COMMUNITY LIFE IN SPAIN
Nice weather. Resignation to things being as the are - intellectual more than emotional though. A dispationate sense of calm, numb relaxation, letting the tiredness that we’ve been carrying across Europe these last few years surface. But also flashes of intense gratitude for being here now, as a part of a community of 21 adults and 9 children.
We’ve been here since September, and in the meantime lost of people have come and gone. Everybody who lives here has had visitors every now and then, so as a community we’ve been constantly adjusting to accommodate whatever it is that any new person brings along. Now, we’ve entered a period where this is it. And that feels good.
I got to read a book in the middle of the day today. For that, I had to take Oliver to the Church, where his mother was. The Church: that's what we call the communal building in the centre of the field, because of it's pointy shape. It’s where all our meetings, parties, meditations, workshops, jam-sessions, etc., happen when it’s too windy or too wet to be outside.
Anna was working on setting up a project. We’re in Spain, because she gets to follow an off-grid course in holistic midwifery here, in another self-built structure on a neighbouring field, in the community next to us. This year’s class is 10 women strong.
Ever since Félix started growing in her womb, Anna's interest in all things related to childbirth started growing too. Giving birth was an empowering experience for her, to say the least. During most of the pregnancy we lived in Budapest. There we followed a class for soon-to-be parents given by Ágnes Geréb, in her home. She is a Hungarian midwife of repute and a champion of the global home-birth movement, operating in a country where it is risky to be a pioneer in that field. Case in point: her prison sentence, her house arrest, the revoking of her licence to practice. Still, she has never stopped making waves that contributed to the legalization of home-births in Hungary, per 2011, and, before that, the right for fathers to attend their children’s births. It’s been a long time since she illegally smuggled fathers into labour rooms, back in 1977, and the outlook on many things regarding childbirth has changed in Hungary. She was in the news again not so long ago, because she received a Presidential pardon for her two-year prison sentence. That was in June 2018, just a few weeks after Félix’ first birthday.
Even though home-birth is now legal in Hungary, you still have to conform to a whole list of strict conditions. And if hospitalization ultimately can not be avoided, it is a given that you will receive harsh criticism from hospital staff. In fact, throughout the pregnancy you would need to brace yourself for advice, aimed at changing your mind, often expressed strongly by the various medical authorities. So even today, it still takes a strong will and a thick skin to see home birth through in Hungary. We didn’t feel like having to put up any defences or adopt such a stoic attitude towards our caregivers.
Also, a hospital-visit to Anna’s grandmother, who had broken her leg, didn’t inspire confidence in the Hungarian health care system, to say the least. She was in a women’s room; patients being sorted by gender rather than by condition. She was lying uncomfortably: a piece of foam was her matrass. Her lunch was a single slice of white toast, one tomato and a can of spam. At one point I was asked to leave the room, because one of the other patients had to use the bedpan. There wasn’t so much as a curtain between any of the eight beds. One woman was in pain, moaning. Some were sleeping, or trying to. Another was staring aimlessly into the distance. There were no TV's. A few weeks after that visit, there was an item in the news, saying that a patient had gone missing in another Budapest hospital. He was found five days later on the toilet - dead.
I don’t mean to badmouth the brave men and women who actually continue to work in the health care system over there, but boy is it clear that they are underfunded and underappreciated by their government.
We moved to Holland when Anna was 30 weeks pregnant. It was Ágnes who recommended an independent midwife in Holland. Marjolein was great. She was there with us when Félix came into the world, and into our living room in Zutphen, early in the morning on May 23rd 2017. And it was also Marjolein, paying us a visit a few months later, who told of this place here in the South of Spain, where she’d just taught a class. “I can totally picture you guys there!”
I wanted to continue reading my book, so I brought Oliver to the Church, and put him on his feet. He’s been climbing up on all of our furniture in the yurt, and could already stand up straight, holding onto our trouser legs with one hand. But now I was standing back a bit, and he stood there by himself, steady as a rock, for a good 20 seconds, without holding onto anything!
According to the WHO, 973 people died of the coronavirus today. 15 of them in Holland, 90 of them in Spain. Zero in Hungary.