So I’m 35 weeks pregnant!
I saw a social media post recently from another woman who is also at 35 weeks.
She wrote that she has shooting pains and that her pubic bone and lower back and hips hurt so much she struggles to walk and that she is so tired she could fall asleep standing up...
I am very happy to report that I feel none of those things!
I know that it is by complete luck and chance that that is the case… so I am counting my blessings!
Honestly, I still feel pretty great all in all.
Yes, I get tired more easily and my mobility is becoming a little limited. And I do still get very crampy.
But, I bought myself a pregnancy ball and, let me tell you, it has been the best purchase of my ENTIRE pregnancy!
As soon as I sat on it, I felt immediate relief.
It allows you to do a pelvic tilt very easily and to roll your hips… it is ecstasy.
If you are pregnant and you don’t have one yet, go and do yourself a favor and buy one NOW. It’ll be the best $40 you’ve spent!
I’m grateful that, with the exception of bending over for things, I still have very good mobility. I still either swim with the dog or walk her daily, usually around 2 miles. I still do my aerobics most evenings. And my goal is to continue this for as long as possible!
I did try another chiropractor since my last post. I’ve been told it can be very helpful for labor, so I wanted to give another one a try.
My husband and I were very disappointed to find that no one in the office wore masks.
And it was a busy office!
None of the customers wore them. But, what’s worse, none of the staff.
The chiropractor then gave me an adjustment which involved very close, almost face-to-face, contact!
To be fair, the adjustment felt wonderful. Unlike with the other woman I saw, this gave me a sense of instant relief.
But, he wanted me to go THREE TIMES A WEEK! Which was to include a class with others to talk about his “philosophy.” Given the no-mask nature of the environment, I knew this would not be something I was comfortable with.
After some consideration, I decided to text the chiropractor explaining my reservations.
He agreed to see me once a week early in the morning before anyone else arrived and promised that he would wear a mask.
I’m glad I made this arrangement.
I will say that if you are pregnant and you have the insurance to cover it, that a good chiropractor is worth it! But, everyone should definitely wear a mask! Us pregnant women are in a high-risk category for needing hospitalization and ICU treatment.
In other news, I also held my virtual shower.
Instead of opting for a live-streamed conference-call type shower, my husband and I decided to record it ourselves and then send a link for everyone to watch at their leisure.
There seemed to be a lot of confusion surrounding the event. Though we created virtual invites that explained that it would not be live, many still marked their attendance as a "maybe."
And the registry was a huge source of stress for me.
I'd been told that it was good etiquette to have a wide array of items of various prices available for people to purchase.
So, in addition to the things we actually needed, I put a lot of my favorite children's books from when I was little on the list. Obviously it will be a long time before these books will come in handy. But, I figured these would be a good option for people who maybe didn't know us too well, yet still wanted to get us something small.
I also marked all the items that we actually really needed as "must-haves."
Well, few people looked at our must-haves list. And we were gifted maybe 20 books.
So, now we have an impressive children's library and we still have a decent sized list of items that we actually need to buy.
Also, while no one said as much, I have a feeling a few were left disappointed that they didn’t get a “live” experience. While others, I’m sure, were much more grateful that they didn’t have to be available at a specific time! (Or, let's be honest, even watch the video at all if they didn't want to.)
Unfortunately in these scenarios, there is no way to please everyone.
Personally, I find hosting events rather stressful. I end up bending over backwards to ensure that everyone feels attended to and happy. For this reason, a virtual shower worked out very well for me.
I got to open presents in a comfortable setting and thank everyone.
And my husband made the whole experience one big laughing fest. The video was actually a lot of fun to make.
So, the main focus of my post today is something that has been getting to me as of late.
There have been SO many perks about being pregnant in quarantine. I like to try and focus on those.
I don’t have to work.
I get all this quality time with my spouse.
I had enough time to finish the first draft of my novel. Not to mention all the other projects around the house, like preparing the nursery.
And I’ve gotten months of free-time to rest and enjoy myself before the arrival of our baby girl.
Especially since I know that the time to enjoy all these things will be limited in the coming months, I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to have this period at home.
In those ways, this really has been a blessing.
But, I have begun to feel the effects of one negative aspect: Isolation.
Isolation in pregnancy is something that I am told is perfectly normal.
Especially if, like me, you are the first of your friend group to get pregnant.
You are experiencing something that no one in your circle has ever gone through. They don’t know how to relate.
For some friends, I think it’s even a little scary. Like “wow, she’s on this new path that I’m nowhere close to being on/don’t even know if I want to go down.”
There's the worry if we will even have anything in common anymore.
So, I’m in this position where it feels like virtually no one reaches out to me. They never check in to ask how I am doing. And that can be hard.
Of course, coronavirus doesn’t help with any of that!
I’m aware that we are all struggling with our own personal issues during these difficult and trying times.
I am not the center of the universe!
However, it’s hard not to feel like you’re drifting further and further from your support circle at a time when you need them the most.
Occasionally, I reach out to check in on them. Usually they ask how I am doing then. But, honestly, I don’t want to feel like I am pressuring people into support. When they ask under those circumstances it seems disingenuous somehow.
When extended family members and others take an interest in my pregnancy, it seems to always revolve around one thing: my bump. Has anyone else experienced this?
“We want to see your bump!”
“Show us your belly!”
Even coworkers have messaged me on social media to request pictures of my bump.
They don't ask how you are. They just want to see your growing stomach.
I do not understand this.
My husband tried to frame it nicely. He said that there is so much stress surrounding a woman’s body that maybe this is society’s way of taking the negative out of weight gain. By making it a positive thing that others can fawn over.
That is a nice way of thinking about it.
For me, it’s hard not to feel like a prize pig. Or some weirdly sacred vessel.
Like my only value has been reduced to what is growing inside of me.
I’ve read that a lot of women really appreciate the extra attention they get during pregnancy. It makes them feel special. But, so far, that’s not been my experience.
B) The attention that I do get isn’t directed at me. It’s directed at my physical appearance. They just want to see my swollen belly. It doesn't feel like they care how I’m doing.
This kind of attention doesn’t make me feel special at all. Much the opposite in fact. It makes me feel invisible.
A lot of women experience this sense of isolation and distancing from friends when pregnant.
Under normal circumstances, that might be one of the reasons women attend birthing classes and prenatal yoga—to be around other women who are in the same boat.
But, what am I meant to do during a global pandemic?
I am so grateful every day for my husband. He is my best friend and the most awesome companion.
But, I wish I could interact with other women who are going through the same experience as me.
I wish I didn’t feel like my pregnancy was scaring all of my friends away.
To be honest, I don’t really see a way around this issue during our current global situation. Pregnancy is always hard. But, this seems like yet another challenge made that much harder by the coronavirus.
There are certainly worst things to have to cope with! And, as I said, I really do try to focus on the good that's come from this instead of the bad.
But, I wanted to write about it here in case maybe you are feeling the same. Sometimes it’s helpful to know in hard situations that we are not alone.
As usual, I'd love to hear from you!
Did you throw a normal baby shower or a virtual one?
Did you feel isolated in pregnancy or did you love the extra attention?
Or, if you are pregnant now, how has the pandemic been affecting you?
Thanks for reading xx
34 weeks pregnant. Just 6 weeks left!!
It’s been a while since I’ve written about pregnancy stuff and that’s because, so far, this third trimester has been a breeze!
In a few minor ways, this trimester feels a little like a return to the first. I have much less energy again. Still more than I did in the first trimester, but noticeably less than the second. This is easily combatted, though, with my daily naps!
I’ve also become marginally more emotional. Again, nothing extreme. I don’t have any crying outbursts. But, I’ve noticed I’m a bit more sensitive.
As my belly grows more cumbersome, things that get dropped on the floor are more and more being left for either my husband to pick up or my dog to eat.
Getting up sometimes requires a helping hand.
And even movements like getting in and out of the car have become, well… different.
I feel bad because I planted a small vegetable garden back in late April and now I can’t really do anything about it. Squatting down to weed or even pick vegetables is no longer really an option for me. So, I planted a garden… and now my husband has to do the rest!
But, so far I have no ankle or feet swelling. My belly button, while slowly disappearing, is still there, albeit barely! And I still have enough energy to work-out almost every day.
There is a lake nearby where we take the dog swimming every day that the weather’s nice enough. So, lately, my husband and I have been swimming with her. It’s a blast! But, oh so tiring as well!
Swimming is an excellent work-out for pregnancy as the buoyancy of the water relieves the weight on all your joints but you are still working virtually every muscle group.
Then, in the evenings, I usually do some aerobics-type exercises as well, like wall press-ups and squats and donkey-kicks… nothing too strenuous.
But, in the last week I have had a renewal of one pesky symptom: cramps.
They felt just like menstrual cramps (which for me are always in my lower back) and they hit me hard one night and went all through the next day!
By the end of the next afternoon, I began feeling a pain in the front of my stomach. It was like a fist clenching before slowly releasing.
We were pretty sure that this was my first brush with the dreaded Braxton-Hicks.
But, since it wasn’t going away, I went in to see my midwife just to play it safe.
They brought me up to one of the labor/delivery rooms and they hooked me up to a machine that measured my contractions. Of course, once there, I didn’t have a single one! But, it was nice to officially rule out pre-term labor. Giving birth at 33 weeks would have been too scary!
Baby girl hated the bands that they put across my belly. She kicked and she squirmed more in that hour than she had all week!
Thankfully, since that one day, my cramps have mellowed out. I’d been very physically active for the few days prior, so we think that maybe I just overdid it a little.
Note to self: take it easy in the third trimester… or else!
Now, I just get them intermittently--every few days--and they usually pass pretty quickly.
In other news this week, I went to see a prenatal chiropractor.
My back gets a little stiff sometimes and my midwife recommended it as something that might be helpful.
I was nervous about seeing someone as the coronavirus is still going strong in my state, but in the end decided to give it a shot.
This chiropractor wound up being quite the character!!
First and foremost, she didn’t take the virus seriously. I don’t view the coronavirus as an area for opinion and “personal beliefs”… and it certainly should not be political. It is a virus.
I wear a mask to protect others and ask that they wear a mask to protect me. If we all did this, we would have saved so many lives. But, I digress.
Straightaway, I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a mask. Given that she works in an industry where she interacts with so many people on a physically close basis, I found this a bit alarming.
Then, during my preliminary exam, she asked me, “What does your husband do?”
Another button for me. She never asked what I did, she asked what my husband did.
So, I explained that we work at the same restaurant.
“Oh, are you super excited that the 50% capacity restriction has been lifted?”
“To be honest, no. I think it’s a terrible idea.”
“Oh, well I could kind of see that.”
“There is no way to adhere to social distancing regulations.”
“I just had another patient in here earlier wondering about the same thing.”
“I’m telling you… there is no way to do it.”
Because, really folks, there isn’t! Not in my restaurant anyway. Not at 100% capacity.
Also, bear in mind that restaurant employees all must wear masks and protective gear; but that is for YOUR safety.
You aren’t wearing a mask because you are there to eat.
There is nothing to protect the employees from the customers.
Already in my city, we have several reports of outbreaks at restaurants that refuse to close and that force their employees to continue working regardless.
From experience working at a very high-end restaurant, I can tell you that there are the health regulations and rules that workers are meant to follow... and then there are the rules that people actually do. As I'm sure you know from whatever field you work in, there are lazy people who like to cut corners in every industry. This unfortunately has not changed just because of the coronavirus.
So, please bear in mind that if you decide to go out to eat, you are putting restaurant employees at risk (and many are not there by choice.) As well as, very likely, yourself.
Thankfully, my husband and I do not have to return to work until after the baby is born.
Okay. End rant.
Anyway, the chiropractor had me watch a small video on her computer which explained the link between the nervous system and the spine.
It talked about how stress played a huge part in our spinal health—which makes sense.
After the video, the chiropractor told me that she was going to do three tests and from those tests she would garner just how stressed I was.
The first and second test involved a computerized tool that she ran along my spine.
The third test had me place my palm on a mousepad so that the computer could take readings of my pulse variations.
After that, I went home and I was asked to return the next day.
From those three tests, the chiropractor told me she could read my stress levels.
This was where she lost me.
If she had done thermo-imaging of my brain or had taken cortisol measurements from my blood or something like that… I’d believe she could have a more accurate picture of my stress levels.
But, how she thought that she could delineate such things from those computer tests… that I wasn’t so sure about.
She told me that I had many misalignments in my back. This, of course, made sense to me.
I have a basketball on the front of my body and it shifts my balance, moves my organs, makes me sleep funny… of course my back is a little out of place!
Not to mention the fact that I’ve been wearing bras that are too small for months because I keep outgrowing them as soon as I buy them!
She then told me that these misalignments were due to my extreme levels of stress.
The pulse variation test in particular was able to measure how big my “stress bucket” was and whether or not it was full.
She told me, “You are in constant fight or flight mode. Your stress bucket is overflowing.”
“I honestly don’t feel that stressed,” I told her.
“Oh, I get that all the time. That’s because your body internalizes it.”
Then, she gave me my first adjustment.
Let me note here that I went into the office with zero pain. But, when she had finished, my lower left hip really hurt. It felt out of place.
I mentioned this to her and she said, “That’s because your muscles aren’t used to it yet. You should use an icepack or take an Epsom salt bath.”
Except, what I was feeling was NOT muscle pain. And it lasted well into the next day.
So, I went into the office with no pain and left in pain.
Not to mention, I really wasn’t sold on her stress tests. It struck me as odd that so many women should tell her, “I don’t feel stressed”… perhaps this was because they weren’t!
What makes much more sense to me is that whatever misalignment is there is due to, I dunno, the BABY on the front of our bodies!
If she had wanted to tell me that stress was also a minor factor, of course I would believe that. But, the main source? That doesn’t wash.
She recommended that I see her twice a week from now until 8-12 weeks postpartum!! This also seemed incredibly excessive. I’d have been willing to see someone once a week. But twice a week… and for that long? It was hard not to feel like it was a bit of a scam.
I gave here one more try. Just to see. Once again I went into the office in no pain and left in pain. I’ve decided not to see her anymore.
I certainly believe that chiropractic care can be helpful. And it makes sense that it’d especially be helpful during pregnancy. But, that woman was not a good fit for me. I have an appointment with a different chiropractor here in a few days; hopefully this one will be better for me.
Have you had any similar experiences?
How many of my readers saw a chiropractor during their pregnancy?
What was 34 weeks pregnant like for you?
I’d love to hear your stories! xx
(This is a continuation from my last blog post. As my pregnancy remains beautifully uneventful at 33 weeks, I'm sharing something a little different. This is the story of how my husband and I came to be together. If you read last week's post, you'll know it's already been quite the journey to bring us to this point. And, it only gets crazier from here!!)
This will be a long post. I will try and keep it as abbreviated as possible. But, there are so many parts to our tale!
You'll read about bad lawyers and tribunals and immigration law. There will be heartbreak and deportations and death... but, I'll clue you in, at the end of it all, there is a happy ending.
I'm proud of what my husband and I have endured to bring us where we are today. I think that we are stronger for it. And it makes for an incredible story!
After our sublet in Manchester, I returned home that winter.
We applied for the appropriate fiance visa and we booked train tickets to Niagara Falls. I signed a lease on an apartment for us. David booked his plane ticket. All of our ducks were in a row.
February 2012 finally came. I furnished our little apartment as best as I could. And, a few days before he arrived, my family helped me move in. It was a small one-bedroom on the top floor of an old building.. which only had stairs!
Finally, it was the day of David's arrival. I went to the grocery store to stock our fridge, taking an extra pleasure in buying all of his favorite foods.
As I shut the fridge door, I decided to check my phone. There should be a message saying that he had landed in Chicago safe and sound.
There was a message. But it was not the one that I wanted.
David had been turned back by customs in Dublin. It was because of his overstayed visa in 2010. Even worse, they banned him from the United States for THREE YEARS.
To say that this was devastating would be an understatement. It felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach.
Thankfully, I was able to get out of my apartment lease. I used what little money I had left to fly over to the UK immediately. My family, saints that they are, were the ones to move all of my belongings. For the second time in less than a week!
David and I tried to elope. We even researched getting married in other European countries. Unfortunately, we found that the system was not designed for spontaneity. I had no choice but to return to the States with the hope of saving money as quickly as possible to return for a visit. But, the uncertainty and the strain of long-distance became too much. We broke up for the second time.
Once again, I decided to heal my broken heart through travel and I met up with some friends who were in Sicily. After more European excursions, and to make a long story short, David and I once again rekindled our relationship.
This time, David and I were far more resolute in being back together. We had no idea how we would make it work, but we knew that we would, whatever the cost.
I decided to get a student visa to study in the UK. Universities were far too expensive, so I began exploring colleges. I expected it to be the difference between a community college and a university.
I arranged to have a school visit in January 2013. I told everyone I would be gone for just a month.
The college, as it turned out, was very different from an American community college. Like night versus day.
I learned that in England, a college is an intermediary point between high school and university. It is like a stepping stone.
To put it mildly, that college was awful. As committed as I was to staying with David, I simply could not envision myself going there.
I left the college, which wasn’t in the nicest part of Manchester, and met up with David in tears.
We were standing in an alleyway.
“I’m sorry,” I cried. “I want to do anything to be with you.. but I can’t go to that school. What are we going to do?”
I knew that if we didn't find a solution to our long-distance problem, that it would be the end for us.
“Well, we could do that other thing,” David said to me.
He meant get married.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was my proposal.
To get married in England as an American, the Home Office wants you to have their version of a fiance visa. It was pretty expensive, which we couldn't afford. And I would've had to leave the country and wait for another six months.
So, we planned to just get married anyway. There was nothing legally stopping us.
After, I would have to go back home to the States and get a spouse visa to return.
Our plan was in place.
As we learned from the previous year, you can't just elope in England. You have to “give notice” of your wedding at the Registrar’s office. We set the date for as early as possible, which was several weeks away. We booked my return ticket home for a couple of weeks after. By then, I’d have been away from home for just a little over two months.
We got married on March 25, 2013 when I was 22 years old at the registrar’s office in Manchester.
After, we spent a week at a hotel in the city center which was one of the best weeks of our lives.
Then, we met with a solicitor to discuss the paperwork and visas we would need to apply for.
That’s when our whole plan exploded.
“If you leave the UK now,” the solicitor told me. “You will never be let back.”
We didn’t understand. “But why?”
Turns out, to bring your spouse to the UK, you have to earn a certain amount per year. Specifically, 18,600 pounds. Which was double that in dollars at the time. Of course, that doesn’t sound like a lot. But, David was a waiter and most of his wages went undeclared.
We asked if we could borrow money from relatives or if my wages from my job back home factored into the equation at all. Neither were a possibility. There was no method of co-sponsorship, either. Even if I personally was sitting on a large inheritance, it would not have mattered.
“And because you have married a British citizen, the Home Office will never again give you a tourist visa. They know that you want to stay.
“Do not leave,” he advised us. “Whatever you do. They cannot deport you because it is the separation of a family unit.”
And this, folks, is where our real adventure began.
We sought out a second opinion. I called a few lawyers, most said there was nothing we could do.
But one, Malik, told me about a loophole.
Because the UK was still a part of the European Union, EU law actually took precedence over UK immigration law. And, under EU law, they had what was called "freedom of travel." With this law, it was much easier to bring your spouse and children with you from country to country.
In fact, there had already been a precedent case. An English native, Surinder Singh, had been living in Denmark and then travelled back to the UK and used this "freedom of travel" to bring his wife with him because he was now considered a European instead of just an Englishman.
Confused? So is everyone.
But, at the time, we thought it was excellent news.
David had grown up in Italy as a child. This meant that he could be considered a European citizen!
So we spent 600 pounds to hire this lawyer, Malik, and have him file the necessary paperwork to grant my permission for residence. (This, by the way, was virtually all of our money.)
Even better news was that, after three months, I was going to be given the right to work! That would be a big game changer for us because we had been living in David’s family’s crowded house surviving solely off of his wages.
Three months came and I received a letter in the mail.
I was not granted permission to work.
This was beyond disappointing. But, no matter, we only had three months left to wait for the final determination.
Three more months passed and we received another letter.
Our application for residence had been denied.
We met with Malik and he said, "This is not a problem." Now, all we would have to do was go live somewhere in Europe. “Just for three months,” he said. “Open a bank account. Live and work for just three months, then come back and you will be considered a European citizen. They cannot turn your wife away.”
Our obvious destination was to go somewhere in Italy. But, finding work before arrival was virtually impossible. So, I began looking into WWOOF farms. It was, unfortunately, January and therefore off-season. But, we found a hotel in Dorgali, Sardinia that needed help over the winter until their farm was ready for the season.
There was one more hurdle, however, and that was the matter of my passport. The Home Office still had it.
We called Malik. He reassured us that the passport would be returned in, “No more than a week.”
So we booked our ticket for a little over a week away.
Well, as you may have guessed... my passport did not arrive within the week.
The morning of our flight (which left from London late that afternoon) we went to the Home Office in Liverpool and were told that they "couldn't find it!"
Hours passed while we waited for them to look. By the time they finally found my passport, it was too late to make our flights.
I demanded that the Home Office pay for our plane tickets. They suggested that I demand the same of our solicitor.
Needless to say, Malik was anything but accommodating when I explained our situation. “How about I charge you for all the things that I haven’t charged you for…” and he rattled off a list of supposed discounts he’d given us over the past months.
Disheartened, we finally conceded and rebooked the flights ourselves.
Not ONE HOUR later, we received a phone call from the Home Office. They had booked flights for us.
I tried asking for a refund for the flights we had just purchased and they said they could not.
So, we arrived in Cagliari just before my birthday. This marked a year of being gone from home. Despite all the doubt and uncertainty, David and I had finally made it to Italy together. We felt giddy with optimism. It felt so nice to get out of England!
There are many adventures and stories to share from our three months spent in Sardinia, but once again I'm going to have to fast forward.
We booked our ticket home for early May. In late April, David’s grandmother passed away very suddenly. We were heartbroken that we had not been able to say goodbye and, even worse, attend her funeral. But, we were scared that if we left Sardinia too early that our entire plan would have been for nothing.
When we returned to England, via London, we knew that customs would want to speak to us. That's why we booked the latest train back to Manchester, which gave us a six hour time window.
I came to the border control armed with a printed version of a BBC article about the Surinder Singh case, which I felt gave our entire operation legitimacy. When I approached the customs agent and explained our situation, she said, “That doesn’t make any sense. You’re not a European national.”
I showed her the article. “They even wrote about it on the BBC. Look.”
She didn’t even glance at the pages. Instead, she scoffed and said, “You trust the BBC?!” and laughed derisively.
I was sent to a backroom for further discussion.
There, I watched the clock tick away as they left me waiting for long intervals.
Five hours until our train left. Then four...
I asked that they please not make us late.
After five and a half hours of interrogation...
They told me they were going to deport me. Back to Sardinia!
I cried, begging them. “I have no money. I have nowhere to stay in Italy. If you send me back there, I will be on the street.”
Thankfully, they gave me one week’s grace period “to visit my in-laws."
But, it had taken six hours to make this determination.
We missed our train, which was the last for the day.
And, to make it all worse, we had absolutely no money.
David used the last of his spare change to call home using a phone-booth (yes, they still exist!) They wired us enough money for a bus-ride back.
I had sent Malik an email, but unsurprisingly received no reply. So instead, after many inquiries, I found us another solicitor, Gurpreet.
Gurpreet was confident that we could use the Surinder Singh law to appeal my deportation and allow for me stay in the UK. Of course, it would cost more money—and it needed to happen fast, in order to appeal my letter of deportation. It cost us another 500 pounds, which we had to borrow. But, once the appeal had been filed, the Home Office was unable to deport me. Though, this didn't stop them from sending me angry letters every week with plane tickets for my departure.
So, I remained in the country. Still unable to work.
After a few months, we got a letter from the Home Office.
There would be a tribunal to determine whether I had the right to stay. It was set for August 15th, 2014.
This was the best news we'd had in ages—finally, a chance to stand in front of a live person and plead our case! Human to human.
Gurpreet prepared our official statements. These stated that, on the advice of a previous solicitor and in accordance with the Surinder Singh precedent, we had travelled to Italy with the sole purpose of living there for three months so that could return to the UK as European nationals.
On the day of the tribunal, Gurpreet passed us on to a barrister, whom we had never met. She would be the person who would represent us to the judge. She arrived many hours late.
After reading our official statements, she said that everything looked good. “Though... you might not want to say that you went to Italy for this reason.”
Except we had said that. In a signed affidavit.
“You might want to say something more along the lines of how you tried to live there and it didn’t work, so you came back.”
I'm paraphrasing—and very generously—for this woman. She wasn’t even half as clear as that.
I went before the judge first. David had to wait in the hall.
The judge detailed the proceedings of what would be discussed on that day. He said something to the effect of, “and we will discuss the abuse of the European Law, etc. etc.”
Listening to this, what our barrister had said clicked for me in a new way and I suddenly understood that everything we had done was considered an “abuse of the system.”
So, I spun a beautiful story. I explained how ever since David and I first met, we'd wanted to live in Italy together. That's why we decided to move there permanently.
“If I’m to believe that,” the judge said, “then you didn’t really give it very long, did you? Three months isn’t a long time.”
“Honestly, you can chock it up to the folly of youth.”
Yes, I did actually say that. Those exact words.
“I genuinely thought it would be easier. But, the language barrier was harder for me than I’d predicted. And, the longer we were there, the more I realized that England was where we felt most at home.”
Given how little time I’d had to figure things out, I think I did about as well as anyone could.
David, however, did not have the benefit of hearing the order of proceedings. He pretty much said exactly why we had gone.
To be fair, there was no use lying anyway. We had spelled it all out in plain English on our signed affidavits!
Afterwards, our barrister met with us and had a grim look on her face. “You,” she said directly to me, “you were brilliant. Perfect! You,” she turned to David, “not so much.”
“Is there any hope?” we asked.
“Maybe. You got a nice judge, so there’s still a chance.”
We went home feeling very downtrodden. If this effort were to fail, which seemed inevitable, our only hope would be to move to somewhere else in Europe and actually live there. For a year, or a length of time that could not be disputed. The idea, once somewhat romanticized in our heads, no longer felt exotic or adventurous. We were becoming exhausted.
The next day, I received a message from my brother back home.
My mom was in a coma and on life support and no one knew if she would wake up again.
I needed to come back. Immediately.
I don't particularly care to write about everything that came next. The only thing I will say is that I couldn't just fly home because, once again, the Home Office had my passport. So, I had to drive through the night to the embassy in London to get an emergency passport.
My mother had passed by the time I made it back home.
Being back in the States presented another set of problems for David and I.
His three year ban had passed, thankfully, but David would never again be eligible for the VISTA waiver program that exists between our two countries. He had to physically apply for a visa at the embassy.
When we parted ways, we had no idea for how long it would be.
One thing was for certain, though, I was never going to live in the UK.
That ship had officially sailed.
It only took David a month and a half to get his visa to join me in Iowa. Getting him a green-card was an easier process than getting a residence card in the UK, but it still was not as straightforward as it should have been. I'll spare you the details as I know this post is becoming tediously long.
The important things is that he ge got his green card August 2015. It marked the first time in our entire relationship, since the kibbutz, where we could both live and work legally in the same country!
Fast forward now several years…
We have travelled the world together. Now that David has a green card, I can visit the UK whenever I want. Though, I will forever get stopped for a “little chat” by customs and sent to the glass timeout box. Just as he will forever get stopped on his way back into America for the same “little chat.” There are worse inconveniences.
We have adopted three cats and now, very recently, a puppy, too.
We bought our first house in the summer of 2019.
Also, as you already know if you are reading this blog, we are expecting our first child.
Like any couple, we have worked long and hard to get to this point in our relationship. Our story just came with a few different twists and turns.
In these trying times that we are living in, I try to remind myself of all that I’m grateful for.
By far and away, the thing I am most grateful for is him.
After all these years, after all those hours with no one but each other to talk to or lean on, I can still be cooped up with David for months on end and think that he's the bee's knees.
There’s no one else in the world I’d rather be quarantined with.
I’m so excited that we are finally starting a family!
Okay, so I know this was a dreadfully long post! If you read this all the way, thank you for taking the time. I hope you enjoyed!
I promise to get back to pregnancy things for my next. Stay tuned for quacky chiropracters and talk about preterm labor...
And, as always, I'd love to hear from you!
So much is happening in the world right now… there is so much pain and anguish and injustice and it is much more important than my pregnancy or this blog. I want to take a moment to say unequivocally that I support these protests. Black lives matter. And we need systemic change and we need it NOW.
But, if you are in the mood for a break from the news and the outside world...
Would you like to hear a love story?
My pregnancy has been blissfully uneventful these days, which means there isn’t much to write about!
I’m 32 1/2 weeks pregnant and it’s all smooth sailing.
So, I’ve decided to write a piece about my husband and I. After all, there wouldn't be a reason for this blog without him and it has taken a lot for us to get where we are.
Don’t worry, I promise you it’s not as simple as boy meets girl, falls in love, etc. For better and worse, our relationship has never had the luxury of being so uncomplicated.
It all started a little over eleven and a half years ago. If you’ve been following my blog, you may already know that I just turned twenty-nine. So...that’s right! I met my husband when I was 17. In September of 2008, in Israel.
Israel has what’s called a kibbutz. That is where David and I met. A kibbutz is a communal village that was created as a sort of utopian society back in the early 1900s (read: hippies.) Originally, most of them were farms. Now, some have branched out into other sources of income. For instance, our kibbutz had date and banana farms. But, its main source of economic sustainability came from its bed & breakfast and its large restaurant, which drew hundreds of tourists and locals a day.
The most incredible thing about a kibbutz, though, is that it allows for volunteers from all around the world to work in exchange for delicious food and a beautiful place to live.
Not to mention, the opportunity to meet amazing people from around the world and make friendships that will last the rest of your lifetime!
I arrived in Israel when I was seventeen, fresh out of high school. I had graduated a year early with the express purpose of travelling the world. I had known for years that my first destination would be to work on a kibbutz like my Dad had done in the 80's. After some research, I learned that the earliest you could get a volunteer visa was at seventeen and a half. So, that’s when I went.
Now, there are two ways you can go to work on a kibbutz in Israel. You can either pay a placement agency to arrange a spot for you or you can just show up at the Kibbutz Placement Center office (KPC) in Tel Aviv and hope.
Mind you, I’d never even stayed at an overnight summer camp growing up! The longest I’d been away from home was for a weeklong trip to D.C. when I was in 6th grade. So, being that this was my first time leaving the country, I wanted to have my ducks in a row. I chose to use a placement agency.
When I arrived at the KPC to receive my placement, the woman told me that I would be working on a kibbutz not far from Tel Aviv. But, as she prepared the paperwork, she suddenly frowned. “Oh no,” she said. “You’re not 18.”
“I know… I’m seventeen and a half. I went through the KPC office in New York.”
“But, you cannot get a visa until you are 18.”
The funny thing is, I was so shell-shocked—a sheltered seventeen year old girl, having never even been to a public bus station before, let alone a foreign country—that I actually remember thinking to myself: You know what, it’s okay if I have to go home. At least I tried.
But, instead the woman told me to wait while she made some phone calls. Eventually, she told me that she had called in a favor with a friend. I would be going to Kibbutz Ein-Gev along the Sea of Galilee (or the Kinneret in Hebrew.) “It is one of the most beautiful places in the whole country,” she told me. And she was not wrong.
So, it was by complete chance that I came to Ein-Gev. Or perhaps, it wasn’t chance.
David was one of about twenty other volunteers. He was from Manchester, England and twenty-three at the time. I’d be lying if I said it was love at first sight. There was a large age gap between us and that seems like a much bigger deal when you’re seventeen.
And, of course to this day, I still get people asking me if I fell for him because of the accent.
My answer: Absolutely not at all!
It was completely disillusioning for me, in fact. There I was, a typical American anglophile who, like many, worshipped the English accent.
I had finally met my first Brit… and he sounded nothing like they do on TV.
In fact, I could hardly understand a single word that he said!
No, our romance was far more gradual and, dare I say real, than love at first sight. We became good friends and it grew from there.
When I first arrived, he was actually interested in a friend of mine, Jenny, from Sweden. They’d been exchanging some mild flirtations all week building up to the Summer Party that would be held on Friday.
Jenny was one of those girls who was a self-proclaimed ‘hot mess.” She told me and our other friends that she was scared she would do something she’d later regret.
“I always do that with guys. I mean, I like Dave...but, I just don’t know! So, if you see me doing something stupid at the party like kissing him, just… smack me!”
I’d been there for about a week by the time of the party, which was held at the local pub. The drinking age in Israel was eighteen, but everyone just assumed I was old enough. Now, I had never drunk before. So, when it came time to order my first drink, I had no idea what I wanted. That’s why I waited for my friends to order and said, “I’ll just have what she’s having.” It was a vodka red bull.
I sipped on this ONE drink pretty much the whole night and was absolutely wasted.
I didn’t realize that people from all around the Kinneret had come for this event. I assumed that every person there lived on the kibbutz. Which is why I went up to every single person in that crowded pub and introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Kelsey; I’m a new volunteer!” I only found out the next day that hardly any of the attendees actually lived on the kibbutz with us.
So, there I was. Drunk for the first time, dancing the night away. At some point, I saw David and Jenny dancing alongside me. They kissed. I remembered what Jenny had said, so I tapped her on the shoulder.
As my friend turned around, I slapped her as hard as I could, right across the face!
She was furious! “What the HELL, Kelsey?!”
I shrugged. “You told me to slap you.”
“Well, I didn’t mean NOW!”
Spoiler alert: it didn’t exactly work out with Jenny and David after that. After having spent some more time with her, he realized that he actually didn’t like her all that much. (Luckily for me!)
In the coming month, David and I became good friends. There was one night after the pub where I went back to his room and we just talked for three or more hours. Eventually, our roommates began dating and certainly took the credit for “setting us up” but David has always maintained that he had liked me for a while by then.
There are lots of amazing stories to share from our time together on the kibbutz. But, I’m going to have to fast forward a little… our story is only just getting started!
After six months on the kibbutz, we made a plan so that we could stay together. He would go back to England to save money and join me in America as soon as he could. Our goal from there was to save up and travel the world. David had family in Australia, so we would begin our adventures there. We would work to save more money and then travel around Europe. Then, we would end our travels back at his home in the UK.
Our first roadblock came when we realized that earning money together in the States was going to be a huge challenge. David wasn’t legal to work, which was something we naively had not considered. It took us much longer than we planned, but eventually we earned enough for our plane tickets. By that point in time, David had already overstayed his visa by about five months.
Australia was another shell-shocking experience for me. By this point in time, I was almost nineteen and I was slightly less sheltered than I had been when I went to Israel... but not by much. We were both very young and still incredibly immature in our own ways, but me especially so. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving at his grandparent’s house in Brisbane, it became apparent that our relationship was just not working. We split up and I flew back home.
I spent the next several months in the throes of a classic first heartbreak. Not only was my relationship gone, but in my mind, also all of my dreams for travel. I could not imagine touring around Europe alone.
Then, one day, I realized that it was precisely because I was so afraid of this that I had to do it. Which is why I made a plan to travel around Europe on my own that summer.
Everyone thought I was crazy, but I travelled making zero plans along the way. Not even hostel reservations. What I wanted more than anything was to have complete freedom. If I liked a city, I would stay; if I didn’t, I would keep on moving. I discovered that I really enjoyed travelling alone. Not only was it incredibly liberating, but it forced me to mature in ways that I wouldn't have had I been travelling with a partner. After all, there was no one to rely on but myself. It brought out the best in me.
To fast forward a little bit again, I met up with David a few times over the course of my six months travelling around Europe. At the end of it all, we decided that we wanted to give it another go. So, I went back to the States and we decided to maintain our relationship long distance.
The following summer, in 2011, I arranged to sublet an apartment in Manchester for a couple of months. I flew there on a one-way ticket, unsure of when I would want to return home. Unfortunately, border control does not accommodate spontaneity. I could tell by the way the ticket agent grumpily asked me, “Where is your return ticket?” that it was a serious matter.
So, foolishly, I lied. “I just haven’t printed it off yet.”
That was the first (but certainly not the last) time that I would be sent to what I affectionately refer to as the “timeout corner.” It is a very small room enclosed by glass windows directly next to customs. It is positioned so that everyone that has just come off their plane has nothing to do but stare at you and wonder what sort of trouble you're in while they wait in line to get their passport checked. Drugs? Bombs?
I waited there for not just one, but at least two planes’ worth of people to go through the border control before, finally, the grumpy man came back. “You don’t have a return ticket, do you?”
Twenty year old idiot that I was, I hadn’t realized that with everything being electronic, they could easily check these things. “No,” I admitted sheepishly.
“Procrastination?” By the look on his face, I knew this answer did not suffice.
I’d gathered that I couldn’t say the truth, so instead I naively fibbed again, “Because my boyfriend wanted to buy it for me.” Instantly, I knew that this sounded like I had no money, which they also didn’t like, so I quickly followed it by adding, “I have the money for it! He just insisted. And we weren’t exactly sure when to book it for, so we decided to wait.”
“Right.” The agent gathered all of David’s contact information. I told him that he’d be waiting for me at the arrivals. Then, the grumpy man told me to wait a while longer. Eventually, he escorted me downstairs to the baggage area, now empty of all passengers, where my luggage waited. Then, another two customs officers came to search my belongings.
Thankfully, these men seemed far more cheerful than the grumpy ticket agent. The three of us were chatting very casually. “Are there any contraband items that I should know about here, love?” they eventually asked me.
“No,” I said. Then, after a moment of thinking, I added, “Well I do have a small pocket knife and some pepper spray.”
Their faces changed. I’d forgotten that knives were illegal in England. I had travelled back and forth with both items during all of my European travels and had never had an incident. But, then again, they’d never had reason to search my checked luggage before.
“Right. Wait here just a minute.”
They called in the transport police. When the police arrived, they were carrying GIANT guns. Like AK-47 type guns. Luckily, they were very good-humored officers. The difference between American and British police officers was astounding. We were all joking around and having a really nice chat. Finally, after one of them got off the phone with his boss, he told me they were going to have to bring me to the station. It was clear that the officers found this unnecessary, but that those were the rules.
“One question, though,” I asked. “So, after I go to the station, will I have to come back here and still potentially be deported?”
“One second,” the officer said. And he walked over to the grumpy ticket agent who had been sullenly watching this from a corner. I could see the two of them have a heated exchange.
Finally, the grumpy man stomped over to me and shoved my passport back into my hand. “The next time you come to the UK, it had be with more than a one-way ticket or you will be sent back!”
David was still waiting for me by the arrivals. After six months apart, we finally had our reunion! It was just with a police escort.
I was let off with a formal warning at the station. I still like to laugh about it now, though. If I hadn’t been travelling with those contraband items, I would have been deported that day.
The next few months were absolutely incredible for us. By the end of that summer, we had decided that we wanted to stay together no matter the cost. We both knew that the easiest way to accomplish this would be to get married.
We were a little worried about David having overstayed his visa in America, but we hatched a brilliant plan to circumvent this problem. In all of my back and forth with the grumpy border agent, one of the things I noted was that he kept talking about an “onward ticket.” So, after mountains of research about appropriate visas, I realized that if David flew to the States on a fiancé visa and had an onward ticket for travel, say to Canada perhaps, that customs would see that he had no plans of staying in the country.
So, that was it, then. We were going to get married in Canada, in Niagara Falls.
So... you probably think that's it, right? We got married. Happily ever after. The end.
Not even close.
As I said, easy and simple is something we've never had together.
Maybe you're clever and you can already guess what's about to happen. But, I'm going to leave it for my next post....just to keep this from getting too obnoxiously long (I know I'm already teetering right on that edge!)
I hope you like the break from the usual pregnancy stuff. And, even better, that maybe this was a small reprieve from the chaos of the world around us.
If this wasn't your cup of tea, don't worry. I'll be back to my usual pregnancy talk soon! And please feel free to read some of my older posts in the meantime.
As usual, I'd love to hear what you think! Tell me your story. How did you and your significant other meet?
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother