Monday, May 13, 2013

The Good News, the Bad News and more inconvenient changes

Finally, the medical visa will arrive in the morning two hours prior to scheduled flight, after jumping through every hoop imaginable.  Big thanks to the Travisa folks who stayed late tonight to make sure that the passport visa got shipped out LITERALLY 5 MINUTES prior to last fed-ex pick up.    Will arrive at 10 am, they depart for airport at 12:00

Can we say stress?

One hurdle accomplished last minute, now we need to look at the other end.   In process of making the appointment for the DNA test for tomorrow, Tuesday, I was informed that now we can't make appointments for DNA prior to going through the other appointment for the passports and citizenship (ACS appt)!  Well, that would be fine but we have one document that needs signed here in India that is necessary for the ACS appointment.  So, I can't move forward with either process and the guys don't get here until Thursday.  Which of course means that DNA is now once per week, and we now have to wait the whole week to get things processed.   Wouldn't be an issue, aside from the fact that our returns are booked for the 28th, which if I had been able to do the DNA as planned, would leave us plenty of time for the FRRO process.

This policy is brand new.  Of course it is because on the Embassy website, it clearly states that DNA is step 2 and ACS is step three and you may either combine appointments or schedule them separately.  They just have not updated the website yet.    Really, come ON, have things not been made more difficult with the once a week testing alone?    So, now if you do need to have a medical DNA test at the hospital, you will need to go through ACS first.  It seems utterly silly, the DNA is the requirement for approval of everything!  Why not let it remain step 2?  It seems like we're foiled at each attempt at an organized exit.

At least both David and Mike will arrive, and I will hand over the little ones to Mike for a 12 hour nap.  It's been very stressful dealing with the changes here, and I was so prepared with everything I needed.  Or so I thought!

Babies are fine, aside from the fact that they have decided to wage war on me from 5 am until 9 or 10 each morning.  Completely united attack!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What day is it?

I think it's Sunday, it's a bit blurry, but that's actually the day popping up on my calendar, so I suppose it is Sunday.  In that case, happy first Mother's Day to my little sister Jaime!   Soon, sister, these little boys will be home to your waiting arms and your new life will begin.  I'm so thrilled to be able to help you this way.

It's hard to believe that just over a year ago this seemed like just a glimmer of hope, a pipe dream based on the beautiful success of close friends of mine who brought their daughter home from India in February of last year. That precious little girl, Emmie, is the real reason we are here.   It seemed amazing that you could actually do this from half way around the world, but somehow it strangely made sense, and so it began.   There were some hurdles to overcome at the start, but we're stubborn stock in my family, and in my own world the word "NO" just means a delayed "YES" and that creativity and teeth gritting determination is required.   We made it work, and now, one year later, I'm in India with two healthy babies, and Jaime is a mother!

The boys are doing well, feeding, sleeping (them), tinkling and having dirty diapers.   Opening their eyes and looking around trying to focus -  although this seems to happen more in the middle of the night than during daylight hours.   All the stuff babies do that I happen to love.   I have been asked if it's going to be hard to take care of them so closely and then walk away without having some sadness.   It's something I've contemplated as I cuddle them, but really, I know that I will be happy to see my sister's life complete and that I'm considering this time as just another part of this particular surrogacy process, and that maybe I'm the "post gestation temporary surrogate".   It's my job in this.  And it feels really really good.  It's what family does for family.   People think I'm pretty brash to juggle this solo without the baby nurse 24/7, but I want this time just the boys and me.   I had 2 c-sections, and did not take a true maternity leave with my kids, my company was undergoing some major major changes and I was the only person who did my particular job in the company.  So, I worked from home, juggling post-partum depression, c-section recovery, and intense spread sheets full of legal crap.  Nursing Cameron in one arm while typing one handed through tears at 2 am.   This time allows me to recoup some of that lost time with my own children through time with my nephews.   The thing that every new parent needs to really remember, this precious time is so fleeting.  I know you've heard it before, but it is absolutely true.  Try to savor this because you will forget so much of it if you aren't aware of that fact.  Then  you will have a 9 and 11 year old before you know it and you'll regret that you didn't just STOP and enjoy the smell of the Johnson's baby shampoo.   That being said, it does not mean that I want to do it all again on a permanent basis!  David and I are almost to the point when we can contemplate a date night without a babysitter.  We're on to the next phase of parenting, this is just a nice TEMPORARY travel back in time for me.  I will be just fine.

Once the juggling of trying to get this medical visa is through I will be able to truly relax and enjoy.   We got word at 2 pm US time Friday that they had once again denied the application.   More documents which seemed totally irrelevant requested.   I procured them, we called the Consulate General, we wrote emails detailing the key points, and as I was about to really drop my basket, an email back from the CG in Houston - we will help you.   Provide us with a few more documents, and the birth certificates in 2 hours and we'll approve it today.  Given that we don't have the birth certificates yet, they are going to attempt to process everything on Monday and get it through in time for Travisa to first priority overnight the passport and visa in time for the scheduled flights on Tuesday.  Literally 11th hour.   So, the boys and I made a trip to the SCI office yesterday to sign the birth certificate applications, which will be super rushed and back to us in time to email to the Indian Consulate in Houston and to Travisa when they open Monday morning.  That 12 hour time difference is key,  while David and Mike prepare for their flights the scurrying continues.   So, all fingers and toes crossed that this all comes together on Monday.   So far, David and Mike are scheduled to meet up at Heathrow for the final leg to Delhi.   Mike is DYING to get over here to his sons.  David is convinced he's going to have Delhi Belly the entire time.  Jaime just wants the Skype in my new room to start working well again so that she can spend virtual time with her babies.

Just had a lovely visit with two new Aussie daddies who brought their little one back from the hospital today, our first "playdate".   They are just down the hall, and they've offered so kindly to run out if I need anything.  I reminded them that I'm here if they have any worries on their first nights.  I have to smile as I think of their first sleepless night as they constantly check to be sure the baby is breathing. I find myself doing the exact same thing, doesn't matter if you're a new parent, or an old experienced one, these first weeks are guaranteed to come with some major anxiety as you figure out what works for your baby and family.  There's no real right way to get through it, you just have to be on constant "India time" and go with the flow.   Otherwise you'll go bonkers and forget to enjoy!  

Happy Mother's Day to everyone, but especially Jaime.  :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Surreal actually....

Propped up in bed with A&J exactly 24 hours after arriving in Delhi.  I can't stop staring at them and I haven't put them down yet.  What an emotional day!  Arrived at 10 am feeding, immediately broke down in tears when I saw them, and was told that if I am comfortable with feeding the babies, that they were ready to go!  So, I ran around M Block picking up a few last minute supplies, and went back this afternoon and grabbed them and ran.  I had that moment of panic, which was witnessed by one of the amazing new Canadian couples here (sorry you two, of course I've forgotten your names because, as you both know I can't even get A&J right), when I realized that I was actually walking out of that hospital with two brand new babies who are still so tiny, but amazingly healthy and perfect!   I was so flustered I could not tell which baby was which and I was afraid I'd trip and fall walking down the stairs carrying them in the Phil and Teds cocoon.  I mean, I'm an experienced mother, I've been around the NICUs, I think I have a pretty good handle on things, yet I was still panicked for a good half an hour.  Then there was the car trip to the office in Delhi traffic and I kept thinking about the fact that they let us walk out of the hospital without car seats.  I mean, when we took Cam and Sarah home, they had special ladies who made sure that they were properly strapped in.  It was a whole thing.  BUT, this is India.   Things are done differently here.  And, that's okay actually because it just is.

Visited at the office for a while while I waited to speak with Dr. Vishal to give him and the SCI attorney the latest on the status of the medical visa.   I really appreciated speaking with their lawyer who was so calm and kind and knowledgeable.   It was an instant trust for me, when I had been anticipating something different.  He made me feel better.  I felt like I could actually breathe when we were finished talking.  I know that this will get worked out, and as so many others have said, and it is now driven home, we are not on American time, we are on Indian time.   And that's okay actually because it just is.

I got to skype with Mike a few times today, and I can't wait for Jaime to get home from school so that I can show off these little guys to their mommy.  I know this is hard for her, but a chronic medical condition makes it impossible for her to fly without being horribly ill both during a flight and for days after.  It is literal torture to her, and she has only attempted a couple of very short flights with these results, so that is why I am here, and Mike and David are coming and she is at home preparing and waiting anxiously.  People have asked why she's not here, and believe me, she would be if she could.      There's no point having a new mommy who is so ill that she can't enjoy at all her first days with the babies.  And then there would be the return flight and it would happen all over again.  So, we get to have one of those really cool airport scenes, as in the movie Love Actually.  And that's okay actually because it's going to be totally awesome!!!

(Still no medical visa, but Travisa is really pushing, including the person I discussed in a prior blog who today was so amazingly empathetic and I know feels terrible for what's happening.   He was doing his job, but I do know that he will be more patient with surrogacy clients in the future.  I think sometimes we all forget that the details surrounding surrogacy are so incomprehensible to people until it is discussed and explained.)

Okay, both babies are stirring.  Baby nurse coming tomorrow so that I can run out and grab a few necessities.  And, maybe pass out for a couple of hours to refresh.  Once again, I'm struck by the people I've met who are here sharing this amazing experience.  These have turned in to some really great bonds of friendship for so many.   The sharing of resources and information, the offers of help, the trading of gently used baby items, there is a generosity of spirit that is rarely encountered.  How amazingly cool.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Boy, Delhi is much hotter now than it was in Jan...

Just arrived at the HGI, after the 24 hour trip from Dallas.  Heading in the morning to see the babies for the first time, I know Jaime and Mike are going crazy waiting for the videos I'm going to take.  That is, if I can manage to take video through my blubbering tears.  Cause I'm getting weepy just typing this.   I can't believe that all of this started just a year ago, and here we are.  I'm in India for the second time in 3 months, and I have healthy baby nephews.  I've learned so much through this year, and am still learning - about surrogacy, about India, about my family, and about myself.  It feels wonderful to be sitting here drinking champagne straight from the split I brought from the plane - yes folks, OCD that I do try to quell, but with a husband in the hotel business, well, I'm aware of the necessity to wash the glasses in the rooms.

I digress, we still do not have the medical visa yet, and travel is scheduled for next Tuesday.  I'm hoping for something positive either Thurs or Friday.   My main focus is getting all of the Embassy process handled, which through power of attorney and literally a gazillion notarized documents, I can complete.  The only thing I can't do in this situation, thus far, is the FRRO.

I'm not sure if the babies will be sprung tomorrow or Friday, both are doing very well, and I will see what Dr. Gupta says in the morning.  I am so excited, I can't wait to see them!!

Okay, the split of champagne is finished, and I'm going to get a few hours rest before Rahul gives me my wake up call bright and early.  The nicest thing, everyone at the HGI recognized me and welcomed me back so warmly.  I am well taken care of here, as will all other clients of SCI.  I've negotiated a rate package with them, so if anyone is interested, let me know! They will provide a micorwave, etc.  They want our business, and frankly, aside from the space issue, this is a far better property than the Svelte, which I did check out on last trip and found to be a horrid place.  Dirty, not friendly, and expensive.  And, aside from the great company I had at breakfast with IPs and new parents, their breakfast over there sucks.   The breakfast over here is fantastic, and is included in the rate.  No, I do not get referral fees, Hilton hotels do not pay referral fees on a whole, so you can trust that what I'm saying is true.   David used to be a GM for a 600 room Hilton in Miami, so I know what I'm talking about!!!  Also, there are some excellent apartments that another SCI new daddy wrote to me about, that I'll share at a later date.

For now, I think the 40 hours of being awake is settling in.  It's 3:25 am Delhi time.  I'd better get some sleep because I suspect that these naughty nephews of mine will be keeping me awake for the next couple of weeks!  Oh, I will LOVE this, in part because I know I'll be handing them off to my sister for the really hard parts.  Ha ha!  I can do this again for a few weeks, but man, those first months of being a new mommy were tiring, and I had mine one at a time!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Yep, they're beautiful!

A couple of photos for everyone this morning.  NO one tell Jaime that I posted these yet!  ha ha. I just couldn't wait! The boys are now being bottle fed and should be ready to leave the hospital shortly after my arrival.   I can't wait to kiss their little heads and enjoy that sweet newborn smell.   Oh, all the photos and video I will take of them to document this for Jaime and Mike.   I can't wait for him to arrive and to get to watch him as he falls in love like daddy's do.   The very very best thing anyone can ever witness is the bonding of new parents to their babies.

I actually think I want to expand my role into something where I can accompany new parents to India if they need assistance with the process.  I know that there are times that people have to travel solo due to both partners working, or in the case of single parents.   Kind of a Surrogacy Travel assistant, as well as helping at the start of the process.   Being there to witness the end result would be such an amazing joy.  Newborns are my addiction of choice.

Of course, I say this now, regarding the accompanying other parents.  Let's see how I feel in a few weeks after all this stuff with the visa, etc.  I might recant that statement!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Calling all those in India - Photo favor PLEASE!

Jaime and Mike are going nuts wanting some new photos of the Aidan and Jayden.  If anyone is in the NICU today, could they please snap a few quick shots for all of us?

Calling the Indian Consulate office in Houston tomorrow using their emergency visa line.  I know that Travisa is doing what they can, but perhaps a personal phone call to the emergency line is in order.  It states online that it is for Indian Citizens, but what the heck, it's worth a shot.  Maybe there is someone there who will be sympathetic enough to make something happen.  My flight is Tuesday at 4 pm and I really need to have things settled so that I can relax.   I also need a copy of the passport that is sitting at the consulate's office in Houston.  Guess what, the one thing I forgot to do is copy the damned passport before sending it to Travisa.   When I realized what I'd done, I asked Travisa for a copy, and guess what?  They don't have one either!!!  Believe me, I've been smacking my head over this one for weeks now.   There are bruises.

It is really cool packing for this trip.   My babies were large babies, so I am not totally used to these little preemie outfits which are so small that all of them combined take up a teeny tiny section of my suitcase for them.  The photos that we all receive make the babies look so much bigger than they really are.   When you enter the NICU you see how tiny they really are.   But they are typically thriving despite their size.  It's amazing to see the differences in sizes between all of the babies.   Fortunately, most babies are larger than the preemies, but that makes the little ones look even smaller. I got to spend some time at the NICU  with some new parents when I was in Delhi in January, and it was great.  I also volunteered in college in the NICU as a "cuddle care" volunteer (my love for all things baby started as a child), and my best friend had preemie triplets, so I'm pretty used to the tiny sizes and the demands of these little ones who in theory should still be inside the womb.   But, everything in birthing babies revolves around the timing of the little ones themselves.  When it's time, it's time.  In any country.

God, I hope that I can post some good news tomorrow, otherwise I'll be filling a prescription for Xanax.   My family is awesome, together we can do anything and I know that this will work out in the end.  I know that SCI will make sure that everything happens properly on the India side as well.  Dr. Vishal talked me off the ledge the other night and I've felt calmer since.   I just have to be able to breathe breathe breathe.   I can't wait to be the "cuddle care" provider for these boys until their daddy and uncle get there.   We will be training Mike well, though I think he will be a natural!  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Medical Visas - do not apply for one if you're already pregnant!

We are dealing with a major situation.  Despite the fact that the babies are now born, that we commissioned surrogacy prior to the implementation of the "new rules",  despite the fact that we applied for the Medical Visa ages ago with ALL required documentation, we were informed today by Travisa, that the medical visa has been denied again and they are requiring even further information.

We had to submit yet another letter, and more copies of existing visas and passports.   This after we applied ages ago for a "surrogacy/art" visa as advised by Travisa, we waited 3 weeks for that to be handled and denied, and then had to change to a "medical visa", which was submitted weeks ago, and we just got the information today that the medical visa has been denied yet again.   We have been waiting weeks for a response to the accurate application.   I'm told that across the board, there are delays with any type of visa coming in at the normal speed of around a week.

A couple of months ago when I started the visa process for Jaime and Mike, I was threatened by a Travisa employee in Houston, after asking about obtaining a tourist visa vs a medical visa as surrogacy was commissioned before the changes.  He drew a hard line with me and said that if we did not apply for a surrogacy/art visa that Travisa would pull the application and that we would be banned from obtaining a visa through them.   This surprised me as all of my other dealings with Travisa have been EXCELLENT, and the team currently handling our applications are fantastic.  This is not a slam on Travisa, rather on one certain employee who was overly zealous with me when I was asking important questions.    When Dave from Travisa called today, he said that this was the hardest call that he's ever had to make in the years he's been working for Travisa.  I have no doubt that he, and the rest of his team are pulling for us and working hard for us.  The point of this, had I just gone with my instinct and obtained the tourist visa, all would have been fine, and we could have just dealt with things at the FRRO.  I understand Travisa's point but I had not even submitted the application, so you know this was a total judgment call on on one person's behalf.   His supervisor heard what was happening and got on to calm me down before I lost my cool.  We had a nice chat about the changes in India and its impact on all of us.   Our case was immediately assigned to Aaron and Dave, a most excellent caring team who seem to understand and support what we are doing.

ALL NEW clients who are not yet pregnant, MUST apply for the medical visa prior to commissioning surrogacy and signing any contracts. However, I am unofficially advising anyone who is already in the process to stay with the travel visa if you are facing delivery within the next couple of months.  Particularly if you are single or have unique situations.  Note that this is unofficial advice based on our own experience.  Everyone has to do what makes them most comfortable in a time when so many changes are occurring.

I have my 10 year tourist visa, and as I'm not the biological connection to the babies, I am able to travel to care for them and get the ball rolling for their citizenship upon my touchdown in Delhi.  India is a place that I had planned to spend so much time as a tourist and advocate for surrogacy, so it made sense to have an open visa.

I am sure that SCI will fully assist us in this matter.  This is not the fault of  SCI, but one of the Indian government who clearly does not know which end is up right now.   They are sadly ruining a wonderful option for so many people, including those in their own country.  Surrogacy opens the doors for so many, not just those of us who are wanting families, but for the surrogates themselves, for doctors and those in their employ, to our drivers, to the hospitality and tourism industry, and so on.  It all trickles down in a productive way for a country starving for opportunity.   And frankly, the government is blowing it in their inability to conduct themselves professionally and with some sort of organization.  It's a sad state of affairs indeed.

Today has to have been the most frustrating day in this entire process.   I am hopeful that we can have some resolution prior to my flight on Tuesday.  Leaving the country with all of this hanging is tough, but at least I'll be with my beautiful nephews.  For that, I can't wait!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Long time no write! Hello to my new twin nephews!!!

So, I've not blogged in a very long time, for a variety of reasons but I can't resist anymore!

I am pleased to announce the arrival  Jayden Michael aka "Little J" and Aidan James who arrived Tuesday at 1:15 pm at 35 weeks.   Little J was 3.9 lbs and Big Aidan was 5.25 lbs!   Early arrival due to cord prolapse, however the embryonic sac was still intact, so no oxygen loss for Big A, whose cord was the one compromised.   Jaime and Mike are over the moon, and I am so thrilled for them.   Both babies are still in NICU on feeding tubes, but Dr. Gupta says that they should be ready to transition to bottle in a few days, in time for my arrival on Wednesday.   Mike and Jaime have asked me to request that anyone who is in India now for baby pick up to please take some more pics for us!!

David and Mike will be following shortly after me, so I'll have a few days with the babies as Auntie by myself, despite the fact that Mike is just dying to get over there.   I will savor every moment with them, and I'm sure after a few sleepless nights, I'll be over the little baby envy I've been feeling lately. We all had booked our tickets in advance, and I had just paid for the Hilton Garden Inn with Avios points just the night prior to their arrival, so I spent the day of their arrival contemplating the logistics of changing 3 flights and hotel reservations for Mike.  As we know that they are being well cared for and are safe in the hospital where they need to be, we decided to stay the course and keep our original travel dates.  Though it is HARD to do!  Jaime is unable to travel that distance due to an ongoing medical issue that makes her violently ill on planes, so there will be constant skyping going on!!!   It will be quite the moment when we arrive home to DC and hand the babies to her.  I get weepy just thinking about it!

A few hours after their arrival, I had a moment of release when I realized that they are both here, and both are healthy and fine.  A little mini breakdown, as I felt the tension and responsibility I've felt these months begin to abate.   However, we are still awaiting a medical visa.  Travisa Houston has informed me that the Indian Consulate is backed up, and that they've only received two visas of ANY type since the 26th.  I have my 10 year tourist visa, so I can go, but we need the medical visa for the exit process.   It has been in process for a long time now, and the Consulate in Houston is now aware that the babies have arrived and are pushing it forward.  So, not all of my tension is gone.  I should have gone with my initial instinct and gone with the tourist visa for everyone, but I did what was suggested at the time.  Now I am regretting it.

I spent the month of January in India learning about the industry, SCI, and had meetings with the US Embassy and the British Embassy, who wanted to meet with the crazy American aunt to discuss the changes that were taking place as I arrived in India.   It was an amazing, life changing trip.  I got to spend time with Mrs. R, Jaime and Mike's surrogate, got to go to an ultrasound appointment with her where I met the fantastic Dr. Jolly.   And Jolly he is.  An incredible and thorough doctor, and I immediately trusted him.  Spending time with Dr. Shivani and learning from her was very special, as was meeting Dr. Vishal and Dr. Deene, the embryologist extraordinaire.   Of course, Rahul was great and we did a quick side trip to Jaipur.

The recent changes in Visa regulations have hit everyone very hard.  I will discuss more about that, along with my feelings about the CBS report that aired a couple of weeks ago in a separate blog.  This blog is a happy blog about my nephews and the wonderful friends and new parents I met on my trip.   It felt like summer camp at times, I stayed at the Svelte for a few days (hated it) and then moved to the Hilton Garden Inn (loved it).  But all the new families and IPs would get together for dinner and cocktails, and the sharing of something so deeply personal like surrogacy was just incredible and I fell in love with everyone I met.  Traveling solo, I felt completely safe at all times.  In a future trip when I don't have the babies to care for, I will be branching out in my stays to find alternative places for IPs to stay.

I will be updating from India and will have photos of course!  Jaime and Mike have forbidden me from posting the nude newborn photos that we have, we all want to protect their modesty!  Let's just say that "Little J" has quite the lungs and his first photo is of him screaming his head open in what appears to be complete anger at being brought out of his warm cocoon.   Mrs. R. is resting comfortably and did an amazing amazing job.  I can't describe what it was like meeting her and feeling the babies moving around inside of her at the 22 week mark!  It was also nice to see that the other surrogates were happy and healthy and that they all seemed very glad to be pregnant for all of us.  It's important that they know how much we all think of them every single day.   They are the reason we are having babies, and having hope for families at all in some cases.  With a bit of luck, the regulations will once again change in the favor of single and gay families.  It might take time, but I am not giving up hope just yet.

More to come!  Again, anyone in India, PHOTOS PLEASE!!!!

Also, prayers and thoughts for Fred's surrogate who is in the hospital.  I know that she is receiving excellent care, and that Dr. Jolly caught what was going on in time to take care of things.   With rest and time, all will be fine.  I know it!

Auntie Kimmy