Giving birth in Portugal, Part II

Photo by the author. Can you tell I’m smiling?

What follows is my birth story. It isn’t short; it’s more of an odyssey.

Although I have shared this account with close friends a few times over, I have yet to find a way to tell it that does not sound dramatic, or make me sound like a victim — which I am not.

My birth story is presented in three sections below:

  • The birth plan

Note: I did not want to know the sex of the baby, which explains the use of pronouns below.

The birth plan

Since I learned I was…


Photo by the author

Giving birth in Portugal, Part I

Somewhere along the way, in my early twenties, I became terrified of giving birth. I heard too many stories of things going wrong. Thankfully, as life goes, I eventually found my “half orange” — a term of endearment I picked up in Bolivia, their equivalent to our “my better half” — and, in April 2020, I was thrilled to find out I was pregnant.

And that was thanks to a goat.

Inspired by a goat’s way of giving birth

In 2017, my husband and I moved to Portugal. Within a year, we bought an old farm and started renovating the ruins on the land with a goal to…


The list I wish someone had sent me

Pregnancy, motherhood, parenthood… So many questions! (Photo copyright Shahnaz Radjy, do not reproduce without permission)

The amount of information available to expecting and new moms is mind-boggling. Not only do you already have your hands full growing a little human, and then adjusting to your new life where a little person depends on you completely, but if you’re anything like me, you’re left with a million questions at all times. You want not just answers, but reliable, practical information. Easier said than done.

That’s why I’m writing this article. It’s the list I wish someone had sent me when I announced I was pregnant.

Here’s what will hopefully be a useful starting point if you…


Exercises from Chapter 1 “the sound of your writing”

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd. As applied to the art of writing, and following Ursula Le Guin’s advice on the matter. (Image courtesy of Pixabay)

In January 2018, a writer friend and I decided to have a call every two weeks to work on our writing, providing feedback and acting as accountability partners to each other.

We started with Ursula Le Guin’s incredible book “Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story”, which I cannot recommend enough. Le Guin is funny, irreverent, clear, and provides advice, examples, and hands-on exercises. …


“How to write about twilight in a world of 140 characters”

Sunrise or sunset? Only time will tell. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Author’s note: This writing exercise was carried out in January, but seemed fitting to share now that we all have a bit more time to reflect.

It has never been easier to get your words out into the world. From personal blogs and self-publishing platforms, and in a virtual reality where captions are considered microblogging and some channels force us to fit ideas into 140 characters or less, the opportunities are endless.

Amidst these paradoxical contrasts and opposing forces, the question becomes not do you publish, but what do you publish. Political opinions, judgmental tirades, self-absorbed belly-button gazing personal essays…


Life, and writing, can be quite the ride.

Because failure is merely an opportunity to learn disguised as a setback

This is my third year participating in the National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. For the past two years, it was fun, and relatively painless to bang out 50,000 words in 30 days. I wrote a Young Adult Fantasy novel in 2017 (still being edited), and a memoir-based book in 2018 (still to be edited).

For this edition of NaNoWriMo, I’ll start with the end: I failed.

I did not “win” because I did not log 50,000 words by the time midnight came around on November 30th. …


A hiking adventure gone wrong (or so right?)

Le Saleve, hill or mountain? (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The three of us sat on the uneven ground, rocks and roughage digging into my thighs. Jean was on the phone, smiling and nodding like everything was going according to plan. When she hung up, she didn’t say anything — or maybe I was just in a rush to know in how much trouble we were in. “So?” the word escaped my lips, as though it had been digging a tunnel with a spoon for years and finally made it out.

She shrugged, though whether she was trying to act nonchalant or felt apologetic, I couldn’t tell. …


Because sometimes, the little things matter

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The day started like any other, but it wasn’t quite a day like any other — I was invited to a party!

The Easter Party

On this particular occasion, I hitched a ride with my godfather.

I was excited to go to this Easter Party, even though the hostess (I’ll call her “Dragonmom”) intimidated me a little. I was friends with her kids, and they were pretty cool. She was intense — and super competitive.

My godfather and his three charming, smart, attractive sons, were always in Dragonmom’s good graces. I never knew if it was because she hoped her…


And what other writing challenges can unlock in you.

Make no mistake: writing is an adventure (Photo via Pixabay)

Last year, I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for those who are “in the know”) for the second time. I made it to the end, and claimed my victory.

Or did I?

In 2017, I wrote the first draft of a YA fantasy novel. It felt revolutionary. I had taken my never-admitted-to dream of writing a book, and looked at fear of failure right in the eye. Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I danced my way to achieving my dream, and staring down my fear.

In 2018, I wrote the first draft of a memoir about how I left…


One day, I will write on one of these beauties (Photo via Pixabay)

Because writers aren’t always very good at following the rules

A year ago, I took the plunge and participated in my first ever National Novel Writing MonthNaNoWriMo for short — writing challenge. I wrote a first draft of a Young Adult Fantasy novel, the backstory to one of my favorite characters from back when I played Dungeons & Dragons (oh, how I miss those days).

It’s still a work in progress. I’ve shown it to a few people, integrated their feedback, and participated in PitchWars and Author Mentor Match but without getting assigned to a mentor.

Now, I’m working on finding an informal mentor. Either way, the goal…

Shahnaz Radjy

Aspiring farmher, mother, foodie, bookworm, problem solver, horse-lover. Visit my blog http://casabeatrix.pt/. On Instagram under @TheCramooz. Alumni of @UofPen

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