Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gotta love working with government

Tyler was born overseas, so we already knew there were a couple extra steps as far as citizenship is required when giving birth off of American soil. I started looking into the paperwork required right after I found out I was pregnant. I found out quickly that the kid can't be Australian because Oz doesn't do birthright citizenship anymore, but that's ok. We probably aren't coming back after we leave in August except to visit, so no need to worry about that passport. So I did a quick search on what would be needed to be done to get the kid American citizenship and it didn't seem that complicated so I filed that one under "For Future Amber to do Later" and didn't think about it again till last week when the nesting urge hit and I have no nest to prepare.

It's not going to be all that much work at the end of the day, but trying to find out exactly what is needed just solidifies my disdain for working with government offices.

Surprisingly enough. the Australian government part of the process seems to be the most painless. At least finding out the procedure and getting my questions answered was painless. I even called at 8:30 in the morning on a MONDAY and someone answered the phone AND was polite!

Essentially, we will get a certificate from the hospital that basically says we didn't kidnap this baby and it's actually ours and was actually born in Australia. Then we have to take that certificate to the Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in the city and apply for the Australian birth certificate. And, because it's a government operation and no one can say no to more money, we can pay an extra fee to get the certificate sped up, which is really helpful because we need that certificate to get the American passport.

...along with a whooole lot of other documents, which probably comes as no surprise to an Americans who have ever tried to get anything from the government.

So I check out the consulate website to make sure we've got all the documents and money we need, and to my surprise I don't see anything about an expedite fee. Not charging a ridiculous fee to speed up the pace at which you look at pieces of paper?? That just seems unAmerican! That can't be right. Let's call the consulate up.

After waiting 15 minutes for them to decide to answer the phone at 9:15, despite a recording telling me they open at 9, and then wading through a few automated menus, I get a hold of a human. A human with an American accent, which is aways strange when living overseas.

I launch into my question, and the human politely listens without interrupting. She then tells me that I need to send my question to an email address I could find on the website.

"I'm sorry...you can't answer my question?"

"I'm just a switchboard operator and as of the end of last year I'm not allowed to transfer calls into the consulate anymore, so someone will reply to your email within 2-3 business days."

I paused, mouth agape for a moment, and replied, "Well that sounds about like the level of service I can expect from this administration." She gave me an uncomfortable courtesy laugh and asked if there was anything else she could help me with...which I thought was odd because she had basically told me there was nothing she could help me with, but it was nice of her to ask.

Thus begins my correspondence with the American consulate in Melbourne.

I'm always guilty of talking too much, but I've also worked with enough government offices to know that they assume you haven't looked at the website yet, so they don't listen and just tell you to go to the website. Maybe all the words distracted whoever got to my email first, because this sentence fragment was all I got in response to my two-part question:

It seriously felt like a tweet. I wondered how the training for consular workers has changed since January 20... That phrase "minimum 6 weeks" gave me pause because we have exactly 8 weeks from my due date until the day the baby and I are set to leave Australia, so if the expedited Australian birth certificate takes 2 weeks and the "minimum" is actually government speak for "don't bother us about where your passport is until after 6 weeks, we're obviously going to take longer," we're going to have to make some quick adjustments. So how much do I need to pay you, America, to get things moving?

So I sent this reply and waited. A few days later I received a reply:

Heeyyyy! A complete sentence! And some manners! AND...a different timeline than was previously communicated...I'm definitely working with government employees here.

But the perplexing part is the fact that there is no expedite service!? Really?! This is AMERICA! Money gets things moving! We'll always take your money...what gives?!

Ok, so I can't speed things up, so I started working on a plan B. If it takes too long to get the baby's passport, I can always provide the consulate with a pre-paid envelope and they can send it to some friends here who can send it on to us in Korea. According to the guy handling our immigration into Korea, the baby and I can still fly with just the Australian birth certificate, but will I have that certificate back before we fly, or is it going to to be held by the consulate and all the documents get returned at the same time? See, this is the beauty of allowing PHONE CALLS! I could have taken care of all of this in the course of a 5-8 minute conversation rather than a week-and-a-half-long back-and-forth via email.

See, this is where I went wrong. I tried to limit the words because I am overly wordy in emails, so I probably should have expected this cut-and-paste reply:

No greeting. No clarifying questions. In truly American fashion, the consulate assumed that when I left Australia I would be going back home to America (to be fair, most Australians are assuming that, too). I never said we were going to America, and I guess the majority of people they work with in the consulate are trying to go to America, so that reply shouldn't have bothered me as much as it did, but if there had been a little bit of customer or...I dunno CITIZEN service, this misunderstanding could have been cleared up quickly and I could be worrying about something else in my fragile pre-partum state...haha Oh the drama!!

Oooh I know the snark at the end of the first paragraph was not necessary and the autocorrect will probably be one of those lines that gets read out loud to the rest of the office in a "can you believe the nerve of this idiot" kind of way, but it felt really good to press send before I caught the mistake.

I'm fully expecting to get a reply in a few days saying that I will not have the Australian birth certificate back in time, which will lead me to yet ANOTHER follow up question: Will the Mister have his passport back in time to leave for his flight at the end of July?!

Depending on THAT reply, we might have to go to plan C.

Gotta love working with government.

Vicariously yours,

Monday, June 5, 2017

We're nothing if not different

Though we may be your quintessential American High School Sweethearts (Tyler and I started dating senior year), that is about where our quintessential-ness stops. I'm sometimes dragging the Mister kicking and screaming on my march to be different, but he always comes around to my side. In this case, we are both slogging through the uniqueness of this pregnancy, and learning all the various ways we can go about doing what is usually a straightforward, traditional, everybody-does-it activity in the most complicated, abnormal, why-would-you-choose-to-do-it-this-way way possible.

Traditional: Get married, have a few baby-free years (usually just 2 or 3), go on a Grand Vacation, then get to baby-making.

Tyler and Amber: Get married, have almost NINE baby-free years, move overseas with no plans to move back any time soon, spend several of the nine years convincing Amber that motherhood isn't the enemy, then cautiously get to baby-making.

Traditional: Get pregnant. If living far from home, start the process of moving home. Baby's gotta be close to at least one set of grandparents.

Tyler and Amber: Get pregnant. You're already living far from home, so continue to live far from home...can't live further away than you already are, so make plans to move to a country in just about the same time zone as when you conceived, just to bewilder the grandparents (Sorry Moms and Dads!).

Traditional: Baby shower(s).

If THIS was a baby shower, Amber would be on board in a SECOND

Tyler and Amber: NOPE. First of all, Amber is the literal worst at being a gracious recipient of gifts or compliments, so the idea of being showered with gifts for a baby you're only just getting on board with sounds like a nightmare. Secondly, having to support Amber through that kind of emotional trauma sounds like a nightmare to Tyler. Best to avoid it. Thirdly, most of your friends and all of your family--the people traditionally invited to a baby shower-- are spread across 7 or 8 time zones and at least 4 continents, so...there's that.

Traditional: Nesting. Gotta get the house set up with everything baby will need after coming home from the hospital.

Tyler and Amber: Everything. must. go. Sell it all. Is reverse nesting a thing? Because that's what you're doing. Don't buy a crib. Don't buy a stroller. Barely get any baby clothes. You're moving two months after the kid pops out, so there's no time for nesting! RESIST THE URGES!

American Traditional: Gender reveal parties. (Because seriously this is only a thing in America and it confuses everyone else that you would have an entire event dedicated to telling everyone the gender of your baby in a Pinterest-worthy way.)

Tyler and Amber: NOPE. No gender gets revealed till the kid is revealed...even though it would make the paperwork for your impending move to Korea WAY easier and your future employer could purchase a plane ticket for Amber and the baby well in advance and at a decent price...NO GENDER REVEAL! (Sorry future employer!)

Traditional: Arrange with your current employer for maternity leave well in advance.

Tyler and Amber: Let's see, you don't have medicare because you're not an Australian citizen, so you're looking at at least a few grand in medical bills. You're not going to work after the baby is born, so you've got two months of rent and living costs to save up for before you stop working. You've got a shipping bill of at least a couple grand waiting for you if you ever get around the packing for Korea. Oh! And you've also got to keep paying your bills and living expenses while you're pregnant. Sorry, Toots, no maternity leave for you. Cross your legs and hope that baby stays in until at least the due date. In fact, start working your SECOND job when you hit six months and don't stop working that second job until 12 days before your due date, just to confuse everyone.

Traditional: Play it safe, Papa Bear, until the baby is born. No sudden changes in your lifestyle or habits. No need to stress out your baby-brained wife.

Tyler and Amber: OR, and hear me out here, you could sign up for an experimental study at a local university that will require you to adjust your eating and sleeping habits, strap no less than FOUR electronic monitors to your body (two of which are physically attached to your skin), get muscle biopsies three times, AND spend a few hours every night for a week at the university working out while being monitored. All while hoping your wife doesn't go into labor while you're gone because this is all happening in the weeks before the due date. Yeah. That sounds like a plan. You'll do anything for 800 bucks! (Yes, this is something Tyler is actually doing. A local university is studying the effects of diet and exercise on circadian rhythm in men, and my husband, never one to turn down a good story...or $800, signed up)

I hope you all see the humor in our situation and don't find this post to be overly "whinge-y," as our Australian friends would say. We love our life, untraditional as it is, and obviously had to do this pregnancy in the most un-traditional way possible.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Vicariously yours,