October 17, 2016

la casa de acogida, punta arenas

At the time I was pregnant with my fourth child, there were a total of 30 other women on Navarino Island who were also pregnant at the same time. Evidently the previous winter's big snow and long dark nights had been fruitful for baby making.

For us personally, having another child was a serious and conscious decision James and I discussed at length. My 38th birthday marked the day I made a decision to try and give #4 a go. With age 40 just around the corner, I saw the window beginning to narrow for lower-risk pregnancy and I believed that I would truly regret not trying for one more.

What I didn't consider was the plan for giving birth. Pearl's birth had been so simple and easy, with my Kiwi mid-wife Tina Patrick providing her house in Ponsonby as the birth location and Anasazi Girl just a few minutes drive away at the Viaduct for us to return home to. We were very lucky to have such a special experience of giving birth in a foreign country this way.

In this instance, at 34 weeks I had to leave the island, wait for the imminent birth, and remain on the mainland until we were given a clean bill of health. The biggest complication for us was housing.

I talked to other women on the island who had given birth or were about to give birth. Many of them were locals with extended family in Punta Arenas. Those who did not have family in PA, particularly those who were part of the Navy, traveled to port cities further north, like Viña del Mar, Valdivia, or Concepción. Most of the women I talked to would return to be with their families for their child-births.

When I explained that I was not flying to the states to give birth, I was told by locals that there was a house available in Punta Arenas called La Casa de Acogida (which translates as the house of refuge).

They said the house was clean, safe, and available for women from Puerto Natales, Puerto Williams, Porvenir, and Argentina needing medical controls in Punta Arenas. In these smaller towns in Southern Chile there is always general medical care available locally, but any specialized needs required residents to travel to the largest city of the region - Punta Arenas - for medical controls.

The house was ideal for those who did not have families/friends to stay with in Punta Arenas and those who could not afford to stay in hotels. With a referral letter from the public health center in Williams I could stay there without a problem with my family. The only catch was that men were not allowed.

I had a network friends in the region, but none who could put us up for two weeks (three kids plus a pregnant woman about to burst!). I could not find any reasonable short-term housing in Punta Arenas or Natales. I felt conflicted, as I wanted to secure housing for my family, but at the same time wanted to stay focused on the goal of paying off our mast.

James left the question of housing up to me, saying I could live anywhere I wanted. He was going to work, we had funds coming in for housing, the birth. He wanted me to be comfortable and it was ultimately my choice. I thought hard, but could not justify going on a two week holiday just because I was pregnant.

James' work project on a 62' boat would put him in Grenada for the first two weeks of our required leave of the island... so it seemed reasonable that I could move us off the boat, off the island, and could stay with my kids at La Casa de Acogida until he returned. I was nervous as I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but figured if it felt wrong, we would make a speedy exit and do something else.

I talked to Andrea Gomez, the director of FONASA at CESCOF in Puerto Williams. She drafted a letter on my behalf, and when we rolled into Punta Arenas, the refuge became our temporary home for two weeks.

Casa de Acogida
Punta Arenas - CHILE / XII Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena (febrero de 2016)

Punta Arenas - CHILE / XII Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena (febrero de 2016)

At La Casa de Acogida, my three kids and I shared a dormitory bedroom that had 11 beds and one bathroom. There was a communal kitchen, living, and dining area. Three private rooms in the house were reserved for women in need of a quieter space for recuperation or recovery from treatment or surgery. Men were allowed to visit the house during the daytime, but only able to enter the communal living and kitchen areas. A buzzer got us in through an exterior gate and then into the house. There was a laundry machine and the resident proctor checked in on us periodically.

My kids were amazing and dealt with the big changes and new environment with huge patience. They shifted from being in the private space of Anasazi Girl into a transitory and open housing scene. They were ultra respectful of the other women in the house and incredibly well-behaved.

What a big education over the span of two weeks in communal living and different medical conditions. We met all kinds of women from different parts of the region who were getting routine medical examinations. We also met those who were there for more serious issues like cancer, delivery of a premature baby, or recovering from major surgery.

The girls got their nails painted. They kids were given gifts and treats by the residents. I was very concerned that the kids' antics would disturb some of the older women, but all the guests of the house greeted them with a big smile and found true joy in their presence.

Everything we needed was within walking distance of the house and at the end of a long day out in the city, it was easy to get a taxi home. We kept in communication with James daily through Messenger, Skype, and WhatsApp. During our stay at the house, I initiated a long over-due wire transfer for Buzz Ballenger to pay off the balance we owed on our mast. I can not express what a big relief it was to push that button. It was a wonderful feeling of pure joy.

After two weeks, we had made new friends, and we were ready to make our next move to Natales. James flew into PUQ the first week of March, we spent one night together at an apartment/hotel in Punta Arenas, then we hopped on a bus with our lives in six duffel bags for the next phase of our life.

Our new friend Anna Ramirez.
Punta Arenas - CHILE / XII Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena (febrero de 2016)

1 comment:

  1. You are proud of your kids; rightly so! – Have the impression, you both take your kids with you in your world; which is surely great for your kids. (But don´t be disappointed, if one day the world of the adults, bearing your names, is not yours.) – Best to you and all! Georg