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[eng] From Russia with Love

It was my first time in Russia. I was invited by Katerina Perkhova to participate to the conference "Love Is the Science of Birth" in Saint Petersburg in June 2017. Katerina is mother of four amazing children, passionate birth keeper, event organizer and founder, together with her husband Philip Perkhov, of the Russian parenting magazine Domashniy Rebenok.

Katerina found my website, and she contacted me saying she had a "good feeling" about Singing Birth Workshop. Later on, we realized we had many things in common, including some friends. When I met other teachers at the conference, we discovered more friends and situations in common. We were a World Wide Birth Network! During the conference this network came to life - love lymph was buzzing though the web of our gazes, voices, bodyworks, and whispers. We were pulsating in unison.

I met Sister MorningStar, who is a good friend of my midwife Ibu Robin Lim. We connected. It was instant sisterhood and more. "I feel as if you were part of my village, as is we've been living together in a community", said Sister to me. The feeling was mutual. We had such a hilarious time! Sharing wisdom and fears, tricks and songs. Sister MorningStar is midwife, Cherokee descendent, hermitess (she is actually a nun) and founder of the Order of Morning Star Sisters. She is a profound spiritual teacher, a great Woman and Crone. She shared incredible knowledge and inspiring experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life. One of the things I will be endlessly grate is her special "yoni steam bath"...

I met Tonya Pinkins. Now, many of you know her pretty well, she is a famous actress, singer and performer. I don't have a TV and I don't go to see movies unless they are animated... I didn't have a clue. We spent a whole evening wondering around the city of Saint Petersburg, strolling through the Nevsky Prospekt down until the river Neva (reminiscence of my university time, studying Russian literature where all the greatest writers seam to have strolled down the same Nevsky Avenue...), laughing our hearts out during the "white night" when the sun never sets and the city is permanently awake. We were talking about activism, literature, music and more. The next day at the conference, I realized who she was and, again, we had a big laugh. We had to prepare the final Cabaret together... Tonya was so supportive in my vocal explorations and acute tea cattle imitations... At the end, we did the Eurythmics' Sweet Dream karaoke with all the participants joining in. It was cathartic. Years ago, Tonya gave birth assisted by Sister MorningStar, they became like family. We shared a "khachapuri", a "vagina shaped" cheese pastry from Georgia in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. In the same bakery we marveled around the old style "ovary oven" were other mysterious "egg cakes" were made. We also had dinner at the "Idiot" restaurant not far from the conference that was held in the Dostoevskij Street...

Arriving at the airport, I shared a taxi with Paul Golden who just arrived from a conference in Florence, where my colleague, lawyer Alessandra Battisti, gave a workshop about human rights in childbirth. We had a lot to talk about and we didn't stop for eight days. Paul is midwife-mediator-advocate-expert witness-report writer, making peace between users and health care providers, among different maternity health professionals, and their institutions, sharing his skills and wisdom all around the world between UK and New Zealand. He confirmed me that going to learn midwifery skills in New Zealand is a good idea, as I imagined, since there is no other place on Earth where midwives are equal to doctors and where they can make a decent and peaceful living. At the conference Paul was a brother in a circle of women.

Having had the opportunity to listen to Russian birth keepers opened a whole new window on contemporary birth practices. I devoured every word from Katerina Vard, scientist and midwife alchimist, who makes "placenta balms" with common as well as special ingredients. She shared her mystical knowledge about placenta, and then, she showed us something even more special: the placenta drum! The little frame drum made of placental membrane actually made impressive sounds, according to the humidity in the air. It was breathtaking...

I followed as many workshops as I could, and managed to listen to Yuliya Šelepina's stories about Slavic birth traditions. Often, in the "West" we think "our" birth traditions are universal. It is rather uncomfortable for someone who is so close to the "West" but coming from the borders of the "East" listening and reading about "tradition" and not seeing your own represented anywhere. Yuliya confirmed for the Russia what I knew about the Balkans: women were generally giving birth alone, without a midwife. Still they had lots of birth rituals with specially trained figures, like "povituha", the one who does, for example, the post-partum "wrapping ritual" in the "banje", the sauna house, and assists births as a midwife, especially for the first time moms. At the conference I met many Russian women who gave birth alone, more then once. They all made it clear that they went prepared for this event and did not improvise or did it "for fashion". In Russia, the vast majority of women give birth in a hospital, no doubt, as in the "West". Yuliya had many more rituals to share, and she strongly recommended to have a midwife at birth.

There were many more interesting people and contents that filled my mind, my heart and my spirit for months to go. We had AMAZING FUN at the Singing Birth Workshops, with curious participants, open hearts and lotsa lotsa lotsa SINGING, LOVE and FUN. You can purchase the recording of the whole event here:

I am extremely grateful to my dedicated translator Polina Pilyugina - we were a team! I wish to thank all mothers, birth keepers and professionals who attended my workshop, shared their stories, songs and wisdom, and who trusted me. It is not easy to follow the sirens' song... and come back home to tell about it! You are marvelous...

A huge thank you to Katerina and Philip and all the wonderful people for your hospitality, love and banje! I hope we can meet again soon along the Vast Russian Plain...

It's true, LOVE IS THE SCIENCE OF BIRTH worldwide!

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SINGING BIRTH From Your Voice to Your Yoni