Not how I imagined making this announcement…

I don’t even really know how to start with this, so I guess I’ll just say it…

I’m pregnant. Currently almost 24 weeks, which is honestly amazing. I never thought I would make it this far. On Thursday, I’ll have officially reached viability. Babies born at this stage at least have a chance to survive… doctors will try to save them. Such a milestone!

Of course, nothing is ever simple for us. At 18 weeks and 5 days, three days before my birthday, I went for an anatomy scan where we found out that our baby has spina bifida. The one thing that was not even vaguely on my radar. I had been taking high dose folic acid since around 6 weeks and a normal dose for 5 years before that. So you can imagine it was a shock. I had to come back the next day for an amniocentesis, then we spent the next two weeks going to appointments and meeting with specialists. After an MRI followed by a very long discussion with a specialist in Zurich we finally decided on our next step – fetal, or in-utero surgery. So on 24th September I’ll be going into hospital and on the 27th I’ll undergo an operation so that they can repair the defect in our baby’s back before I even give birth, thus preventing even more damage to the nerves during the course of the rest of my pregnancy.

All that to say things will be pretty quiet around here for a while. Even more so than they have been anyway, that is. I will be able to respond to comments while in hospital and will probably visit other people’s blogs but it’s unlikely that I’ll attempt a post from my phone. But hey, at least I’ll have plenty of extra time to read for a couple of weeks!

Information overload

The last few days have been spent slowly and painfully trying to gether information on unemployment benefit II and how to get started as a freelance translator in Germany.

As far as freelancing is concerned I am clear on only two things.
1) Before I start I have to get a tax number to put on my bills
2) Doing my taxes at the end of the year will suddenly become a lot more complicated, which is nice considering I haven’t done my taxes for last year yet because the forms confused me.

And the more I learn about unemployment benefit II the less I want to actually have to apply for it.
Apparantly I’m allowed to earn up to 100 euros on the side while claiming unemployment benefit II (or ALG II, which is what the Germans call it and which is soo much easier to type). Any more than 100 euros and they start taking bits of it off me. This counts for all other types of what they consider “income” as well. For example, if I were to get money back from the electricity company that would be income. And if I ever do actually get round to doing my taxes, which would result in my travel expenses being paid back, that too counts as income.

Also, if the boyfriend wants to give me money… to help with the rent for example, and the employment agency sees that money from him is going into my bank account they will assume that I have a partner who is able to support me financially and am lying about the fact that I live alone to try and get more benefits out of them. Either that or they’ll decide it must be “income” from a source that I didn’t bother to tell them about, in which case they will again take bits of it off me (if I’ve understood the German correctly I get 20% taken off me for any income between 100 and 800 euros). I’m not sure what they would do if someone gave me cash which I then went and paid into my bank account… probably drag me in to question about this cash that I apparantly had lying around but didn’t declare on their form (yes, one of the forms actually has a section for you to declare how much cash you have. Huh?!).

As if losing your job wasn’t bad enough without all these complications. I don’t remember having half as much trouble getting job seeker’s allowance in England (which I did between finishing uni and going to Austria, just to get a bit of money in my pocket for the summer).
My advice to you all… do not become unemployed in Germany. Unless you’ve been paying your unemployment insurance for more than a year, in which case you’ll get unemployment benefit I which by all accounts is much less complicated.