When I talk to friends and family since moving, they ask, “How’s everything going? How are you feeling? Are you bored yet?” I’m usually honest but keep details brief so as not to worry the person on the other end of the phone. Plus in my experience, the more one consistently talks about crappy things going on in their life, the less people want to listen as time goes on.
Truth be told, it hasn’t been all clovers and rainbows. It’s actually been really difficult. Behind those Instagram posts lies the difficult day-to-day stressors of being pregnant in a foreign country where you no longer work and know no one. This isn’t meant to be a pity party, but rather an honest account of the reality of moving to a new country.
For starters, every single thing we try to do takes 5 extra steps and we need to ask for instructions/directions all along the way. A perfect example of this was the process for getting new cell phones with a European phone number. After 2 separate trips to the cell phone store prior and being told that the “proof of address” we had wasn’t adequate for getting a cell phone contract, Tom got a bank statement and we thought we were good to go. After arriving they told us they needed a photo ID and that our resident cards didn’t count, so we went back to the apartment to get our passports. At the store for the 3rd time, they told us we were good to go, just needed to run a credit check. No problem, we thought, we have great credit. We went for a walk, came back, and found out we were denied because we don’t have any credit in Ireland, so we were forced to pay full price and then some for a new phone for Tom up front, and had to go with a pay-as-you-go plan instead of a contract. Fine, I guess we have no other option. Then we tried to pay with our credit card and they told us they can’t accept “signature” credit cards, even though this card was accepted literally every other place we went. We showed them every card in our wallet, but they wouldn’t accept any of them. We then had to go to two different ATMs (cash limits) and pay an exchange fee on all of it to pull our America money. That was a SUPER frustrating way to spend a Saturday.
I also thought I would have lots of time to write. I planned to post at least twice/week: once about what’s going on with us, and once about some new restaurants or tourist spot we checked out. But between all the government and healthcare appointments, apartment viewings, needing to run errands, constantly getting lost when doing these things, plus generally feeling crappy some days, I haven’t always felt pumped to get out there and explore. For example, Tom and I planned to take a weekend in the Irish countryside one of the first weekends after we arrived. Well, after seeing how expensive a rental car is, and how long some of the train rides are to get anywhere rural, we decided to put a pin in it. The idea of spending 6 hours on a train each way to spend time hiking when we arrive, without actually knowing how to get to our destination, felt exhausting and overwhelming. And with Tom starting a new job and working later hours, most nights we just get takeout, stay in, and watch Netflix like anyone else. Luckily Deliveroo is awesome and there are a TON of delicious delivery places in Dublin.
One of the top priorities after moving here was setting up prenatal care. I knew the healthcare system would be different but I didn’t know just how different. Some things are easier, like my insurance being willing to reimburse for any General Practitioner/Primary Care Doctor as long as they’re legit. Other things are more complicated, like alternating appointments between said GP and my “Consultant” AKA OB-GYN. Having to pay out of pocket for all services and then submitting expenses for reimbursement is also different. Not to mention the difficulty of researching these places, and then actually navigating to those offices, only to receive flak for having an American phone number and no PPS number (Irish social security) because I need a bill with my name on it to prove I live here. Also, it’s apparently common for insurance plans to require you have lived in the country for at least 12 months before you can take advantage of antenatal (AKA prenatal) services. Like pregnancy is a pre-existing condition or something. That was a shock when I found that out, but luckily my scheme (AKA plan) waives that wait period.
Trying to find an apartment was WAY more difficult than we expected as well. Low inventory and high demand means that multiple people put in applications and the landlord gets to pick their dream tenant. Unfortunately not everyone loves the idea of having American immigrants on one income and two cats living in their furnished apartment. All the while my pregnant brain keeps pestering me, “Can we start nesting yet?” Luckily, after getting denied for a place where I wrote a heartfelt letter and we offered over what the landlord was asking for rent, we were accepted for an unfurnished apartment that was slightly over budget, but very close to Tom’s work.
And then there are the typical pregnancy symptoms, made worse by my current situation:
- Digestive issues exacerbated by stress and eating restaurant food daily
- Vivid, often violent, nightmares with stress-induced themes of feeling alone and not in control
- Near-constant fatigue from being busy and not eating well
- Round ligament pain
- The general suckiness of not being able to drink or eat a lot of things on a menu and getting side-eye from wait staff when ordering a non-alcoholic drink
I also really miss cooking and baking. In order to make basic chicken breasts with roast sweet potatoes and broccoli, in addition to those main ingredients I also needed to purchase olive oil, salt, pepper, and seasoning, and carry it for the 20 minute walk back to our temporary apartment. Even though we’ll be signing a lease this week, our kitchen stuff, towels, bedding, etc. will take up to another two months to arrive because we just found out yesterday that our stuff has been sitting in NY.
It’s just a weird, unsettled time. That’s not to say there aren’t great things going on too. Every place we’ve gone to eat has been so freaking good, most people we’ve run into at appointments and stores have been very friendly, Tom’s work has been really supportive and is he’s enjoying it, and I’m generally enjoying walking rather than driving to get around. And aside from mostly typical annoying pregnancy symptoms, everything having to do with the baby looks healthy. As the doctor said, “She has no idea what mom and dad are dealing with right now,” which is wonderful news. I started a journal where I write to her and tell her what’s going on. Hopefully someday she’ll read it and gain some sort of understanding of our decision to move, and it also helps to remind me that we’re going through all of this to ultimately be able to give her a better life.