Filling I-751 Form To Remove Conditions

We finally submitted our I-751 Application to Remove Conditions! We used to think getting a Visa to live in a foreign country was the first and last step, but that is not the case. Our particular experience with a spouse Visa is that after 2 years we need to apply to remove the 2-year conditional residency.

In order to remove those conditions we basically had to prove that we are still happily living together and that our marriage is and was legitimate. That means paperwork. Documents, and evidence just like our first Visa processing! Yayyy!!! It all starts with the I-751 application itself to be all filled in and signed followed by MONEY. In 2019 the current price for filing the I-751 app is $595 plus an $85 biometric service fee.

Ouch. After the application and the fee you will include things like copies of your green card, marriage certificate, driver’s license, proof of address, bank statements, criminal records, photos, affidavits, etc.

We decided to follow the USCIS.gov website page for I-751 filing instructions. We also consulted with visajourney pages to get an idea of creating a cover letter for our application packet. The cover page is more of a cover letter that lists both parties names (Hannah and Zouhair) our address, social security numbers, Zouhair’s Alien number, followed by a Table of Conents for the immigration officers to easily follow our application packet like a story book.

An example of I-751 Folder Cover Sheet.

We also went in and highlighted our names/addresses for the officer to easily locate them on our documents. After we triple checked our work and referenced the instructions we sent our application packet to USPS to be delivered to the corresponding USCIS location for Indiana. We shipped Express in order to get it there quickly and safely. Now we are waiting to hear back. Let us know if you have any questions about the process for removing the conditions from you or your spouse’s green card.

I-751 Cover Letter Example
I-751 Form Example
I-751 Form Example

My Story: Medical Exam For US Visa I-130 / K1

Start counting down for your visa interview day when you receive a letter from NVC telling you about it. What of the most important things you have to do is get you medical folder done up to a month before your interview day and that’s exactly what I did. Let share with you my experience and tips of what I learned trying to collect my medical exam folder.

The rules are different from country to another, it could be easy or the opposite. In Morocco especially it wasn’t an easy experience by traveling to Casablanca to see a doctor for a medical health.

When you receive your interview letter, NVC will tell you know exactly when you need to get your medical exam done, having it early is much better done rushing, in the last minutes.

Personally I got it done in 2 weeks before the interview day. I had to call the doctor and make an appointment in advince. At that day I went to Casablanca early morning and be there at the doctor’s office at 8:30am. I took with me the interview letter and some other documents including my 4×4 pictures. When you make your appointment make sure to double check what documents you are required to bring and also ask them how much money you’ll be spending in the doctor’s office, Xray, blood, urine test, and also vacines. It was for me about 2200 DH which is arround $200.

Be ready to travel between the labs when yo go to Casablanca it is a hug city, the the doctor’s office and the labs were so far from each other and be prepared to spend the whole day to get this process done. It requires few hours. I left the office around 9:30am and before I left they gave me 2 envelopes to take with me, one will be for the urine and blood lab and the second one will be for X-ray lab. They told me to go and start with urine and blood test first because I was fasting at that moment and that is the protocol for the blood test to see a clear result. I was done from this lab around 11am then I went to the X-ray lab, it took me there almost an hour. I got out and then I waited for the result for almost 2 hours. Finally I went back to collect my results from both labs and take them back to the the doctor’s office at 4 pm.

The doctor was busy with patients. The front desk told me to go to a nearst pharmacy and buy some specific vaccines the right vaccines that USA requiers you to have. Bringing your childhood vaccine records will help you in this situation to avoid paying extra cash for extra vaccines.

Ansewring no or I don’t remember when they ask you if you had that vaccine when you were a child. you’ll end up buying extra vaccines. So make sure to find the record for your vaccines or at least ask a member of your family who remembers you childhood. This way you’ll be giving the right answer.

Taking with you extra cash for Transportation/food/miscellaneous… is not a bad idea, with Taxis only by going back and forth between the labs I spent more that 200 DH. When it comes to travel always you have to be precuation in case of emergency.

To find the right doctor in Casablanca and works with US Embassy there’s a list for the them listed in the main USA Embassy in Casablanca website, also you can google the doctors and ask them if they do work with US Embassy not all the doctors are approved by the Casablanca Embassy so please double check before you do a step.

When you are done with your doctor ask if they will take your final exam to the USA embassy or will give it to you directly. Some doctors will do and some of them not.

Another tip I can tell you about is keeping your car at home is much better than driving it to Casablanca “CRAZY” traffic, you better use public transportation to protect yourself from stress especially if you weren’t familiar with that. Also there’s Uber company in Casablanca that you can add to your transportation list.

The doctor handled the medical folder to me and I didn’t need to take it with me to the US embassy for the interview day. I kept it safe at home. When we traveled to the USA I had to keep all of these documents including medical exam in my backpack “easy access”. At the airport you have to give it all to the police border when they ask you about it.

We hope you have a good luck with your visa journey, share with us your thought and your experience about medical exam for US Visa I-130 / K1.

Let us know if there’s any updates happend after 2016 process by conatcting us from here.

[CR1] My Interview Experience in Casablanca Embassy [I-130]

After a long wait for almost one year from the time when we applied for I-130 visa, we felt so happy when we received an email from NVC telling us the interview date that would be at the US Embassy in Casablanca. The NVC step wasn’t long, comparing it to USCIS which lasted for more than seven months, once they send your file to the NVC, it feels that you are closer to the end of getting your visa, I prepared a lot for the interview day by searching on Youtube, reading about p[eople experience to prepare your mind and have little knowledge of what you’re going to face on that day.

My interview time at the embassy was at one o’clock in the afternoon. I left Tetouan city in northern Morocco at 5 am on a bus. It was a quick five hours journey. I arrived there and wandered around the city waiting for 1pm to come and start the interview. Then I went to the US Embassy eager a new experience in my life.

Before you go to the US Embassy you have to know what things you should and you should not bring with you to the embassy. If you have a large purse filled with inappropriate things and the security people will prevent you from taking it with you inside but do not worry you will find there a trusted guy outside the embassy. He is a car guard you will find him in the street next to the embassy. This is his job. He will also watch your bags and anything the Embassy doesn’t want you to have inside until you’re done with your interview. You have to pay him for his service though. I remember giving him 10DH for his service

If you brought a phone with you, they will prevent you from entering it and will ask you to turn it off. But at the entrance in the second security check, they will take your phone from you and give you a number, Then you pick it up back when you’re done with your interview process. You are now inside the embassy and what you need do is to go to the front and make sure you give them your passport, then you go to sit and wait until they call your name and window number. If you do not speak English comfortably, don’t worry they will give you the option to speak in Arabic or French. they have translators. They will make your process easier. First, they will call you for fingerprints and then return to your place to sit until you hear your name for the interview, while you’re doing these steps you’ll get comfortable and adapt to the place. You have to calm down as much as possible and remember that you are coming to the interview to give the Consul all the information about your marriage and honestly answer all their questions.

Remember to bring with you all the original documents that have sent to USCIS and NVC in case the Consul ask to see the originals. After one hour of waiting, I heard my name and the window number where I will be doing my interview. I was very excited. I talk to the consul in English and you have the options to speak Arabic or French if you are not comfortable speaking in English. The person who interviewed me was a very nice person and everything went through appropriate conditions and all the questions were general, here are some questions I remembered:

How did you meet each other?
Where did you meet and when?
What did your wife study?
What did your wife work?

He asked me if I met her family before. I said yes, they came to visit us in Morocco and I told him I have some pictures with them. Then I started to show him pictures from the album with an explanation and a reference to the time of each one. This is how the interview went, simple questions and normal conversation. What important is that you have to look comfortable and confident during the interview process.

To avoid having rejection after the interview is to make sure you send all the necessary documents from the first step to USCIS and NVC here’s a website will help you through your filling process Visajourney, here you can create an account and ask for help from a visa journey expat during our process this website was very helpful to us.

The great thing to hear during the interview process is “your visa got approved” this sentence will let you forget all the long waiting and stress that you had with your spouse throughout the visa journey. At that moment I wished for my wife to hear that with me at the same time. She did most the work for the visa by searching and double check with all the documents, organizing, and much more I felt she deserves to hear it with me.

One of the main documents that you should bring with you is a photo album with your both families including wedding photos or wedding ceremony photos are indicative of a good relationship between you and your spouse.

After one week you will go to pick up your passport from Aramex office. You must enter the US territory within three months of receiving the visa Before you travel, remember to pay for the visa at USCIS. The amount is $ 165. These all are will sound a lot of information to you if you’re still in the first step, just take it to step by step and remember to make research and ask questions.

lately, I found this video from USA consulate in Rabat they shared it on their channel on YouTube shows you the interview process.

Share with us your thought about this article and share with us your interview process and questions were given you in a comment.

Breastfeeding From a Dads Perspective

I was wishing for my wife to be able to breastfeed and my wish succeeded. She’s breastfeeding and she’s almost to finish two years. Before I got married I had no experience with the challenge of breastfeeding.

Getting married and deciding to have a baby is the greatest decision you do with your partner and hearing from your wife she’s pregnant is the biggest happiness in your life and I’m grateful for our healthy baby boy. My wife was thinking about breastfeeding and she was doing research about it a lot, to see moms experience and tries to avoid what you need to avoid. Personally, I didn’t make any research about it I just faced it and heard from her.

I heard from my wife that she’s feeling pain in her nipples and they’re getting sensitive from the bad latch. I didn’t know what to do to help her. What I knew at that moment is my wife has 2 years goal of breastfeeding.

While you’re developing inside of your mom during the nine months, moms will start caring about your health and how you will look like after you born, they started taking care of themselves more than usual going for doctor’s appointments often and checking about you, taking supplements, starting eating a healthy diet and more. This instinct is something beautiful in every mom in this world.

While all the moms are close from birth they started thinking about breastfeeding, they know it is good for their babies and it is healthier than formula. Modern science and conformity to the Islamic religion that the mother’s milk is better and recommended for two years… all the moms go through deep thinking about breastfeeding, one side telling them to do it and the other one telling them NO.

Everything has cons and pros in this life, maybe moms they don’t have any idea about breastfeeding they think will be easy. But all of them they go through a lot of pain and most of the dads don’t know how that feels like.

We spent the whole pregnancy in Morocco and the most challenging part of it for Hannah is breastfeeding outside, from my perspective I was encouraging her to breastfeed anywhere if the baby needs it without feeling embarrassed or judged, our culture they believe the breastfeed and they understand it. Most women try to breastfeed and make it as the first choice and formula is the second option and if it doesn’t work then they switch it and everybody is different you have to remember that if you decided to stop breastfeeding you have to stop judging yourself.

in the US they don’t encourage you to breastfeed outside, some people think it is something unacceptable to do. They don’t see it as something healthy for the baby and that its source of food, they expect the baby and you to be perfect. Don’t try to please the community around you, do what you feel you have to do, it is inconsistent for what we see in the TV and “outside” (Mall, street ads, beach…).

Hannah

My wife still breastfeeding our baby Remy for 20 months, she went through a hard time since birth, she has a goal for two years breastfeeding we’re believing it is good for him and for every baby in the world, the science found out the breast milk is something amazing and has a lot of benefit than formula verifying what Holy Quran says. Mothers born with a deep power than fathers, They don’t ask for help they prof to you they can do it and of course, they do it. Just waking up at night many times for breastfeeding, it is not easy at all. Between 0 to 3 months wasn’t something easy for her, the nipples didn’t get used to the suction, makes them painful and to keep going you’re supposed to believe it is going to get better and you’ll forget that pain in the future while it’s going to start feeling great. Hannah found a cream for nipples online while she was doing her research, this cream helps to moisturize the nipples and helps them to recover from the bad latch, and helped her to go through those hard moments, she will recommend it for everybody and to buy it it’s available on Amazon: AVENT Nipple Cream. From three to six months it was the best moments for breastfeeding and when Remy got bigger his teeth started to come and everything turned back to pain and brought the memories while he was a newborn.

The teething comes and goes while the new teeth started growing and the moms they don’t know if the baby will eat or just looking for comfort. You have to believe it’s going to be temporary you need to have a lot of support around to help you forget those bad moments of breastfeeding.

Our spouses they’re looking for support more than anything else, support gives them the energy that is going to help them to feed the baby and go through the hard times and help our babies to grow healthy.

While he was a newborn and he was eating a lot I wished I could breastfeed too and help my wife to get some rest because the nipples get tired and painful each time he goes to eat. Even now at night when she takes responsibility for the baby to put him to sleep I keep wishing for that just to help her because she doesn’t get breaks from that and he got used to it and that his source of comfort.

If you you’re expecting a baby and your wife want to breastfeed the best gift you can give her is support, because she will face a lot of emotions and bad times and try to stop while her mind telling her to keep going and what she’s expecting to hear from you is the same “KEEP GOING”. While you decided to have a baby you both made that decision so both of you need to be a team to support each other in those hard moments. It is not that difficult to support your wife and that’s the only thing while you’re having a break of thinking about feeding your baby you need to feed your wife with nice words and stay in her side the whole time while she needs you.

all of us we need to thank our mothers of what they did for us while we were babies and nothing in this world that we can give them to thank them for what they did for us, only pray to God to make their life happy and give them a wonderful livelihood.

Special thanks to my wife that she’s sacrificing her life to grow a healthy baby.

I love you.

The First Step in The USA

On 29 March 2017, I entered the USA with Marriage visa CR1. I was super excited to fly to my wife’s country and decide to live with her there. My first step it was in Newark airport in New Jersey. Everything was different, people, language, infrastructure, cars, weather, even air… everything is different.

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Just hearing people talking a different language that I didn’t get used to hearing people talking with, it feels like something not normal to me, it took me a while to realize and believe I’m in the USA, I never thought I will be in the here someday.

In Morocco we’re limited traveling out of the country, you find it difficult to travel outside of the country especially to EU or America, our passport is classified for the poorest passports in the world, give you access to travel to a few countries in the world. Otherwise, you’ll have to apply for a visa. Applying for a visa from Morocco it’s not something simple, you have to go through a lot of paperwork and you need to have a good job with a very good company and have extra money so you can show the consulate a proof of your income and prof you’ll plan to come back after you finish visiting the country that you’re applying for. That’s the reason we don’t travel outside of Morocco.

for the first entry to the USA, you have to check in with immigration officers in the airport, the check in took us few minutes, you have to give them the folder that you picked up from Aramex with your passport. You SHOULD NOT open it, an Officer will check your passport and will put a temporary  I-551 stamp, this stamp is very important to apply for a temporary ID card.

Officially you’re in the USA. While you are walking through the checking process your luggage is getting ready for you in the other side of the airport, and at the airport they have a small design of statue of liberty I took an opportunity and I stood by it for a picture and at the same time I still couldn’t believe I’m in the US.

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We were so tired with a long flight from Morocco to New York we decided to rest a night in a hotel beside New Ark airport and at the same time we planned to take advantage of staying in new york to visit the next day the famous places and have a tour in the city.

All of these things happened two months after Hannah’s birth. Hannah was so excited to come back to her home country to see her family again and feel comfortable with the environment that she grew up in. The most beautiful part is I saw the excitement in her eyes while she’s showing me something I experienced for the first time in the US and while she’s teaching me something new.

While we were in Portugal for our stop, I met a guy from Morocco and he is from the same city that I’m from and the coincidence is, he is traveling to the USA for the first time and for the same reason, marriage visa. His wife was going to meet him in the USA.

Remy experienced to travel around the word after to months of being in earth From Morocco to Portugal To US. It was a little bit difficult for us to travel with him eight-hour flight from Morocco to the USA, Hannah was so patient the whole time. She took a good care of him.

We spent an enjoyable day in New York city seeing American style life for the first time while I got used to see it only on TV or social media, as well I took opportunity to have a memorable pictures in these places: Time Square, Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, and the best thing we did in New York is we took a tour using the tour bus so that gave us time to see more touristic places.

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The next day after staying in New Jersey for one night, We traveled to Fort Wayne, IN, we had our flight from New Ark airport. Fort Wayne was the first city we have to visit and stay in, all Hannah’s family are from there. It was an opportunity for us to go and see them and also it is good to stay with a family member in the beginning until you find a job and you’ll be ready to move to your own place.

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My Birth Story in Tangier, Morocco

I wanted to have a “natural” birth, but aren’t all births technically natural? I think that’s a topic for a whole other blog post, but overall, in my opinion, birth is very very 100% natural regardless of how exactly the baby exits the body and enters into the world.

In summary, I didn’t want to have medication during birth or any unnecessary medical interventions if there were no life-threatening events happening.

I feel lucky to have as much knowledge as I do about what can potentially be expected from birth medically, physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. The best thing that I learned above everything is that nothing about birth can truly be expected as it is in the hands of God. Knowing this was freeing as I would remind myself that nothing was in my control and to just hold faith that everything would go as it was written regardless of whether I was in the United States or not.

My husband and I searched relentlessly for doctors in the beginning. I explain exactly how we found our final doctor here and here. Her name is Dr. Houda Bennis and she speaks a little bit of English, so it made me feel a lot more comfortable. She also speaks a little bit of Spanish. Otherwise, her main languages are Arabic and French.

I gave birth at Clinique Bennis as Dr. Houda is affiliated with this hospital in Tangier. The Clinique is not what I expected upon arrival as I was expecting something similar to a hospital in America. The Clinique is older and not updated. The beds still have metal rails and there are places on the walls missing paint, but as my water was already broken, I was not caring about the details. I just wanted to make sure my baby was okay.

My water broke around 7:30am and we got to the hospital around 10am. My water didn’t break fully all at once, which, thanks to the movies, I always thought was supposed happen.

We arrived at the front desk and I gave the two women there my folder from Dr. Houda that listed my blood test results, ultrasounds, and special notes from Dr. Houda regarding allergies, and special requests from me that I listed in my birth plan.

I brought with me a small “carry-on” sized suitcase with my husband’s clothes and my clothes along with a larger duffle bag with snacks, Remy’s clothes, blankets, towels, diapers, and toiletries.

 If you are also planning to give birth specifically at Clinique Bennis in Tangier, my advice would be to bring food with you. They do not provide food to you until after the birth and there is no food to buy within the hospital (not even bottled water.) Also, have enough food/snack for your stay because there are no close areas to the clinique to buy food. My husband had to take a taxi to another location to bring back enough snacks to get us both by until after the birth and then he still had to go out again after the birth to bring himself back some dinner. He was quite hungry after coaching me through the delivery.

The main room for laboring women was full with someone else, so we were sent to a private room to wait for a few hours until the room opened up. While we waited my water continued exiting my body and the contractions began. My husband and I did exercises together as well as a few dance moves to help move the process along.

I would like to share my advice to be sure to relax and if you feel the urge to have a bowel movement to allow yourself to go as much as needed before delivery. I personally had to go multiple times to the bathroom and I am glad I did because it is best to feel as comfortable as possible before all the pushing begins in the delivery room.

The midwife at the hospital came in to check my cervix and she noticed in my amniotic fluid that there was meconium, which is baby poop, which could mean that my baby was stressed, which could have meant that we needed emergency medical intervention like a cesarean section, or c-section.

This was a moment in time that I was happy that I had done so much research, but also very scared because my baby could be in distress. I had to remind myself that this situation was still out of my hands and in the hands of God.

Dr. Houda was called right away and my belly was strapped up to monitor contractions and heart rate of the baby. I was comforted to hear my baby’s heart beating away and to see that my uterus was contracting very well, but still anxiously awaiting the doctor to hear what step to take next.

The doctor arrived and she checked my cervix to see yet another gush of amniotic fluid with no meconium inside. She said not to worry and that we will proceed naturally.

 I felt very relaxed after this and my contractions actually began to slow down as my stress levels decreased.

We eventually got moved to the normal room for laboring mothers, which had a normal hospital bed for me and a smaller bed to the side for the husband or family member accompanying.

There is another option for a bigger room if you are planning to have more people with you. The price is higher for this room, but it is very nice and has a small seating area with couches.

The smaller private room was perfect for us. There was a bathroom inside, but no shower, a TV without a remote to change channels, and there was also a heater, but you would have to ask a nurse if you wanted to change the temperature.

It is also important to note that if you want to connect to the Internet during your stay at Clinique Bennis, then you will need to purchase your own data for your phone, as they do not offer you the password for their wifi. My husband asked several different nurses and staff members for the wifi password and all of them said they did not know it or could not give it to us. Lame.

My contractions were increasing in pain and I was not able to speak during them any longer. I knew we were getting close. The midwife monitored the baby’s heart and our contractions, once again, and noticed the contractions were inconsistent (not every five minutes) so she called Dr. Houda for her suggestion and she recommended giving me a form of oxytocin to regulate the contractions.

I was put off by the idea of medication for this.

I asked my husband to use his data to research the drug specifically and I read about the use of it for labor. After this I called my mom and asked her opinion and collectively we all decided that since the baby had already showed signs of distress that we should go ahead and move things along to regulate the contractions and keep baby from having to be inside for longer than he needs to in order to keep the risks low.

I was given two doses of the oxytocin through an IV and I was terrified to feel the contractions regulate because I was really enjoying the longer pauses between contractions. I didn’t want to expect to feel one every five minutes or less, but I definitely did and my mind quickly started to think about the epidural, which I couldn’t believe I started to think about, but the pain of labor contractions are pains that undoubtedly cannot accurately be described until you feel them for yourself.

They are all encompassing of your energy and of your mind. I coped by holding my breath (not recommended because you need to breath to get oxygen to your baby), tensing up all of my muscles even my toes, and not moving. I was suffering silently which is apparently not common for many Moroccan women as my husband told me that many of the nurses were telling him that I was very patient because I was not freaking out and vocalizing my pain.

I was dazing in and out of my meditative pain state and reality and someone told me it was time to go to the delivery room…by walking.

 I thought to myself, “I actually have to move my body right now? How?”

The midwife through broken English said, “Walking will help baby.” So, I stand up somehow and I walk about five steps before having to stop for a contraction. The nurses in the area all stare at me, but I close my eyes and wait for the contraction to pass and the midwife helps me waddle the rest of my way down the stairs to the delivery room.

Every move I made felt like a miracle because the contractions were immobilizing.

I ended up in the bed and I saw my husband was in medical clothes and everyone was wearing hairnets and gloves. I slowly realized that we were going to be giving birth now. It truly felt like I was in another world.

The doctor told me to push every time I felt a contraction and I remember having the same thought from earlier that, “If I can’t even breath when I’m having a contraction how will I push?” I asked about the epidural to my husband and he translated to the doctor and then he translated back to me that I was already at 7cm and if I get to 8 it is too late.

Another contraction came and I (REGRETFULLY) said, “Yes, give me the epidural.”

The anesthesiologist came in and from TV shows and movies I knew what he was going to do with putting the needle and catheter into my back to administer the anesthetic.

He did it, but I still felt everything. He said to give it five minutes and I will not feel pain anymore.

Five minutes later and many strong contractions later, I still felt everything.

I told my husband and he told the anesthesiologist, but he assured him that it was working based on my “quiet state” (which I maintained throughout the entire labor) and my husband argued with him that we shouldn’t have to pay for this medication.

It was too late to have been given the epidural and thankfully I didn’t think about it too much as the contractions took all of my focus.

Dr. Houda gave me oxygen as she could tell I was holding my breath and she told me to breathe or my baby would not have oxygen to breathe. I tried breathing and it felt very uncomfortable. The next thing Dr. Houda told me to do was to push. I couldn’t imagine it, but I tried.

I pushed as hard as I could. I felt a contraction and I would nod my head at Dr. Houda that I was ready to push and both Dr. Houda and my husband would coach me to push as hard as I could.

Very quickly I felt the urge to have bowel movement, which was something I heard to be very common during delivery and I was also mortified to do. I told my husband and my husband translated what I said to the doctor and she and all the staff in the room told me how normal it was to do and to just relax and let it happen.

I embarrassingly did it and after that I was able to push harder and feel more in control. It really was not a big deal at all. It’s just part of the process, really. I forgot about it immediately.

The pain was more and more intense and I could tell it was getting close, but I couldn’t tell how long it would take. In my mind, we still had 30 minutes to an hour, but to my surprise, baby Remy was born about one minute after the thought crossed my mind.

Dr. Houda ended up giving me an episiotomy and using a vacuum suction to get baby Remy out as his head was turned slightly. I wish Dr. Houda did not choose to do these things as Remy’s head afterwards was very bruised from the suction (vacuums also can cause a lot of cranial structural problems as well as countless others (Inshallah none will happen or have happened to Remy)) and my episiotomy wound is still tender two months later, but I trust she used her best judgment to have a healthy delivery and there is nothing any of us can really do to change it now.

Overall the labor and delivery lasted from 7:30am to Remy’s birth at 7:20pm.

 Almost 12 hours exactly! Alhamdulillah for Remy; He is a beautiful baby boy.

I remember how shocked I was when I saw him placed on my chest. I heard his screams and saw him for the first time. I couldn’t believe he was here! It’s a moment I will replay in my head over and over and over again as this moment felt so surreal and unimaginable. It was truly an experience and feeling that I cannot put into the correct words.

I felt and still feel so lucky and grateful for Remy and his health. Even that doesn’t truly explain any of the feelings.

After a few moments with my Remy Dr. Houda called my husband to cut the umbilical cord still connecting Remy and I together. Zouhair did it successfully and after he finalized the cut the three of us had a few minutes to connect with each other as a family for the first time.

My placenta was next on the list of things to be removed from my body and my state of mind at the time was not at all focused on pushing. I think Dr. Houda could see I was very tired as she directed her midwife to assist her in the removal process.

The midwife pushed on my stomach while Dr. Houda massaged the inside of my uterus to coax the placenta out. It was a bit painful, but I was too distracted to care much as all I could think about was my fresh little baby awaiting my cuddles.

A few moments after final stitches were put into place of the episiotomy I was placed out of the birthing chair onto a bed to be wheeled onto an elevator to my original room.

I was told to wait two hours after birth before I could have something to eat. I gratefully accepted two hours of rest as did my husband and baby Remy.

For dinner, two hours after birth, I was given a vegetable puree type of soup with a side dish of chicken and rice with a yogurt.

I really didn’t feel like eating. I felt nauseous and had a headache, but the nurses encouraged me to eat anyway. They were right. It helped me feel much better.

The nurses changed shifts and I felt a bit bombarded by the amount of night nurses that were in my room.

A nurse with three of her own children helped me to try to latch Remy on to breast feed for the first time.

It was a very hands-on approach, which I personally did not mind.

Remy did not take onto the breast quickly and the nurse was telling my husband in Darija that he should go to the pharmacy to buy formula. I couldn’t believe it. I saw a bottle in her hand and very directly told Zouhair to tell her NO BOTTLES. I didn’t want the first thing his mouth to feel and become accustomed with to be a bottle as it could cause nipple confusion.

The nurse left the room for a few moments and I tried very hard to get Remy to latch on. He finally did Alhamdulillah. I felt so proud of him.

Afterwards the nurse came back to see Remy eating and she congratulated us.

This was one of the moments that I wished to be in the US as a lactation consultant could have assisted me with getting a proper latch from the very beginning.

Needless to say we have latch issues now, but we are working through it and I am hoping that as Remy grows things will improve.

After dinner we all needed some rest and rest we did. Remy slept through most of the night and didn’t cry Alhamdulillah.

Throughout the night I would ring for the nurses whenever I needed to go to the bathroom.

“The bathroom” after birth and an episiotomy consisted of a nurse bringing a bedpan and cleaning my wound with a type of medicated water. It was nice and convenient for me, as I didn’t have to leave bed. I’m thankful for the nurses helping me through everything at the clinique. They were very patient.

Morning came very quickly. Breakfast was a croissant and bread with the option for jelly or butter, with a side of yogurt, and coffee (I skipped the coffee and asked for hot water for raspberry leaf tea I brought with me (it’s notably very good for strengthening the uterus)).

My husband’s family came to visit us and meet baby Remy shortly after breakfast. They brought flowers for us with a cute blue ribbon tied around them. It was nice to introduce the newest family member and share the moment with them.

The staff and doctors for birth at Clinique Bennis did a great job. I left my expectations at the door before I entered the clinique, which is very important especially with a birth.

It wasn’t necessary to have expectations as everyone made the experience a positive one.

For those interested, the overall cost was $760 (7780 MAD) for the birth, private room, epidural, and blood test. It would have been $200 less without the epidural. Also, you can only pay in cash.

I hope our story can help expat women who are expecting a baby, whether in Morocco or another part of the world, to not feel afraid just because you are a foreigner. Birth will go as it goes, but always be educated and find a doctor you are comfortable with and trust. There is always the option of traveling midwives if you have the finances.

Facebook groups are fantastic resources for help. Google groups for your specific need as a foreigner and there is bound to be a Facebook group with thousands of women and/or men willing to help and share their experiences with you. Personally, I have met many great women on Facebook and in real life from these groups that helped me throughout my time living in Morocco.

In closing, motherhood is beyond comprehension and it took me about a month to wrap my head around this new life in my life.

The hormones postpartum I was not prepared for. They knocked me off my feet, really. Sometimes I could not stop crying.

I think I went a whole day crying and it’s what I needed to do and I didn’t make myself feel weak or guilty for it.

I learned to understand that giving birth is HUGE.

It’s ridiculously easy to fall into the comparison bus and think to yourself that, “Well, what about the women who are grocery shopping, cooking, exercising, and parenting other children after birth? I’m lazy compared to them. I’m a bad mom.”

It’s all not true. All moms recuperate differently. All bodies are different. All hormones react differently. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.

What is important is what feels best and for me I needed rest and what I really needed was my mom. I missed her more than anything. I still can’t believe I went through pregnancy, labor/delivery, and postpartum without her, but I did and let me just say that it would not have been possible without my husband. He stuck through the hormonal fluctuations and that alone he deserves a trophy, chocolates, and a year supply of massages for.

I love him both my husband and my son unconditionally.

Remy is my sunshine. His energy is strong and I can feel that he will have an overflowing source of light to share with our world as he grows each and every day.

I felt lucky to be his mother before he entered the world and now that he is here I do my best every moment to make sure he knows how lucky we all are to have him in our lives.

Continue reading “My Birth Story in Tangier, Morocco”

You Want to Visit Morocco?

I haven’t had the opportunity to travel south of Morocco, but with the help of my husband I can help you get to all the best places. If you are traveling from Spain, Italy, or France it seems the best option to Morocco would be to take a ferry to Ceuta because boats are more fun than planes, right? Otherwise, the plane is your best option.

 Ceuta is a cute little city (our first vlog is filmed there) and will allow you to enter from the border to Tetouan city (where we’re living now) to get you on a bus (CTM is best) to Chefchaouen “the blue city.” We also have a vlog there and it’s one of the most famous cities in Morocco. You must see it!

From Chefchaoun you can go see Fez by CTM bus. It’s the oldest city in Morocco and I hear very often it’s people’s favorite to see and get an idea of the original Moroccan culture.

From Fez you can go to Marrakech by train or CTM. I personally always recommend CTM bus because the train stations here don’t seem organized or very safe, but it is cheaper if that’s what you’re looking for. Marrakech is the most visited city and has all the most beautiful hotels and spas and touristic entertainment.

After Marrakech, if you have the time and ability, then go to Agadir. I would recommend it. You can see the beach!

If Morocco is the last country for your trip, then Casablanca will be your last city before boarding the plane back to America. Casablanca has the famous mosque Hassan II that you can enter to see as well as an on-site museum. There’s also the Morocco mall which is huge and worth seeing.

Please, remember to always ask people for their suggestions on the best sights and opportunities based on the city that you’re in. You never know what experiences you can discover based on good local wisdom and knowledge of the area. Always better than Google.

 Other tips about traveling would be to try to see what locals are paying for things before the seller sees that you’re buying something. This allows you to get an idea of the actual price so you know exactly what you should be paying and not what they tell you to pay. Like many third world countries they will charge you more for looking American and/or foreign in any way. The people of smaller/less visited cities of Morocco won’t initially think you’re American, but Spanish or European.

 Otherwise know the dangers and safety precautions of traveling especially as a woman alone. Be mindful of your surroundings. Have access to a safe place with a lot of people or police if possible. If you can befriend a male to be your guide or something in Morocco it might save you some catcalling and unnecessary attention. Some women like to wear a head scarf “hijab” for more security from the Moroccan men that think foreign women are “easy,” but you will do great traveling if you consider your safety and plan accordingly. You’re a professional if you can keep safe and have fun at the same time!

 Always keep a lookout for all the mosques and beautiful hidden details of Morocco. They’re everywhere.

Oh, one last thing. Truly be careful with eating vegetables and fruits without a removable skin, be sure all your meat is cooked through, and drink from a water bottle. I unfortunately picked up parasites here. I don’t know exactly from what, but I ate from the street vendors a lot without second thought and I also drank tap water. I wasn’t thinking smart I was just enjoying the new culture. It ruined my life and it’s finally going away after taking medications and trying natural remedies, which is difficult to do during pregnancy. But definitely just a precaution for you to think twice before drinking and eating. A luxury we have in America is not having to think at all…Just EAT.

The last point leads me to mention restaurants in Morocco…they’re not always for luxury in some cities. For example, if you go to Chefchaouen and order a traditional Moroccan tajine and you see a beautiful picture on the menu, you might be surprised at the small, unsatisfying portion put in front of you. The best food is made in homes, or if you can spot a notably famous restaurant that is very busy. Some restaurants are very nice and give you that Moroccan/Aladdin feeling with lanterns, candlelight, magic carpets, and steaming hot teas. Be on the lookout for those places if you’re going to spend your dirhams on eating out. Occasionally you can find a cafe that looks not so nice on the outside or inside and find yourself eating a fantastic soup, or fish, or sandwich, or pizza with a cup of hot mint tea and halwa for dessert feeling very satisfied. Try to view the meals of the people eating inside beforeyou decide to make this or that place your final dining location and be sure to have cash on hand as credit cards are not commonly accepted for payment.

 Finally…the last last last thing I will mention is the differences I have experienced from city-to-city in Morocco. In the north (where I live and see the majority of the time) the people do not see foreign people and tourists often. They stare at me, they say “hola,” how are you?” “welcome to Morocco” and I can feel very foreign and in the spotlight…more foreign than usual. If I travel to a more populous/touristy area, I will blend in. The Moroccans are used to the different colors and languages of people and they will not stare at me as much, but I can still expect someone to talk to me and even my husband as they will suspect that he is European or Spanish because he’s with me and because his skin is lighter in color than a lot of Moroccan people. It’s not a huge issue at all, but something to prepare yourself for if you’re not used to being and feeling “foreign.”

In summary, Morocco is beautiful. The landscape of Morocco alone is incredible with the mountain views, the opportunity to see the Mediterranean sea, and/or the Atlantic ocean, and the one-of-a-kind culture that Morocco is known for that you can see, feel, taste, and enjoy no matter where you’re from. I hope you can visit and if you do, share in the comments what you liked, disliked, and whatever else you’d like to talk about in your Moroccan experience. We’d love to hear everything!

The Last Five Weeks

The last week of the eighth month, the last five weeks, one week before nine months, the closing of the third trimester…

The ending of my first pregnancy is coming…opening the door to motherhood.

I remember the beautiful sunshine on the morning in May, 2016. The sunshine was outside painting the city a golden hue. The sunshine was seen across my face and my husband’s face and dancing its warmth within our hearts and bodies as we had just found out that we were going to have a baby!! We created a human together! Wow, what a feeling that was.

The test was positive as I watched each pink line darken across the screen and after taking a moment to embrace and capture a few photos together, Zouhair and I walked the beach as the sun rose up above the mountains.

 Feeling the indescribable high from the news was a perfect pairing with the sand beneath my feet, the chilled morning wind, the warm rising sun, and the glistening movement of the Mediterranean sea to my side all of which was tied together with interlaced fingers with the father of my son.

Our pregnancy experience is something I am more than grateful for.

I called my mom the evening of the day we found out and she already couldn’t wait to begin her role as grandma. On Halloween she bought a shirt that read, “I am the grandMUMMY.” My mom is adorable.

We found out that our little “peena peena” (our unique nickname for him derived from the common title “peanut” for a growing baby) was doing great. At around 5-9 weeks I was very nauseous and sleepy (nap after waking up, nap after forcing myself to eat a meal, a nap before bed…. naps all the time) and I couldn’t eat anything with tomatoes, onions, garlic, meat, or anything that was fragrant in any way.

 All I wanted to eat was cheese and crackers, Subway sandwiches, meatless chicken noodle soup, and sour candy. Alas, as I was in Morocco and didn’t have access to all of these things, it seemed the only thing that would keep the nausea away was a combination of naps and Oreos (in moderation of course…. just the Oreos, not the napping).

I was lucky to not have a job to have to be at daily. I think this helped me to keep from having any vomiting from morning sickness. All the kudos to the women that don’t have the choice at all and must go to work regardless of morning sickness or not. You are strong women and I think that experience, no matter how temporary or long-standing it was, is something to be proud of accomplishing. I’m proud of you.

The first trimester was new and the hormones pulsing throughout me was an adjustment, but luckily I never had morning sickness or lasting nausea that debilitated me after about 9 weeks. Thank goodness. I was lucky enough to be distracted from sleepiness and nausea by feeling tiny little movements from the little one at around 11 weeks. It was easy for me to know that it was the first few stretches and exercises of my baby and I was so happy to feel him…this new life within me gaining strength; incredible and astoundingly heartwarming.

At around 17 weeks we found out that peena peena is a baby boy! I had a feeling that he was a boy and we were thrilled. Now, time to tell everyone and allow the impatience for the buying of the blue things to commence, which definitely happened from my family in America and Zouhair’s family here in Morocco. Peena peena is loved very much by many already. It’s beautiful. Family is beautiful.

The second trimester was great. I didn’t really feel pregnant at times. There was a few times throughout the second trimester where all I wanted was a Doppler to hear his heart beating, but I would usually feel or even SEE a kick or two and feel at ease, even if I had to wait a day or two and freak out.

Looking back I wish that I would have done more traveling and filming of Tetouan and other cities in Morocco during the second trimester, but it was the middle of the summer and air conditioning in Morocco is not commonly found. Our apartment didn’t have it and we were on the third floor, which was baked by the sun from sunrise to sunset.The “breeze” during the summer was like hitting yourself with the heat from an open oven cooking a Thanksgiving turkey or like the blowing of 500 hair dryers across your sweaty skin.

Activity was not sounding nice then, but now during the third trimester in the middle of December as I watch my breath turn to steam from inside our apartment, the summer seems like it wasn’t that bad and was filled with missed opportunities. Hindsight is always sweet, but overall Zouhair and I did take on opportunities to visit the beach on the hottest of days to get some relief and have some fun outside of our oven house. I enjoyed those days and I think peena peena did, too.

Today, before I went to bed, ya know…12:30am I checked my Ovia pregnancy app and saw that the three of us have reached 35 weeks!

 Peena peena, is about 5-6 pounds and 18 inches long from head to baby toes. He could survive if he were to be born now. How incredible?! He still needs some more time with mama, though. I’m not ready to give him up yet and his little lungs need to keep exercising and his cheeks need to be as chunky and cute with more fat as possible.

Every morning, the first thing I think when I open my eyes is, “How are you baby? Good morning.” I will feel my big belly, my extremely sore hips and back, and feel a big or little wiggle from the little fella inside my belly and we can continue our day together as we have for the past 35 weeks.

He’s my buddy, my friend, and I love that he’s always with me and that I can provide him with what he needs to grow into what he has already and what he will be.

This isn’t the first time a mother has made a blog about these same experiences and it isn’t the first pregnancy in the world, but it feels like it to me.

I have never felt a tiny foot in my ribs before. I’ve definitely never had two hearts in my body at once and never has this second heart been a part of me and also a part of my spouse simultaneously.

This pregnancy is one-of-a-kind and I feel proud. I understand why my dad felt he had to go to his job at Kroger and tell everyone over the loud speaker that I was born and that he was a new father. You want to tell the whole world that you have just brought a new life into the world, a life that will carry a piece of you for the rest of their life.

In the closing of this pregnancy and this blog post, I will take the opportunity to feel all the gratitude flowing through my body and share it with you. I’m happy you’re here reading this post and I’m happy your parents and my parents decided to have us all. Whether or not you want children in your life is up to you and you alone. Maybe a dog, or a cat is more your style. Any decision is an opportunity, right? Enjoy your whole life to the fullest…the laughs, the smiles, and every single one of your decisions, whether it seems right or wrong, it will get you where you need to go and we will do the same and pray that our peena peena will also.

How I started learning English?!

I never dreamed I would speak English very well in my life. I like Spanish so much. I have family living in Ceuta city in Spain and their language is Spanish.

 When I was I kid I visited them all the time and I spent my time with them, especially on vacation. I would stay with them for a week, a month, or more depending on which vacation it was. This helped me to know Spanish more than any other language without studying it. When I became an adult my dream was to choose this language in school or to register in a private school.

 Three years in university I tried to choose the Spanish language as my second foreign language, but this did not happen because the year that I needed to choose my dream language my parents moved to another area of the city, which meant that I had to move to a new school, and every school has different rules.

 The time that I registered in that school they told me the second language that I would have that year was English. I couldn’t believe it because this language was very strange for me. I imagined all the time that I would study Spanish in the future and I imagined myself being the good guy that knows Spanish that would go far with it.

 The future changed in one second. I tried to talk with the school and they tried to show me that English is the “language of the world.” I didn’t listen to any of it. I just thought to myself about it. As I write these sentences and I remember exactly every step that happened, it makes me come back 7 years ago.

 I started learning this English language and I felt lost. It wasn’t what I wanted, but then eventually I liked it and I said to myself that this is a new language and it is going to be more language than I already have and it was exactly true.

What if I didn’t register in English classes? I don’t think I would be writing this article and before that I don’t think I would have gotten married with an American and speak English every day of my life. My life would be completely different.

I think I learned in the past six months, more than I learned in 2 years of school in English. I remember I was helping myself use Google translate to talk with Hannah in the chat all the time. Some words were so hard for me to understand.

When Hannah came to morocco I had a problem in pronunciation and I had problems understanding what she was saying. I would have to ask her to slow down, but now she asks me to slow down! (I’m just kidding)

I still have problems pronouncing some words, but I think in the future I will be better. I still improve myself.

Hannah all the time she’s by my side helping me with every word or sentence that I don’t understand or that I can’t pronounce. Without her I think my level in English would be bad.

 

Everyone dreams to have a teacher to teach and correct them, but I’m lucky. I thank her too much for helping me with everything. She doesn’t have any problem with it.

That thinking makes me keep going to learn new things

The Philosophical Reality of Moving to Morocco

The title should really say, “the reality of moving to another country, reverting to Islam, getting married, and becoming pregnant.”

It’s a mouthful to say, read, and comprehend, so we’ll keep the focus of this article to some of my big take-backs from living here in Morocco.

This is life, right? Difficult to “figure out” and “comprehend” and most of the time the lightning fast time that fuels the chaoticism of our lives is actually quite faster than lightning and we find ourselves feeling apprehended and confused at where all this time we thought we had when we were in high school disappeared to.

I am very familiar with this feeling just as a 23 year old.

If you are familiar with our blog you can see that my husband and I met online and in March of 2016 I moved to Morocco to be with him.

It’s been 8 months now, nearly 9, and I have been living in Tetouan, Morocco. I have learned a few words and phrases of Arabic/Darija, I have eaten the majority of the staple Moroccan foods, seen the touristic locations (except for Marrakech “the most popular,” Fez, and the Sahara desert), and basically lived the way of life here in Morocco.

How is this life in Morocco?

It’s just like everywhere else in the world, except different.

Ya know, you have human beings all over the world and the basic necessities of life are always the same, but then you think, well, what about the cultural differences?

Naturally, the culture of Morocco is different than any where in the world.

The beautiful things like the tagines, the lanterns, the baked goods, the music, the beautiful respect for bread and food, the hospitality, the language and dialects, the traditional celebrations for weddings, Ramadan, and Eid. The heavy influence of Islam that cannot be missed by the daily calls from the Adhan as well as the wearing of kaftans, hijabs, abayas, and jilbabs can tie all these gems of Morocco together.

 The less obvious things are the similarities that Morocco, a third world country, has with America, a first world country.

 The overall fact that everywhere in the world has problems can sum up this point. It’s only different because of money.

 America has many problems. Political, social, and economic just like Morocco. This is not surprising. Maybe it is if you dream about Morocco from the mystical “Aladdin” perspective, but the people here struggle and succeed just as the people do in America. Moroccan people want the best life possible for them and their families just as Americans do.

Since I’ve been living here I’ve seen that pollution is a major problem, respect for women in public (with or without the hijab) is not a priority for men, the transportation system is not safe (six people in a taxi that fits four with doors that barely close and no seatbelts and speeding (one example)), the education systems are less than progressive, low low job availability, the health care protocols are not developed, and the overall organization and maintenance of government is not there and local cities suffer because of it.

 Sound familiar?

Yes, America has similar issues on a different scale because America has more money. You don’t flip through the TV channels and see clips of American depression, illness, financial hardships, environmental conditions, or the overbearing pressures of the social hierarchy. We just don’t get exposure to advertisements that feed the ethos and the connected obligatory urge to help, donate, or volunteer for Americans because our level of “problems” don’t LOOK like the problems in a third world country with less money. The issues and hardships are just more obvious with less money to sugar coat the entirety of this African country’s afflictions.

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Overall, the life of people in Morocco is a happy one. The children are raised Muslim and have a strong family core that will grow with them for the rest of their lives. Yes, this is always dependent on the person and the family, just as it is in America, but there is a sense of deep interconnectedness between families in Morocco that America may have lost a bit. The best examples are the sharing of meals, the respect for parents, and the “leave no one behind” attitude that runs through the veins of many Moroccan people I have had the pleasure of meeting. No one will be left with a glass half empty feeling when in a Moroccan home and that urgency to make someone feel loved stretches to strangers on the streets as well as stray animals. Again, not everyone is the same and there are people who couldn’t care less for himself or herself or anyone else, but I cannot speak for everyone here, in America, or anywhere else in the world.

The basic identifiable similarity between all areas of the world seems to revolve around money. This is the bad news, but the good news is that love is the other similarity. It’s beautiful and no matter where you end up, you will see it in your own unique way. Whether it’s someone petting a cat on the street, giving money to a person in need, sharing a seat on the bus, or picking out the biggest pieces of chicken for the new American girl at the table…yes, that was an experience for me many times.

Feel the love everywhere you go, even if it’s hard to look past the issues that finances create. This familiar feeling will make the differences of language, culture, and religion melt away.

 I faced homesickness and culture shock too many times, but found myself replenished when I would stop and focus on the nice people in Morocco. A simple smile from a woman at a bakery standing behind all of her baked goods is something I will never forget. A book was given to me by a man at a local market to teach me about becoming a Muslim and I still see him at the market from time to time and we exchange smiles. An old woman gave up her bus seat to me because she saw that I was pregnant. I can’t express in words to these people how great they have made me feel for these small acts of kindness, but I don’t think I would truly go out of my way to do it in America either. I am lucky because I think not having the ability to verbally share my gratitude because of a language barrier here in Morocco will change this in me forever to always over exaggerate gratefulness when possible because this is love and this is what unites all cultures from every corner of the world and allows human beings an opportunity to forget about all of the chaos and the problems and just smile.

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