Cross-border family 'lucky' to be reunited but saga isn't over

·3 min read

A cross-border couple that was separated ahead of the birth of their first child due to the pandemic are grateful to be reunited in Michigan.

Ashley Cook is currently staying in Petoskey, Mich., with her four-month-old daughter and husband Tom.

"There's a lot of people out there who still don't have that and we're just lucky that we were able to make it happen," she said in a recent interview.

Cook first spoke to CBC News about the family's ordeal earlier this year.

A doctor who is originally from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Cook moved to Windsor to be closer to her husband, who is also a doctor in Michigan.

As the couple explained, they were forced to live apart when COVID-19 struck and they were uncertain if the closure of the border would be lifted in time for them to be together for their child's birth.

Even though Cook was at risk for a pre-term birth and her spouse presented a note from their obstetrician at the border, he was not allowed to enter Canada.

"They actually asked me if Ashley had support and I told them her family was a significant distance away and they were self-isolating so she really hasn't seen anyone," Tom said in a previous interview.

Courtesy Ashley Cook
Courtesy Ashley Cook

"That's when I was pretty sure that I was going to be allowed access. But they just kind of called me up at the end, said that I wasn't qualified as essential by their standards."

Eventually, after the government announced it would allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to enter the country, Tom was allowed to come to Canada and complete a two-week quarantine ahead of Ashley's scheduled induction date.

Reuniting again in Michigan later on was another hurdle. The couple met up at the border when the baby was about three weeks old, Cook explained. She wasn't allowed to enter but she was permitted to bring her daughter across the border.

"I literally saw my husband, gave him a hug, did a hand-off of the baby," she said.

That was a low point in the year for Cook, who said she was crying "hysterically" at the time. She was then was able to enter the country by flying to Detroit from Toronto.

But, Cook explained, the family's saga isn't over yet. She will remain in U.S. until March since there's a limit on how long she can stay legally.

For now, they're enjoying the time they have together and trying not to think about it.

"Hopefully by that time we'll have a really big rollout of the coronavirus vaccinations and maybe we'll start to have some changes in terms of ease of movement at the border," she said.

Courtesy Ashley Cook
Courtesy Ashley Cook

While the year had its lows, the high point of the year, of course, was the birth of baby Imogen.

The couple had been trying to conceive for four years and Cook went through multiple rounds of in-vitro fertilization, including a few trips to Spain for the treatment.

Cook described her as "perfect" and said she sleeps 12 hours a night.

"She's exceptionally content and happy, she's always giggling. She's a dream."