Each year, we try to head to Europe for a month. Since I am on call 24/7 for the rest of the year, this is our only opportunity to turn off the iPhone and be fully present, and physically and emotionally recharge.
It's a pilgrimage of sorts. We seem to move from one Madonna and Child to another in France, Italy, or Spain. We climb hills to listen to chanting monks in empty chapels, and scramble down terraced vineyards towards sparkling seas. We encounter so many grandmothers in the fields, and mothers wearing their babies while shopping, and groups of old men laughing on the same bench that they have shared for most of their lives.
We see babies in Paris, Tuscany and the Cinque Terre being carried in slings, Ergo carriers, and wraps (it's so much easier to navigate cobblestone streets without a stroller). We follow children singing while skipping home for lunch, eat in bistros welcoming children of all ages. We see children being greeted and twirled around by Nonnas and Mamas. We eat in tiny squares while the children kick their soccer balls onto the cathedral walls.
Birth issues seemed to be everywhere, even on the hilltops of Tuscany. I don't know much Italian, but I do know the word birth in many languages. I see Punto Nascita and my eyes light up. Birth Place?
One street in Volterra, Italy, was decorated with branches covered in blue ribbons. At first I thought the branches were a local custom, announcing a home birth of a baby. But, it turns out that there has been a big fight to retain birth services in Volterra. A pilot project allowing women to give birth locally had been scheduled to end in July. So, why were the branches on this street in September? Had a woman given birth at home recently, against local recommendation? Or were the branches part of a protest against the removal of services? Women are fighting for birth rights wherever I turn.
No matter where I am, even when I'm on holiday, my thoughts do not stray far from the focus of my passion. Just as my husband sees a building and can construct and deconstruct it in his mind, I see families, mothers, babies, and try to inhabit their reality. I see their joys and their challenges. I am recharged.