Two weeks ago, just after Jonah was born and we were sitting in the hospital exhausted and a little surprised (he arrived early, and so fast!), I was filling out the form to get Jonah’s birth certificate when I turned to Alex and said, “You know, when Flynn was born, I brought all of the information to expedite his birth certificate with me to the hospital.” We needed to get the birth certificate as quickly as possible so we could get his diplomatic passport and then his visa, all so we could move to Africa ten weeks later.
Whenever you hear about the challenges of the foreign service lifestyle, being far away from home, not having roots, and lots of uncertainty usually come up. But that moment in the hospital reminded me of what, to me, might be one of the most daunting parts of being in the foreign service of all – the rush. When you’re moving all around the world, when your stuff is moving all around the world (but not necessarily on the same schedule as you), and when the places you live might not be suitable for certain life events (like the birth of a child), it’s easy to find yourself rushing through things that under normal circumstances you might take more time planning.
It starts in A-100. In every class there are a handful of newly minted foreign services officers who have also just tied the knot, like Alex and I did just before she started A-100. There are more that get engaged and married before going off to their first posts. Husbands and wives go on travel orders. Fiances do not.
It continued for us when Flynn was born. While we were waiting for his passport, visa, and medical clearance, we took a whirlwind trip to the midwest to see our families. Visits that might otherwise have been spaced out over months were jammed into five exhausting weeks of moving from one house to another, sleeping in different bedrooms every week. Then, in February, when I was assigned to Washington for my first tour and we knew we would be here for a while, we needed to buy a house. Of course, we only had about six weeks to look. As two people who could spend ten minutes deciding what bag of chips to buy, and who would undoubtedly rethink our decision on the way home, this was maddening. We also needed a car, and a couch, and to add a second bathroom to the house we just bought, and maybe finish the basement too. All of these things that we would have loved to take our time doing (or drag our feet on, depending on how you look at it), were done quickly without our usual obsessive compulsive research and careful deliberation.
Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. It forces us to make decisions and move on. To be honest, I think we would have ended up in this house even if we were looking for six months instead of six weeks. The same goes for our car and couch. As for the bathroom, I can’t help but remember how it took Alex the better part of a month to settle on bath towels she liked. I shudder to think how long she could have spent designing a whole bathroom had we had the luxury of time.
But now that the we bought a house and car, had a new baby, and are really close to finishing that second bathroom (or so we’re told…), it’s nice to be able to breathe. We have at least a year before we leave for Mexico. Having this time to simply be in the US after the baby was born was one of the main reasons I bid on Washington for my first tour. Sure, eventually we’ll need to get a passport for Jonah and apply for visas, but that’s a long way off. We have time. No need to expedite his birth certificate.