If there is something like a Jill-of-all-trades, An Bleu Lambreghts would be that. She grew up in Antwerp, Belgium, where her passion for modern dance and ballet steered her towards obtaining a Bachelor in Dance. She was on her way to sign a contract as the choreographer for a Parisian fashion brand. That’s when she made the first of several career pivots, into yachting.
It sounds like you were onto a career breakthrough. How did yachting suddenly cross your path?
An: Well, I wouldn’t consider it a career breakthrough. I had already worked as a dancer and choreographer in different productions in theaters and national tv shows. As a choreographer I had also worked in Spain and the Canary Islands. When I returned to Belgium, my travel itch was bigger than my drive to continue my dance career. It’s quite a harsh world where you continuously have to prove yourself again and again with every audition. At that point my boyfriend, Jens Oomes, who had recently left Belgium to work on yachts, started sending me emails. These were love letters sent from the Atlantic Ocean. He invited me to come and join him on an Island called Bequia. I had never heard of it, didn’t even know how to pronounce it and had to look it up on the map. It sounded like a great adventure I wanted to pursue.
Did you see it as a potentially new career, or did you think of it as a gap year experience.
An: I had only been on a boat once. Jens’s family owns an 37ft sailing yacht and I thoroughly enjoyed the one or two days we sailed on it prior to all of this. I also had a passion for cooking and Jens had explained that we could earn some money while sailing and traveling as captain and cook / stew. But we soon got hired by a catamaran charter company and got to see most of the Caribbean Islands that way. We only discovered that the yachting industry offers serious employment, by the time we were already surrounded by it. After a year of back to back charters, we wanted to go back to the Mediterranean for the summer season. I did my first Ocean crossing on the Swan 77 Varsovie. From there on we got several jobs on sail yachts. My favourite position was on board the Oyster 655 Flying Duckman, owned by a lovely English family.
What made you want to go back to terra firma?
An: It had been an incredible experience. I learned a great deal and met so many interesting people. But in 5 years we never stayed in one place for more than 3 months. Not having the freedom to see friends and family when I wanted to, weighed on me. But also, thinking about wanting to start a family, I did not want to walk off the passarelle pregnant. After a lot of thought we decided to go back to Belgium to live a land-based life.
Surely this dictated the next career pivot?
An: I think that, after all the travelling and constantly experiencing new impressions of the world around me, I wanted a ‘normal life’ for a while. I looked for a part-time job that I could easily combine with studying interior design. However, I tricked myself, because I can’t do things half heartedly. So, one of the interviews as a sales person for a interior design and furniture company turned into me becoming the manager of their three stores in Belgium. I was passionate about interior design but becoming a mother changed everything!
Having children does change everything for people. Your latest career now revolves around people who are expecting children. Did having children lead you to what you are doing now?
An: Yes! It absolutely did! When pregnant from my first child, I discovered a passion for birth and wanted to know everything about it. I also discovered that there was very little support for mothers and new families at this important time in their lives. You basically have your doctor’s appointments but there is hardly any emotional support.
We moved to Mallorca when our son was 6 months old. The young families in the Mallorca expat community, which we then became part of, all experience similar issues. They generally have no close family around, oftentimes experience a language barrier and have to quickly acquaint themselves with the local medical support systems. Top that off with dads working on yachts and being away for long periods, many pregnant women and young mothers are longing for support and community. Wanting to help these women, I studied to become a certified doula or birth coach. A doula is a birth professional offering emotional, physical, logistical and spiritual support for mothers and their families during pregnancy, birth and post-partum. Research has proven that having a doula decreases the risk of complications and medical interventions, achieves beter outcomes for mothers and babies and decreases the risk of birth trauma and dissatisfying birth experiences.
My true passion is really to help women take birth back into their own hands. I help them achieve a positive birthing experience by empowering them with knowledge and awareness. In Mallorca, many of my clients are consciously deciding to achieve a beautiful start of parenthood.
So what can expecting parents expect when working with you?
An: Usually my first contact with local clients is through the Pregnancy Circle. This is a get-together I organise twice a month for pregnant women and new moms. It’s a great way to inform themselves about pregnancy. It’s a safe place to ask questions and share experiences. It’s also great to witness the many friendships that have been forged here. When they sign up with me they can expect me to prepare them physically, emotionally and rationally. This happens through exercises, understanding the mind-body connection, learning how they can help their own natural birth process. Perhaps the most important part is unlearning the preconceptions and false beliefs that surround birthing.
Would you say that after your careers in dancing, yachting and interior design, you have now found your true calling? Or are you preparing for the next career already?!
An: At this point I believe my true calling is in guiding and supporting women. Perhaps not only pregnant women. Perhaps in the future I will expand this to womenhood in all stages of life. But right now, besides supporting women here on the island, I am focused on launching my online prenatal course. A 6 week transformational program for everyone who wants to have a natural birth.