Baby, plan your birth!

A couple of queer expats in Singapore on a quest to make a baby

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Updates on all the things (with a special guest appearance by Radiohead)

We’ve been enjoying answering your questions lately, but we also want to keep you up to speed on the process. So here are some updates!

On the topic of doctors

We have one! A gay-friendly one! In fact, she delivered our (gay) friends’ baby last year, so we know she’s comfortable with our crowd. At a minimum, she can do the follicle ultrasound thingy we need for the insemination, and if we like her, she’ll be E’s pregnancy and delivery doc. And if we don’t, we’ll have nine months to find someone else from our list.

On the topic of insurance

Yup, still have it. There’s a ten-month waiting period from the time we got insurance until the time the insurance starts covering any kind of maternity care or delivery (except complications to the delivery, which are covered anytime). The ten-month countdown started in early July, so an on-time delivery would now be covered even if we got pregnant today, which isn’t in the cards since we’re going to be really busy tonight watching Masters of Sex and eating tacos. (Also, we’d know if we were getting pregnant today because we’d be in Bangkok in a cold, sterile exam room.) The delivery is the main reason we bought the insurance: cost of uninsured delivery – cost of insurance = ~$5000. Maternity care is pretty inexpensive here anyway, so having the insurance cover any portion of that would just be bonus. So… baby-making can commence soon.

On the topic of my visa status

This didn’t really get resolved, but it did get less dire.

I’m still on the three-month tourist visa just as I have been for the last year, coming and going. When we applied for the Long Term Visit Pass, it was on a new passport since my old one was about to expire. On the plus side, the new one isn’t full of Singapore entry and exit stamps. But we were also worried that my failed application might have put a flag on my new passport such that I’d have trouble getting in again.

To find out before we got E pregnant, we went to Thailand for the weekend a few weeks back. On the way out, we discovered that Singapore Immigration doesn’t have my two passports linked. This was a problem because, in order to leave, you have to show that you came, and I didn’t have my old, voided passport on me. I’d assumed they’d be linked, especially since Singapore is a super high-tech country, but I actually had to go to a special desk and spent 15 minutes explaining the situation to an official who wanted my old passport number and the ticket I flew in on. That was a good discovery because it means my previous entries on the old passport won’t be visible electronically to future immigration officials. (Even an attempt to put my new passport through their photo recognition software only brought up the passport of an elderly Chinese man.)

On the way back into Singapore, the official didn’t give my passport a second glance. So it seems that there’s no flag on it, and I’m probably about where I was a year ago, seemingly on my second social visit to Singapore as a tourist.

With that in mind, I’m still applying for jobs, but I can be a little less frantic about it. I’m also going to the States for a research/writing trip for about a month this autumn, and then back to the States again for Christmas, so I will genuinely look like a frequent visitor to Singapore rather than someone who lives here.

Wow. Bureaucracy is boring. I’m sorry. There really wasn’t a way to spice that up.

But here’s a cool upshot of our visa run to Thailand: we got our Open Water Diver SCUBA certifications!



(Photos by Jay Chance)


Yeah, it might seem silly, but getting SCUBA certified was one of our top 5 reasons for moving to Singapore, and we had to do it before E gets pregnant. Apparently, fetuses don’t respond well to intense underwater pressure (…also, this).

That’s all for updates at the moment. We’ll return to questions in the next couple of days.




Question Box Answers: second parent adoption

Here’s a question I’ve been putting off because we don’t really have a good answer for it:

“How will the legalities be handled with E having the baby and H being E’s spouse? (but not recognized as such everywhere) How does adoption work in such circumstances?”

Let’s start with this map, courtesy of wikipedia:

Screenshot 2014-08-28 01.04.47


Just before moving to Singapore, E and I lived in Michigan. We’re registered to vote in Michigan and have drivers licenses for Michigan. (For our non-American readers, Michigan is the one that looks like a mitten or, on this map, the red one in the north.) In theory, we could change our state since we don’t really live there anyway, but that’s complicated and usually involves demonstrating that we’ve set up a residence in our new state. Hard to do when, again, we don’t really live there. Realistically, we’re probably stuck with Michigan as our state until we move back to the US and take up residence elsewhere. (This isn’t strictly relevant to today’s topic, but for future reference, we were legally married in Illinois. Michigan does not recognize our marriage.)

So what does this map mean for us?

Assuming the situation is static (but hoping it’s not – c’mon SCOTUS!), it’s actually not clear what would happen in our situation. Michigan does not permit same-sex couples to adopt a child together, but there is no explicit prohibition on one partner adopting a child born to the other partner. Wikipedia calls this “stepparent adoption,” but it’s more commonly known as “second parent adoption,” even though these are technically different: stepparent adoption is for married couples, while second parent adoption is for a couple that isn’t married. But because some states are a little stingy with the marriage rights, a lot of co-parenting couples aren’t legally married, so second parent adoption is the more general term for everyone in that situation. (“Stepparent” also seems kind of misleading to me. I’m not adopting a child that E had as part of a previous relationship. I’m going to be there right from the start, as much a co-parent as E.)

Anyway, at present, Nessel & Kessel Law (no joke, that’s their name), the same firm that was part of Michigan’s DeBoer v. Snyder case back in March, is looking for same-sex Michigan couples who are legally married somewhere to file petitions for second parent adoptions to get the ball rolling on this issue.

As expats living in Asia, we’re obviously not ideal candidates, so we’re basically just waiting to see what happens, either with a Supreme Court ruling or a Michigan ruling. We’re confident that I’ll eventually be able to adopt our child, but it may be a little while.

In the meantime, we’re going to have some legal documents drawn up including a co-parenting agreement and a custody agreement. That way, everyone’s protected even if something bad happened to E or to our relationship. It’s not very romantic, and it’s definitely less joyful than signing my name to the birth certificate, but for the moment, it’s the closest we can have to an adoption.

I will leave you with the advice E was given last year by her former ob-gyn in Ann Arbor, MI: “Make sure you don’t put your girlfriend’s name on any legal paperwork. That way, if you break up, she won’t have any claim to your child.” Classy.

Send us more questions through our anonymous question box.




And now for the bad news…

With insurance and some OBGYN recommendations ticked off the to-do list, we were feeling a little smug. Like maybe we were finally getting the hang of Singapore.

We filed for my Long Term Visit Pass. Straight spouses of foreigners here on Employment Passes get Dependent Passes. Common-law spouses, parents, and assorted others get the LTVP, which is like a deluxe visitor visa, allowing the family member to stay for a year, renewable up to five years. Clearly a second-class citizen type pass, but still an improvement on the three-month visitor visas I’ve been collecting for the last year through frequent and well-timed trips out of the country.

Singapore doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. But when E took this job in Singapore, the people she spoke to over here assured her that they knew of other gay couples who’d gotten LTVPs because their marriages were recognized in their home countries, putting them in a similar position to common-law spouses. Ironically, when we made the decision in March 2013 to move here, DOMA hadn’t actually been kicked to the curb yet, so our marriage wouldn’t have been recognized in our home country, at least not on a federal level. But we had faith in the Notorious RBG & co. and, indeed, the Supreme Court overturned DOMA and we were married this spring and returned here with marriage license in hand and what could go wrong?


  • E0000104 : The Applicant must not be of the same gender as the EP/S Pass holder.

This was the error message we discovered in the email chain that informed us of the problem: “Singapore does not recognise same-sex marriages, so we cannot grant H a Long Term Visit Pass as your spouse. Instead, we advise her to apply for a work pass if she wishes to stay and work in Singapore. We will assess her application on its own independent merits.” (Love, the Ministry of Manpower).

Um, cool?

Putting aside both the awesome discrimination happening here (because we’re hardly surprised at this point, right?) and the fact that I already have a job I like very much (freelance writer and academic copy-editor), let’s talk employment pass logistics.

First, I must possess “acceptable qualifications,” a term the MOM doesn’t exactly define but which I probably meet, and a job offer. Not just any job, though. A part-time gig at the local Starbucks isn’t going to tick the boxes. To get an EP, I must take up a full-time managerial, executive, or specialized job with a monthly salary of at least $3300 SGD ($2640 USD). But wait! For an added degree of difficulty, on August 1, Singapore’s new hiring rules came into effect with the aim of making it more difficult for firms to hire non-Singaporeans. Really stellar timing.

I’ll just add here that we’d also planned on me being the primary care-giver to our future wee one, one of the perks of working from home rather than in a full-time managerial, executive, or specialized position somewhere out in the glass and steel jungle of Singapore. So much for pro-family Singapore.

So to recap, because the Ministry of Manpower (and Singapore’s government in general) doesn’t approve of the combination of genitals we’ve got going on, I’m going to have to change careers, get a full-time job outside the house, and effectively use my salary to pay someone else to look after our baby.

Makes total sense.