Ruin our child's shot at president?
April 29, 2011 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Should we stay or should we go? Make a big international move as a pregnant couple or with a tiny baby? Lots of (possibly) relevant details inside.

First off, thank you for reading. I’m trying to keep it short! Any and all relevant personal experience or professional tips (I know YANML) appreciated. I feel bad asking about something so involved anonymously, but I’m a fairly regular poster who talks about my work a lot, and I’m not in a position yet to be “out” about my pregnancy or move. I will provide any missing details asap.

I’m a gay woman, living with my wife of going on ten years in a major US city. I’m super happy to be three months pregnant with our first, and just starting to emerge from morning sickness hell. My wife and I plan to move to London to live our lives as a family, we feel too insecure raising a child here for a bunch of reasons, and our only real family is in London (and they are awesome.) I am a dual US/UK national, the UK’s decent policy on domestic partner immigration mean I can get my wife a visa. However, we do love where we live now, and moving is a little bit bittersweet, although increasingly exciting.

We had been planning to move next spring when we hope we’ll have a three month old, and the barest handle on parenthood, but now we’re wondering if we should just push it and try to jump this summer. There will be a solid chunk of time between the two options where I am too pregnant to move, and our baby is too young/our sleep too disrupted to. The move is a big deal, we have cars to sell and cats to move, although we rent here. I have made two big moves before however, and I’m pretty confident of my coordinating and planning skills. So which do you think is our best option and why?

Financially we are in a strange place. My wife makes about 60k (although she has essentially no health coverage) but I haven’t worked since I got laid off around the holidays. I need to get a job asap (before I start showing!) and there is some hope. If I do find a job in my field I will probably make about the same as my wife, but my job will be much more intense than hers, probably not ideal for a pregnant woman (and my industry is notoriously hostile to pregnant staff, I might just get fired when it gets obvious.) I don’t know what the economy means for my prospects at finding a temp job if a career-type one doesn’t happen soon.

If we move in the next three months, it will be very stressful, but we won’t have a baby to deal with – I suspect doing all this with a new baby is going to be incredibly hard. I could work full time on the move if need be, but then we’d miss my potential income for a few months, and by the time we landed in the UK I would be well past showing. There are also fewer jobs in my field in London than here, so while I’m sure I’ll have one eventually, I’d be temping until the baby came, if anything.

We also have about 100k in the bank, which we haven’t cut into yet, and would rather not burn through because we need assets to show financial means to the UK, and also so we have some hope of owning a home in London. We will have to cut into it for moving costs unless we save more money first, I think we’ve accepted it likely won’t make it to down payment time untouched, but as close as possible would be nice. Of course, some unplanned US medical expenses could wipe it out quick. The exchange rate compounds all this financial business of course, because anything we can earn in GBP is worth much more to us than savings or earnings in USD.

We would live with my parents for our first few weeks in London, and then I guess rent until we could get a mortgage one way or another. I have no idea how long that would be, I have a UK bank account, but essentially no credit, my wife has no financial record in the UK, and she would likely be the only wage earner for a while. We would however, have a solid 20% deposit (unless prices double yet again), and my parents would guarantee or cosign (if that’s a thing that’s possible.) I’m not opposed to renting longer term, except that my perception is that house prices aren’t heading for a fall (or are they?), and London rental stock is expensive and crappy and unwelcoming to babies and cats.

There are some smaller puzzle pieces that go into this too. Although I have (expensive cobra) healthcare here, I want a homebirth, and that means paying out of pocket. I am terrified by US hospital maternity care, and angry that there’s no middle ground. In London I would have a homebirth if we were in an ok living situation, but I would also be happy at a birth center, and if it comes to it I would much rather give birth in a UK hospital than a US one. If we move before the birth, we will also be able to avoid paying thousands to draw up complicated guardianship and estate docs in the US (which we would then have to immediately duplicate in the UK). In the UK my wife (who can keep her US job remotely for a couple of months) could start earning in GBP (although what if she couldn’t find a job…) and I might just be eligible for some kind of benefits instead of just having to quit my job to have the baby and suck up the months of uncompensated unemployment as I recover and care for it.

Also, irrationally, now we’ve decided to move I just kind of want to get on with it instead of hanging out here. Maybe it’s the nesting kicking in, but I feel in limbo and it sucks. However, moving asap could mean going though most of my pregnancy in my parent’s cramped house in a new city instead of our own big place with friends around. We have a good relationship with them, but that’s still a depressing and slightly scary prospect. We have no other friends or support network there. It also means switching healthcare providers and systems. And it means a sudden introduction to a carless lifestyle and the other petty limitations I feel much more subject to in the UK. Of course all this would also be true with a new baby, and I have no clue at all if that’s better or worse.

So which is the craziest option? Hang out here until we have a baby old enough to travel, or try to rush it through now while there are only two of us? Londoners, folks who’ve had babies, folks who’ve made big moves, exchange rate psychics, what am I not thinking of?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's not easy to travel and move with a baby but on the other hand ONE rather small baby is much more portable than you'd think. Way more easier than a toddler, for sure. OTOH you are unemployed now and the mid trimester is the most energetic time of pregnancy, so there's that.

(I am assuming you have checked but I am surprised you don't have the option of a birth center where you are now. I gave birth to my first in one and that was in Florida.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:02 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you want to move before baby comes, do it!! You will have a better chance of having the delivery you want, and it sounds like it makes more sense financially too. During the 2nd and most of 3rd trimester, up to about the last 2 weeks, you will feel energetic enough. You will also want to feel settled once baby comes so you can just enjoy him/her.
posted by katypickle at 6:17 AM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

The thing about not having any friends in London initially is that going through pregnancy and getting ready to give birth puts you in touch with other people doing the same thing. So you make friends. From talking to a number of friends who recently had babies I keep being told that this was very much like starting university in terms of shared experience where you make a lot of friends in a short period of time. So that's one thing to consider.

The other thought that occurred to me is that your financial assessment does rely on on getting a job quickly to generate some income before you are on materinity leave, which may or may not happen or may be temporary. So I'd focus on the things you do know, including that healthcare costs in the UK will be negilgible compared to what might happen to your savings where you are now, etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:21 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having done a major move with a toddler and as one who has given birth, I would try to move now.

You're already laid off, so you have more "free time" to sell the cars, deal with the cats, etc.
posted by k8t at 6:27 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've moved cats from the US to the UK and it is an enormous pain in the ass. I couldn't bring myself to put them in quarantine for six months (basically they're kenneled and you go visit them from time to time), so I opted to do the six month waiting period (which is actually seven). Unless you've already started this process, or are willing to put them in a kennel for six months, your decision has been made for you.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 6:33 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

PS, flying with baby and cats? Sounds awful to me.
posted by k8t at 6:35 AM on April 29, 2011

Will the Olympics impede on your renting/buying plans? When we were planning our move we arranged to do it a few months after the Olympics ended in Vancouver and I was glad we did, prices relaxed significantly. A lot of people say that shouldn't be a factor, but it is.

(We have made two large moves (over 2200 km each time), both times with children so I can't say if it's easier to do pregnant or with an infant. I want to wish you luck either way! It is exciting. I was glad to see you say that you are excited, having a good attitude helps exponentially!)
posted by pink candy floss at 6:54 AM on April 29, 2011

Quarantine for pets being imported into the UK does no longer apply for a lot of countries and as I read this list mainland USA is one of the places where you may be able to import pets from under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:56 AM on April 29, 2011

Myu friend did a major move last year whilst in her second trimester and it worked out really well, she had loads of energy and was in major nesting mode. It also meant the babe had a settled home to start life in. However she already lived in London and was only moving ten minutes from her previous home so this may have been a massive factor in the general smoothness of the process.
posted by freya_lamb at 7:03 AM on April 29, 2011

That's only for UK resident pets who travel outside the country and come back. The initial importation to the UK most certainly DOES involve a six month quarantine/waiting period.

Here is the link with the requirements for importing animals to the UK.
Basically, they get microchipped, then a new rabies vaccination, even if the last vac was the day before. It doesn't matter. The paperwork has to show the microchip number and the serial/batch/whatever number of the vaccine. Then you wait 30 days. After 30 days you have to get a blood test (done by an EU approved lab) that shows the vaccine levels in the blood stream are sufficient. Then you wait 6 months from the date of the blood test before they are allowed to enter the country.

Once the waiting period is up, you can bring them in to the country, but only via certain carriers. There are very specific airlines and routes you must use. The pets MUST be flown as cargo and may not travel in the cabin with you. You must go to a separate cargo facility at the destination airport to pick them up.

Lime I said, it's a pain in the ass.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 7:13 AM on April 29, 2011, not lime
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 7:14 AM on April 29, 2011

To address the homebirth:

You don't necessarily have to pay out of pocket completely. My insurance states explicitly that it doesn't cover planned homebirths --- but that just means the birth itself. My prenatal care is covered under the out-of-network-provider options. My midwife will bill separately for prenatal care and for the birth --- so while we are paying for her fee out of pocket, we expect to be reimbursed for a good amount of the total cost since *most* of the total cost is prenatal care and not birth care.

Also, my regular practitioner is ordering all of my tests for the pregnancy, so we don't have to pay out of pocket and then be reimbursed for those.

So if you do stay in the States, read through your insurance policies carefully because a homebirth may be more affordable than you think.
posted by zizzle at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2011

Just gave birth 3 weeks ago. I've previously moved and lived abroad.

MOVE NOW. Move fast. Move.

You'll likely be pretty mobile until month 7 or 8. It's so much easier to move while pregnant. There is no way (I think) you'll be able to move internationally with a 3 month old, even if he/she is the calmest easiest baby in the world because you have all you can handle just being a parent! Plus, it's the best time ever to bond, and who wants to be packing and coordinating and stressing on top of being a new parent? It will be impossible, IMHO!!

Move now. The timing is perfect. Congratulations!!
posted by jbenben at 8:07 AM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

Being born outside the US is still a murky legal territory (like McCain) that may or may not disqualify your child to be president.
posted by Monday at 8:14 AM on April 29, 2011

I made a major move while heavily pregnant. And then I made another major move with an infant.


Also, if I understand your question correctly, you'll have family nearby in the UK. It's wonderful to have family nearby when you have a newborn. Just so your mom can say "That's normal. You did that all the time."
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:12 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

As someone who has had a baby in the past year, I would give where & how you want to give birth a very high priority in your decision-making process. I also moved house while pregnant (I have moved internationally several times, though not while pregnant) and I'll tell you that I'm very very glad that we were able to move BEFORE our son was born and not after. You really don't want to be doing that with a baby if you can possibly avoid it.

Based on what you've described here, I would say move now. Really.
posted by rubbish bin night at 9:14 AM on April 29, 2011

I had two homebirths here in the US and both were covered by CIGNA as out of network even though when I called they specifically said homebirth was not covered. We simply submitted the claims and they went through.
posted by Dragonness at 9:39 AM on April 29, 2011

Speaking as one who only moved within the same town from renting to owning a house with five years' worth of married person junk while I was 7.5 months pregnant, I would absolutely suggest moving now. Being an enormous pregnant blob and coordinating/packing/executing a move was infinitely less difficult than, say, making dinner, cleaning the house, and working three days a week when my kid was three months old. It doesn't seem possible, but you will likely be just as, if not more, tired even three months into parenthood as you have been this first trimester. I barely remember the first three months. Because I was a zombie. Not a good time for a move.
posted by takoukla at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2011

Do it now. Nownownow. It wouldn't be impossible to move with an infant, but it would be soooo much simpler to do it now, and channel the nesting instinct you're going to have already.
posted by Andrhia at 11:42 AM on April 29, 2011

If you do decide to wait until after the birth, I'd wait until at least the 4 month mark post-partum. But, maybe even later -- those early weeks you are just zonked, your whole family is adjusting and it's really difficult to get things done. Mine is 4.5 months and things are still hard, impossible to get done but I feel more capable and the baby is on more of a predictable schedule. But I can't imagine working and trying to coordinate an international move without some daytime help.
posted by amanda at 11:43 AM on April 29, 2011

Move now. You have no idea if there will be any health complications (yours or the baby's) that would make moving with a newborn in-advisable, delaying your move further than you planned or beyond your COBRA cut-off. You may have a premie and find not all your maternity costs are covered. Personally, knowing the difference between UK and US maternal care and outcomes I would choose UK as well. And having your mum around when you have a newborn is generally miles better than having even your bestest, BFF around. I am sure your friends are really looking forward to the baby and would love to have you stay but you need to prioritise yourself first - they can come fly over and visit. Your wife can work for the US company while you both look for UK jobs (and get better parental benefits) and it will be easier on you AND your parents to have a pregnant couple living with them rather two sleep-deprived people and an infant.

Three months is a stressful time as the baby is no longer a "blob in a blanket" the way a newborn is (mother of three speaking from experience). It is pretty unrealistic to expect to plan or accomplish anything in those three months (I got married with a three month old and moved with a four month old and I literally have no memories of that time except extreme fatigue and crankiness and incapacitating baby brain). The forgetfulness of mothers with a newborn is well documented and an international move at that time is setting yourself up for failure.

I agree once you have made your mind up to move it is hard to then sit around for a year treading water for minimal benefit.
posted by saucysault at 5:04 PM on April 29, 2011

The only thing I'd add to the above is a suggestion that if you do move before the birth, to join a local NCT antenatal group - it will provide a ready-made local support network of people going through the same thing, who can give you useful local advice, and hopefully enable you to make some really good friends!
posted by finding.perdita at 5:28 PM on April 29, 2011

I moved when seven months pregnant and again with a twelve month old and in spite of the (reasonably severe) medical issues during the pregnancy, it was a lot less stressful. And I wasn't even dodging US health care, so it's not like I had the big positives you're talking.

So yeah, I'm another "now!" vote.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:04 PM on April 29, 2011

Look into the benefits system here too (UK). I am not sure how it works with dual citizenship + working visa'd wife etc. And although there are alot of cuts at the moment it may persuade you that you will be provided for should the worst luck (jobwise) happen.
Good luck to you and your family.
posted by Neonshock at 6:27 AM on April 30, 2011

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