Zohar Carmi left Israel in October 2014 to travel with her family. They started around the Asian neighborhood with Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore and back to Thailand.
They arrived here in Koh Phangan last year, exactly one year and six days ago on August 10th 2015 with tickets to fly home in October.
‘After one week I said to my partner that I’m not going anywhere! You do the math but I’m not moving’.
So Zohar what made you want to stay?
I remember being ridiculously excited and on the ferry even before we set foot on the island it was like not only coming home, but coming back to a lover.
We had travelled already for almost a year and I have never felt like this before, it felt like coming back to an ancient lover from a previous life. I was so excited I could feel my heart open and was absolutely ready to fall in love and I did.
(Zohar and midwife Lihi)
You are a Doula, can you explain this for us please….
A doula is a supportive profession, the doula supports the mum to be as well as dad throughout the process of labour.
Sometimes the doula would give the childbirth preparation course and she would attend the birth from start to finish. So if in hospital you go into labour the midwife, nurses and doctors will come and go and change shifts but the doula would stay the whole time.
The doula is someone you know in advance and you know she will be with you throughout the process, the longest I ever had was a forty eight hour birth, that was pretty long.
So how do you become a doula and what got you interested initially?
I had a doula in my first birth and I was working in insurance at the time. At first I was initially interested in a natural birth, I was carrying my first born and the thought of being cut during birth was an unbearable one for me, it was something I knew I would do anything to avoid.
I made enquiries to hospitals, this was fifteen years ago in Israel and nine out of ten mums would get an episiotomy in birth. I thought ‘no that’s not gonna work for me’ but in homebirth it was just 2-3% and these statistics I could go with!
So I wanted a homebirth with my first born, I had already found a midwife and been diagnosed with gestational diabetes so then I realised that it may change the whole picture, if the baby’s too big, if my insulin was not balanced, lots could go wrong so I decided to give birth in hospital but made a lot of enquiries to find right place. I chose a private midwife and chose a doula and gave birth.
When I went back to work my boss was grateful for me coming back from maternity leave sooner than he thought so he told me one day, ‘why don’t you go and learn something you want, something for the soul’. So I thought it was a great idea to learn to be a doula, something I wouldn’t learn in other circumstances and so I took a doula course.
I’m trying to think of the British equivalent, is a doula more of a traditional thing?
It’s both traditional and modern, a renewed kind of profession. A doula in ancient times were just the servants who were there for the lady throughout their life and birth. An ancient profession as well as a renewed one. There are in fact many doula’s in the UK and they are very common in Europe and the US.
Tell us about your Koh Phangan experiences as a doula…
I have only had two experiences, one was a natural delivery that ended in cesarean in Bangkok hospital in Samui. For me it was very much like going back fifteen years to Israel, like still not wanting the woman to eat or drink, wanting the woman to be monitored the whole time, lying on her back and isolating the woman from her sources of support.
They say you can bring one person to be with you and your companions can switch and this can only start after the period of admission, but by this time they break your spirit and you have signed the confirmation for cesarian. The next time you see the mum she’s broken and she’s ready to sign whatever.
After this first birth I thought I’m not gonna do this anymore without going to the hospital in advance and meeting whoever is in charge of the delivery room and make sure that she or he understands that the ladies I bring are not only good for the hospital in terms of money but most importantly they have birth plans and want them to be respected. This is what I did in Israel, so if women want to use my services I need to get acquainted and make sure they understand that they can’t do this with the mums I’m taking in.
So I had some gloomy thoughts for some time and then I met a beautiful couple who wanted a home birth. They already knew that it was really difficult to get a normal, natural birth in the local hospital, and perhaps even more difficult to get a doula in our little island, but finding a midwife, that’s really a dream coming true and luckily a midwife friend of mine was coming to Koh Phangan!
Lihi hit the island in early July. The couple’s expected delivery date was mid July. We were both on standby. The couple lives just a quarter of an hour from us, in a small hut that the husband had built for his wife during her pregnancy, on land owned by her family, surrounded by relatives, a real tribe, in the middle of the jungle not far from the ‘city’. On Friday night the contractions that began that morning became stronger and more regular and frequent. At half past 10pm we both headed to the cabin. Lihi and I took turns between us, because there was no way the three of us could fit altogether in the small room and the woman wanted privacy as much as possible. Already being troubled by the presence of many family members in nearby houses she asked her husband to play some music in the background to allow her to let go and make sounds at will.
Massages, breathings, birth is birth is birth. It was obvious that she was doing great. Lihi checked her once at five centimeters, shortly after we arrived. I gave her orange oil to smell when it seemed she was at surely eight centimeters. Some more contractions and then we heard her pushing. It was around 1:30am. I handed Lihi the mobile monitor device (during the pushing stage in a home birth the midwife listens to the baby’s pulse frequently). I pulled back the curtain used as the shower room’s door and sat outside to meditate. Between us, what else could I do? At the beginning of the meditation a thought came to my mind. She will push for 40-50 minutes and will give birth beautifully. I saw the thought drifting away like a cloud, greeted her and went back to concentrate on breathing. At 2:35am the baby was out. It was beautiful!
What do you enjoy about the birth of a child?
I’ve been a doula for thirteen years already, I’ve attended hundreds of births, given childbirth education to countless couples or people, in Israel for a few years I had a doula course of my own so I had the privilege to influence the next generation of doulas.
It’s not my phrase to quote and can’t remember but it’s ‘peace on earth begins with birth’.
Labour is more than anything an opportunity to empower the woman and to make stronger the connection between the couple, and if many many women are empowered and many couples are stronger and in more kind of sacred relationships, and many babies are born in a healthy as well as soft birth then I think eventually the world will be better. Maybe for our kids, grandkids or further down the road but I strongly believe it makes a difference, one drop at a time and it will eventually become an ocean.
Tell us about the benefits of home births?
Homebirth is supportive of the hormonal flow of the birth, the hormones that make the birth go well are the same that make lovemaking, so in order to give birth we need intimacy, security, privacy and everything we need is unprovidable outside of the home.
Of course we can make some adjustments that would make it somehow possible for women, as evidently women do give birth in hospitals, I did for two and of my three children.
But natural and healthy is the intimacy of your own home, in your privacy, in the surroundings of your own bacteria when you’re not exposed to foreign bacteria, for you and the baby this is just the practical and healthy choice.
You are setting up a women’s community clinic which started Saturday the 20th, tell us about this…
A community clinic for women is not really a thing, it is a space for things to happen. Basically a space that can contain and facilitate a lot of women's stuff so it can be to meet a midwife, to get counsel throughout pregnancy from a doula, lactation consultation, to any other problems with women issues, pelvic floor issues, menstruation and cycle issues etc.
I have some plans in mind but also know that it can be totally different so the women will come and we’ll see what we can provide.
It’s going to be like going to see wise women of the village, a midwife to touch and see if baby has gone upside down, a doula for breathing or ask ‘why am I cramping during menstruation or my pms is terrible’ or maybe you have pain during sex and have nobody to talk to about it.
Maybe you’ve just had a baby and just don’t wanna be alone. We’re planning to give a healing ceremony called ‘closing the bones’ to the lady who had the baby one month ago, it’s a beautiful post partum healing ceremony.
So I saw a previous workshop you held called ‘releasing the cycle’ can you tell us more about this...
In my mind I refer to it as the ‘conscious cycle’, conscious releasing of menstruation. It’s a very simple method, ridiculously simple, it is a method in a sense that you need to comprehend it to get some ideas and you need to of course try it until you get it but the knowledge itself is really knowledge that we have.
I feel like I help women remember the knowledge that’s already there in their bodies. I don’t invent it, I don’t teach what I only know, I am there to facilitate the comprehending that we’re not a ‘dripping faucet’ because since even before we get our first period we are taught this concept, if we don’t sit lady-like and use a lot of stuff that we have to purchase like tampons and pads then we are gonna stain everything and get things dirty but it’s really not dirt.
In ancient times women used to bleed back to the earth, it’s done in a posture which is healthy and it feels very nice, not with something stuck in your vagina or absorbing stuff for you.
This method is very good for every woman but especially for ones who have very long menstruation. If a woman has more than five days then it’s unbalanced and this method can take care of that plus pms, cramping and pain.
Women who used to take pain medication for two days in a row they say they just stopped so this is really something special.
I’ve found for me to be able to channel this knowledge it would take two hours to get them to try and then when she tries and she succeeds. I invite them to write to me to tell me how it went, it’s good to keep track and keep documentation of the process, I can give counsel and support via email and they can go on with their life.
Are you open for contact?
Yes, I can’t make sure that there’s a midwife here but if I have learnt something over the years it’s that if something needs to happen it will find a way.
It’s always an option to find a midwife to make the trip and pay for the visit or flight tickets. If she is to give birth at home all will reveal...
And your life philosophy?
‘The path is wiser than the walker’.
The clinic is held every Saturday at Gaia in Sri Thanu and will be weekly from 9am - 12 noon. They are very open for people who would want to participate in anything, giving short treatments or by donation and if women want to volunteer then it can be beautiful.
You can follow Zohar's stories on wetooktheredpill.com and their facebook page. Click on Zohar's Phanganist Person Profile at the top of this article for more information.