I was 7.5 months pregnant when we moved to Portugal. A somewhat unusual timing to leave your homebase behind and start all over again. Still it has never really been a discussion for me if it was the right time to go. We had made up our mind to leave the city, and this baby was to be born in Portugal. After three successful home births in Amsterdam, i could not picture myself giving birth to my last baby in a hospital.The network of independent midwives of Vive Vroedvrouw helped me find a midwife in the interior of Portugal. That gave me the confidence to take on this home birth adventure one more time. I realized that if something would go wrong i would have to go to a hospital that was known for its restrictive and old fashioned rules about giving labour. A situation i did not want to end up in. But i took my chances.
Once in Portugal i met my midwife for the first time. A charming Belgium lady that has been living and practicing off the grid in Central America and in Portugal for many years. I immediately felt connected and comforted by her support. The only potential problem was that she lived 2.5 hours away. So no waiting until the last moment to notify her. Because of the distance i decided to also look for a doula that lived closer by. Just in case i needed someone with experience to be there quickly. I found Zoe, a doula in training, that lived only 20 minutes away. I was her first client, but she already brought her own three children into the world completely unassisted. She was also going to help me in the maternity period, since Portugal has no services for home nursing whatsoever. With my husband and mother that both witnessed all of my births, i now had my team set up! Ready for showtime.
My initial plan was to give birth on our own land. He would be the first baby to be born In Malhadil in over 40 years. This idea felt so romantic. Thijs would set up the yurt for me, and i would give birth right there surrounded by nature. But unfortunately the reality at this stage was that we had merely ruins, no running water and no electricity, and it was still winter. Nature was the only thing we had plenty of. After settling in our airbnb house i quickly realized that i would save myself and everyone around me a lot of stress if we would just stay there, in stead of commuting to our village, once the labor started. So we did.
On the exact due date my baby boy decided it was time to settle on earth. I had been having light contractions already for several days, but it didn’t seem to pull through. During the last night i noticed the waves were becoming more frequent and a bit sharper. So i rang my midwife in the morning to give her a heads up. She said she was on her way and would arrive early in the afternoon. Thijs was still planning to get some work done in the village, until suddenly the contractions started to change in to a more active state. I was set up in the guesthouse with a nice fire burning and listening to my piano playlist while catching the waves. My mother came in, looked at me, and immediately started timing. She quickly instructed my father and husband to fill up the bath. They emptied all the hot water from the boiler, and started commuting buckets of water by car.
Within an hour i felt that i needed to press. I walked to the tiny bathroom and sat on the toilet. A bad place to be, when your baby is about to come down like an avalanche. My mother immediately called my husband that he had to come right away. When he came in with our youngest daughter Nika, he had to pull me out of the bathroom. Our baby’s head was almost coming out, and i could barely walk. I managed to move three meters and bend over with my hands on the bed. With shaky legs i told my family that i was not going to be able to catch him like this. My mother rushed to get some towels on the floor, and within minutes he slithered through the hands of his dad and grandma, onto the towels. Our baby girl Nika witnessed the whole thing from the window frame. After birth i got into my partially filled bathtub to wash up, and waited for my doula and midwife to arrive. They did all the check ups and took great care of my and our baby Indy Chaz. Our little free man.
The next two weeks i spent mostly indoor in the little cosy guesthouse, bonding with my baby. It was such a precious time. I indulged myself with post natal massages, moxa treatment and osteopathic treatments for me and my baby. I also had my placenta partially capsulated and processed into creams. As with all my other babies i took the placenta capsules daily to help strengthen my body and boost my immune system.
My own birthing experiences gave me the inspiration to facilitate a safe birthing place on our land in the future. A place where women can retreat for about a month around their due date to spend the last week pre birth, and the first few weeks after births in comfort and indulgement. Safe and supported by a tribe of women who can assist in many different ways in the process of becoming a mother. To create an environment where we can let nature do, what she know best. That is to create life.
Home birth midwife Portugal: Midwivesofthelake@gmail.com
Placenta capsulist: Catiameireles@hotmail.co.uk
(Post partum) Doula: email@example.com