Sophie Turner. File
The day I found out I was pregnant in 2004 should have been one of excitement and joy, but instead, all I felt was fear and nausea at the prospect of bringing a child into the situation I had found myself in. Why? Well, I was living in Japan, newly married to a Japanese man who I’d recently discovered (about two weeks before taking the pregnancy test) was leading a secret life and cheating on me with other companion. I was still processing the situation and trying to work out if I should leave him and my life in Japan when I found out I was going to have a baby. And I should have been ecstatic — growing up, I had always known I wanted to be a mum. But I also knew at this point that my marriage wouldn’t last forever.
Despite his protestations that he would “stay faithful” and that he loved me, I knew that my husband’s infidelity would continue. I was right – it did. I also knew that even though my baby (who is now a gorgeous 18-year-old young man) would have dual citizenship, if and when we divorced, the Japanese courts would never rule in my favour. I knew I would lose him to my husband if he wanted to keep him there. That’s the way the system works — custody is in favour of the Japanese parent.
I also felt I couldn’t just leave my then-husband and travel back to the UK to give birth there, because I’d already had to fight so hard to convince my family I was doing the right thing by marrying him in the first place. It would have been incredibly embarrassing to go home and admit they had been right about him not being the right person for me all along.
So, when in April 2005, my son was born, I began what would end up being two years of planning and preparation. As I write this, I know it would make a great soap opera one day. I know it barely sounds believable — but it is. While I was pregnant, my husband continued to see others and wasn’t even very subtle about it. It was increasingly clear that his British wife was serving as a great “cover” for him. But I was stuck. I couldn’t just leave Japan as they weren’t signatories of the Hague Convention at the time — and if I left without permission, I would have been seen as abducting my son.
The UK would have returned my son to Japan — but in the reverse situation, if my husband took my son away from me, Japan wouldn’t have returned him to me.... yes, even if we had agreed that I would have custody. Eventually, in June 2007, we agreed that I would return to the UK on a short-term basis with my baby boy for a “holiday”. I had no intention of ever returning after landing in London, but no one else knew that. Not even my husband — who had no idea that I had been collecting evidence of his infidelity for the past two years, which I would have presented (had I needed to) in court. I am not very good at keeping secrets, but to protect my son I had to be so careful. I still remember the day I left Japan — I was terrified that someone would have worked out what I was doing and that they would stop me at immigration. I held my boy close and prayed that it would all work out.
No one should ever have to feel that way or spend two years in a deeply unhappy marriage, but unfortunately, when you marry someone from another country, you run the risk of not being able to return home with your children if it all goes horribly wrong.
So the recent reports of Sophie Turner’s fight with Joe Jonas to have their children returned to the UK (Jonas has reportedly refused to hand over their passports) make me feel sick to my stomach. I know exactly how she feels, and while my situation was very different and not in the news, the emotions are the same. I still feel grateful to have been able to keep my son close and build the family I have in the UK with my now husband, but I know I am one of the lucky ones. When my son turned 18 in April this year, I breathed a sigh of relief as in the UK he is a legal adult (in Japan that happens when you are 20) so no one can take him away from me now.
There are days when I think about what life could have been like if I had had to stay in Japan. To put it bluntly: I just don’t think I would have survived if I hadn’t been able to bring my son home to the UK with me.
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