THE PARENTS: Amalea Wolfe van Winden, 27, and Martijn van Winden, 28, of Germantown
THE CHILD: Travis Omar Apollo, born February 5, 2018
COSMIC JOKE: When they said goodbye to Martijn’s family in the Netherlands, they teased his parents that they’d likely be waiting 5 to 10 years for a grandchild. But Amalea was already pregnant.
It wasn’t the right time. Amalea and Martijn had just spent six months traveling — Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia — before buying a fixer-upper on the edge of Germantown.
And it wasn’t the right place: They were leaving the Netherlands, where they’d lived for five years, a country with generous and flexible family benefits, for the United States, with its comparatively stingy policies.
Besides, Amalea had an IUD.
She was so certain she couldn’t be pregnant that when the first test stick turned immediately positive, she decided it must be broken. The next morning, she tried another: same result.
“We had just bought a foreclosed house that needed a lot of work,” Amalea says. “I thought: How are we going to do this, pregnant? I can’t be on a ladder. I can’t be lifting heavy stuff. Where’s a baby going to be in a construction site?”
It was one more unexpected turn in a life already full of switchbacks: visa mix-ups and career shifts and changes of venue and changes of mind.
“I’m not a religious person, but I do like to think that sometimes things happen for a reason,” says Martijn, a Dutch native who met Amalea when both were in art school in the Netherlands. “I thought: Let’s go with the flow.”
Amalea agreed. “[The baby] was part of Martijn and me. How can you deny a product of your love? I was unable to refuse a gift from the universe. Our life, so far, has been full of boomerangs being thrown into our plans, having to throw that plan away and make a new one.”
That began in 2011, when Martijn was drawn to Amalea’s funky fashion sense—she had a closetful of color-blocked sneakers and heels—and to one of her drawings, an image of dancers’ feet.
They were soon infatuated with each other, though not with the art school curriculum; they stopped attending class and hung out at one another’s apartments, watching movies, shooting photographs, making art with rented and found materials.
When they discussed marriage, they were in emphatic agreement; neither believed in the institution, the clichés or the ideology. But when Amalea began longing to return to the U.S. — she’d been abroad since age 15, attending high school and then a fashion academy in France — a green card adviser told them marriage was the surest ticket to legal residence and work here for Martijn.
So they did it — a 2012 wedding in a walk-in chapel in Philadelphia, with Amalea’s younger sister and her best friend as witnesses. After the wedding, they lived in a Motel 6, with their standard poodle and Czech wolf dog, for a couple of weeks. They wanted to remain in the States, but the ample social supports and comfort of Martijn’s family in the Netherlands drew them back. Amalea sold nearly everything she owned to afford the airline ticket.
They remained abroad for five years, until a Realtor told them that the house they’d remodeled in a gentrifying area of North Amsterdam could sell for a lot of money — enough to fulfill their dream of traveling and moving to the U.S.
They did both. And that’s when the pregnancy stick flagged the next unplanned chapter of their lives.
Amalea practiced hot yoga — one hundred 90-minute classes in seven months — throughout her pregnancy, hiked with their dogs in the Wissahickon, and took a mindful-birthing class that helped her think imaginatively about what was happening in her body.
“One of the assignments in the class was to do a mindful meal, to think about the food, the journey of the food, and I had the revelation that we start out as amphibians, living inside our mothers and take this journey to the outside world and then we’re breathing air,” she says.
The class eased Martijn’s anxieties, as well. “I felt really calm,” he recalls. “Of course, every time I felt Amalea’s belly and felt Travis kick or move, I got really excited about him and wondering how he would be, what he would look like, what he would be acting like.”
They found out at 20 weeks that the baby was a boy, and chose a name — three of them, actually — with clear intentions. With “Travis,” they wanted a moniker that wouldn’t be misspelled or mispronounced. “Omar” is for a beloved horse Amalea rode and trained in her teens, and “Apollo” is a nod to the technological agitations of our times.
Amalea’s contractions began the morning after the Eagles won the Super Bowl and progressed quickly; by dawn, she was laboring in the bathtub, in their bed, leaning against the walls, while Martijn tried to honor the 4-1-1 rule the midwives at Lifecycle WomanCare had taught them: contractions every four minutes, lasting one minute, for a full hour before coming to the birth center.
Amalea dreaded getting into the car. “The contractions were so intense that I needed to be moving or needed Martijn’s hands on my hips like they had taught us.” But she endured the ride; by the time they arrived, she was 8 centimeters dilated. Travis arrived about three hours later.
“What was happening was so intense, I had to give it all of my attention,” Amalea remembers. “I thought: This is bad, but how bad is it? Would I do it again? Yes? OK, then, let’s move on. I really experienced it as working with my body.”
And then there was Travis, the baby conceived somewhere in Southeast Asia at an inopportune moment of their lives, the baby who lay on Amalea’s chest moments after his birth.
“For weeks after he was born, I would be lying in bed at night, breastfeeding him, and would go back to those moments of pushing,” she says. “Martijn got to be there the whole time and see what I couldn’t see. I was experiencing what he couldn’t feel. And now we have this guy who’s part of us.”