Andrea Lynch is cautiously optimistic new federal pandemic rules for cross-border travel will allow her unborn baby’s U.S. father to attend the birth.
“As much as I want to smile from ear to ear, I am trying not to. There have been so many others who have been denied,” said the 32-year-old Sarnia woman.
Lynch is expecting her first baby Aug. 13. She held out little hope until recently the the baby’s father, Connecticut resident Brandon Grey, would be allowed to enter Canada this summer.
After non-essential border travel was banned, Grey twice attempted to enter at Niagara Falls on May 3 and was twice turned back by Canada Border Services officers.
Prior to the pandemic, Grey and Lynch visited each other at least once a month. Grey owns a gym in Connecticut and can’t leave his business for long, she said. Lynch is an occasional teacher and server in Sarnia who wants to have her baby here to benefit from Canadian health care and family support.
Partners for five years, they’re excited about the baby and plan live in the U.S. together once their son is a bit older.
But the pandemic upended their dreams.
“He missed the entire second trimester, the ultrasound appointment to find out the sex of our baby. I had to FaceTime him to let him know we’re having a boy,” Lynch said.
The extended border closure has been nerve-wracking.
“This is supposed to be a happy time but I felt so burdened with no one to share it with,” she said.
“I began to feel there was no way I was going through this pregnancy with him unable to feel my belly, or the baby’s kick.”
So in late May she headed to Pearson International Airport and flew to New York City, where Grey picked her up.
“People are calling it a loophole,” Lynch said. “You can’t drive across the border but you can fly.”
Though anxious about the flight, she was reassured by the plane’s new air filtration system and COVID-19 protocols, which included masks, hand sanitizer and empty seats around each passenger.
She stayed in Connecticut — where self-isolation isn’t required — for 16 days. She’s now back in Sarnia, self-isolating for two weeks, and asking Ottawa to help.
“I can appreciate the public concern with opening the border,” she said, “especially as the numbers with COVID-19 rise in the U.S. But there is definitely a lack of communication and a lack of consistency at the border.”
She appealed to Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu, who raised the issue with the minister of public safety.
During a daily media briefing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked specifically about Lynch’s case. Trudeau said he understood “the difficulty and the challenge that closing the border to all but essential travel is causing for many, many families … but what we are doing now is what we need to do to keep Canadians safe.”
Ottawa offered new hope June 8 when it began loosening restrictions to reunite families separated by the border.
Exemptions are now being made on a case-by-case basis, to allow immediate family defined as a spouse, a common law partner, a child, parent, stepparent, guardian or tutor.
Lynch is optimistic her boyfriend will be allowed through.
“This is a very long time to be without the person I love, regardless if there’s a ring on my finger,” she said.
“It’s painful to go through pregnancy without your sidekick.”