We got some pretty tough news going into the weekend, which is both the worst and best time to receive shitty news. Good to have the time to process it without being at work but bad because come on, it’s the weekend and I’m trying to enjoy myself for the next two days, not deal with more shit. It ended up being good that J and I had the weekend to process things and it was honestly one of our better weekends.
Here’s what happened. We live in a one bedroom furnished apartment. We moved last summer because our old apartment was too expensive and we had terrible landlords. Our new place is small but it’s really beautifully furnished, is on the ground floor, and is super inexpensive. Our landlords are incredibly responsive and fix things immediately after they break. It’s also a one year lease, which is difficult to come by in Belgium. Leases tend to be 9 years long, and you pay a penalty to break them up until year 3. To break after one year would mean paying 3 months rent. WHO HAS THAT LYING AROUND?? All that to say, we kind of have the Holy Grail of Belgian apartments. When we found out we were expecting and started getting baby gear, we tossed around the idea of moving somewhere new to have more space. However, as job prospects remained slim for J, we figured we probably only had a year left in Belgium, and much of my maternity leave will likely be spent in the States. We will probably really only be in Belgium full time from January until June. Making a move just didn’t make sense. We didn’t want to uproot for the 4th time in 4 years, buy furniture that we would then have to try to get rid of, increase our monthly rent, or try to negotiate another one year lease. It made sense to stay put, and if things got cramped, we knew it would be temporary. Also, our lease ended July 31st and the baby is due July 25th. Trying to figure out a move would be tricky for that reason alone and we didn’t know if our landlords would be willing to let us out a month early without monetary penalty.
On Friday we learned we no longer had the option to stay in our place. I was in my classroom on one of the few minutes I had a break that day when the following email popped up.
Dear M and J,
We hope you are doing well?
Unfortunately, we, from our side, have to bring you perhaps no positive news.
Due to an unforeseen situation, we are obliged to maintain the end date of the signed 1 year contract, no extension can be granted. The rental contract will therefore end, as stipulated, on 31 July 2018. By that time we come together to take over the utility meters, check of the apartment (rental deposit) and return of the keys.
We wish to inform you clearly and honestly, a long time in advance and thank you for your cooperation.
You will receive this message also by registered letter (in Dutch).
Well dear landlords, we were doing well up until YOUR EMAIL. I could literally feel the panic start to rise in my chest as I texted J to check his email. A few seconds later a single ‘Damn’ came back. Luckily I have a close friend at work that I can talk to and went to her room where I cried through my lunch period (what a joyful lunch for her, no doubt). I felt awful for J who was processing this news by himself at home. We were both shocked and upset by the email as we really didn’t see this coming and we had a feeling the ‘unforeseen circumstance’ was our baby. All the problems with this swirled through my head. How would we find a place with a one year lease? Would we be able to find a furnished place again at a reasonable price? What if we have to buy furniture? That wasn’t in any kind of budget. What if they won’t let us out of the lease a month early? We literally can’t move July 31 as the baby is due July 25 and I could literally be in the hospital at that time. We can’t afford to pay double rent on places either if they won’t let us out. I’m going to have to search for a new apartment at the end of a school year and move in my ninth month of pregnancy? Are you kidding? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? Full freak out. We honestly debated if we should call it a day and move back home. J had also found out that week by talking to the government that him finding a job was basically a no-go here. That was already pretty depressing news and now we were being told come the end of July we were homeless. It really seemed like Belgium wanted us out. I think we both knew that moving home wasn’t really an option as we had no where to stay after the baby was born and we’d lose my maternity pay. For a moment there, though, it really seemed like it was our time to move on.
I talked with J and with my mom and we decided to ask our landlords to meet with us so we could discuss this in person. There isn’t a big language barrier as they both speak good English, but with all the lease negotiation we need to do, I didn’t want anything to get lost in translation. I think it is also harder to say no, particularly to a pregnant woman, when you’re sitting in front of her versus over a computer screen. We meet on Wednesday night, so for now, we are in a bit of a waiting game. I’ve been looking on the rental websites just to get an idea of what is out there. I’m not impressed at all with how this is being handled and the idea of moving again makes me sick. We’ll figure it out and we’ll get it done but the timing is terrible and it isn’t going to be fun. I keep telling myself it must be happening for a reason. Our current place wasn’t right for the baby. I have had to really work not to let the stress overtake me because it just isn’t healthy for the baby. Thank HEAVENS I talked to my therapist last week so that I am in a slightly better mental place than I would have otherwise been in.
After all this happened on Friday, J texted me later that afternoon and said he just needed a chill weekend. No surprise plans. We’d already had a birthday brunch for a friend planned for Saturday and going to a movie on Sunday, but I agreed that I wouldn’t schedule anything else. I ended up being a big liar. We laid low Friday, which was good. We were both exhausted and went to bed relatively early and slept pretty late on Saturday. We went to brunch and from brunch, a few of our friends wanted to go somewhere else and grab a drink so we tagged along. It was a really nice afternoon and we didn’t get home until after 6pm. We went grocery shopping from there and then spent the rest of evening at home. One of my co-workers and friends is 41 weeks pregnant with her first, so she had texted on Saturday asking if we wanted to get together with her and her husband. She and I thought the husbands would like each other. I caught J in a good enough mood to agree, so Sunday early afternoon we met them for coffee. It was great to talk to them about baby things and see her one more time before the baby shows up! We went directly from coffee to see Infinity Wars which made J’s entire life. After the movie, we went to our friends’ apartment and played a new game with them for an hour or so before going home to make dinner. It ended up being a busy weekend for us and it was perfect. I think it helped take our minds off the apartment stuff and didn’t let us wallow in it all weekend. It was a busy blessing in disguise.
We know we have a lot to figure out, especially after we have the meeting on Wednesday and I know neither of us are looking forward to it. I just have to keep trusting that this will work out the way it’s meant to and we will find the right place. I keep reminding myself that this will pass and it may be a stressful few months but we’ve made it through moving abroad right after marriage, unemployment, and infertility–all in less than 2 years of marriage. We can do this too.
In positive news, I felt my first baby hiccups this weekend! I’ve seen lots of girls talking about feeling them and wondered how they knew until I felt them. It was pretty fun. The baby is getting big enough now that they really poke out of my skin when they get to moving. We watched my tummy rolling yesterday and then a foot or a head popped up which was pretty incredible. I’m 28 weeks today and officially in the third trimester which is bananas. It’s also the second big viability milestone which is another reassurance. Still hoping they stick in there until early August, but glad to know if that wasn’t the case, they would likely be okay. I’m so grateful for this healthy child of ours. When everything else is falling apart, that is the one thing J and I go back to. If Belgium fails us in nearly all other aspects, at least we got our miracle baby here.
Honestly, it can just about fuck off otherwise. 🙂