method on her fifth pregnancy. After that personal experience, she had shifted to gentle birthing methods that respect science, nature and tradition.

Lim celebrated Mother’s Day with hundreds of Filipino midwives in General Santos City as a fitting tribute to her mother. She also graced several occasions in the country, including the Philippine Senate, which recognized her achievements as 2011 CNN Hero.

In Baguio City, she stayed for a year in 1998 in a Sta, Scholastica Village home with her American husband William Hemmerle, and five of her children.

Meanwhile, a midwife from the Department of Health said that in the Philippines, much is still to be done so that women could appreciate Robin Lim’s birthing method. She said, the Filipina is conservative that they would prefer to give birth in the privacy of their homes, wrapped in long skirt, called saya, and in closed doors.

As the film came to an end, the audience stayed longer for more intimate exchanges with Robin Lim, the gentle mother who considers herself a guerrilla midwife.

Ibu is an Indonesian term for mother and Robin Lim carries the title Ibu Robin Lim. She believes that every mother deserves healthcare, which she considers a human right.

“I imagine a world in which all humans are born with an intact capacity to love, and I am willing to devote my life to making it happen,” she says after which she gently hugs and peppers everyone with motherly kisses. #

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