Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Happiest of Holidays from Our Family to Yours!
Love,
Terry, Steve, Jag & Ajay

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Twelve Weeks

On one hand it feels like we just celebrated the boys' birth yesterday...on the other hand I find myself asking ' has it really only been 3 months?'.  All is well...growing like weeds...grins are plentiful at the sound of our voices or eye contact.

As I type this, I am on an early, Saturday morning flight from Miami to NY.  This is a long trip - I am five days into a ten day business trip.  Today, day five, officially marks the longest period I have been away from the boys since their birth.  I am so sad but at the same time, I know it will just make my return home even that much more special.  Steve and I were able to Skype briefly last night and it is simply amazing how much they change in only five days.

All this said, we had the most beautiful Thanksgiving, purchased our Christmas tree and had it fully trimmed - along with the exterior lighting on the home - before I left on November 29th.  We love our new home in Dallas and we couldn't feel more blessed about our life.

The boys are now going as long as 5 - 5 1/2 hours between feedings which is a nice improvement from 3 hours!  We have had a bit of difficulty finding the right formula...both boys are 'guzzlers' which results in lots of spit up.  It is not unusual for them - when really hungry - to 'down' 7 ounces in 5 minutes.  Then we have 1/4 of that coming back up over the course of the next hour.  We have tried no lactose, low lactose, soy...you name it.  We put them on Gerber's Good Start last week and it seems to have made a nice difference.  The proteins are whey, and are broken down more fully than in other brands.  As a bonus, a close friend's mother works for the parent company of Gerber and we are able to buy the formula by the case at half price!  So, fingers crossed that some varietal of this brand will work.

We also had a nice surprise in November...friends in Dallas through a second shower.  These were all friends who were unable to attend the LA shower earlier this year.  Actually, my friends who hosted, called it a 'Sip and See'...essentially, a baby shower done after the birth where the adults stand around, drink, and fuss over the babies.  Pretty fun! My friend Carrie's mother knitted cardigans for both boys...we LOVE them!

Happy Holidays to everyone and best wishes for lots of healthy pregnancies and births in 2011!

Love,
Terry, Steve, Jag and Ajay



Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Time to Type

I am officially the worst blogger on earth.  Two kids + spouse + work = zero downtime (literally zero) for Terry. 

I have been out of town every week since we returned.  This week I was in New York City and the three weeks prior in Los Angeles.  We have been lucky to have Steve's mom or my mom here consistently since we returned.  This gives Steve the opportunity to go to bed at around 7pm, with grandma doing the 10pm feed, and then Steve gets up at 2-3am when they wake for their night feed, and pretty much stays up...maybe a nap on the sofa, but up and about none the less.  This means I go on weekend duty.  As an example, I landed at the Dallas airport around 10pm on Friday night.  So, everything on my to do list for yesterday - including a fantasy trip to the gym, did not materialize.  All is good, no complaints, but for all of you on the 'twin pregnancy' count down...grab some shut eye boys and girls and wrap up any projects at work that you can...you will soon be in an all new time and space!  You soon have to reshuffle all priorities.  A close friend of mine yesterday said that she didn't know what she did before she had her kids (they are both teenagers now).  She said, 'I thought I was so busy, but now I realize how much time I wasted'.  It is so true.  I must confess that I have not even gone onto blogger in 2 weeks - not to read, not to write.  So, I am attempting a quickie catch up on everyone's lives in this brief moment of quiet.

Steve has started to do some planting before it gets too cold...this is a great time to plant in Texas because the spring seasons is followed so quickly by intense heat.  Everything gets much better rooted in the fall - provided you plant things that are cold hardy.  We lined the back fence with black bamboo and built a wall of star jasmine.  By next summer we should see some nice growth.  He's off to Home Depot now for some planting supplies and I am trying to finish the quick blog post before a child demands to be burped, changed, fed, held or otherwise entertained.

All this said - WE LOVE BEING DADS!!!

Steve's mom left this weekend and headed back to Atlanta.  My mom arrives back this Wednesday and will be here through Thanksgiving.  My dearest girlfired and her husband and 6 year old son arrive one week from today and will be here 10 days...so the rotating door of free child care continues...thank God for our friends and family!!! We love you!!

The boys had their 2 month check up last week and both weigh approximately 5kg (11 pounds)!  They are the biggest pigs I've ever seen.  They have so many fat rolls on their necks that it takes two adults at bath time to get at all the dried milk (which smells of dirty socks I might add).  Jag barely has a neck - he goes from chin to chest with five rolls between.  For some reason they both pee on me at most every diaper change - not on Steve, just on me.  Case in point...I just left my computer to tend to Ajay who was fussing.  Low and behold, he had a blow out in his diaper - this one was messy beyond messy - and just as I took off the diaper, the water fountain hit me right in the face.  Twice in the tub last night I had the same face wash.  Is it me?  LOL.

Boy oh boy are they cute though...newest development is that they smile at us when they see us and hear our voices...all the time!  It just melts your heart!

Here they are at 9 weeks - taken yesterday...




And, here we have Ajay whispering secrets to Jag...would love to know what they are saying to one another!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Best of Times

It is quiet right now.  It is a little after 10pm and everyone is sleeping but me.  The television is on mute and all I can hear is the hum of the fridge.

I hate it.

You would think I would relish the calm, but I like the opposite.  All the activity and the noise - kids, dogs - it makes me feel so alive.  Hard to explain.  I've never minded being alone but boy do I love having a family.  A family - WOW - never thought that could be mine, but it is.  Amazing.

The boys are 7 weeks old today and they are growing so fast it is remarkable.  We haven't weighed them recently but they have outgrown all the newborn clothes and are too big for Stage 1-2 Pampers!  Jag is well over 10 lbs and Ajay is catching up quickly.  They eat 5-6 oz (around 175ml) at every feeding!!  They are sleeping pretty well - consistently feeding at around 1:30am and then making it through to early morning.  We are really lucky.


 Jag

 Ajay

 Bennett

 Raleigh

 Lucy

That's five mouths to feed...before Steve and I even get a morsel for ourselves! I wouldn't have it any other way...

Never before has it been so attainable for a same sex couple to have the opportunity to have what so many take for granted...children...to love, teach and share this beautiful life with.  In so many ways, we are living in the best of times.  Growing up gay is difficult.  If you are raised with any semblance of faith in God, you are concerned at some point that you are a mistake or sick or not worthy of heaven.  I was well into my twenties before I ever felt completely comfortable in my own skin. There is so much in the news media right now about gay teens and the sky rocketing suicide rate - four times the rate of their straight counterparts.  I pray for the day when everyone will know that God doesn't make mistakes and all these troubled kids (of which I was once one) will know they are loved and that it does get easier and that you can live a fulfilling life in a society that generally denigrates your circumstances.  I was having a conversation with a very important person in my life recently.  He is intelligent and provocative and he asked me - 'if you knew one of your boys was born gay, and you could, with the wave of a magic wand, change him, and make him straight, would you do so without anyone, including your son, knowing what you had done?' Without a second of thought, I responded - 'absolutely'.  Now, this is very different than asking me if I care whether they were born gay or not.  I could care less.  They are my kids and I love them unconditionally.  If they are straight, I pray they will be tolerant of all human beings' differences.  If they are not, I pray we will be worthy role models for learning to live life to the fullest in a world that is not nearly as compassionate or empathetic as one would hope.  Progress is slow, but we are making big steps forward and if ever there was any question, we are living proof. 

And, we are having a blast!  It is so much work but Steve has more energy than a ten year old so he is hardly phased.  I have been traveling like a crazy person for work and my mom has been Steve's sidekick.  There is little time for anything except babies and work.  I cannot believe we have been home for three weeks and I have not posted on the blog.  No time.  When I do have a spare moment I just sit and stare at the boys - I can look at them for hours and never get bored.  When I was in LA last week I would look at videos and photos of them every night before I went off to sleep and each time I would get just a little teary eyed.  We love them so much it hurts.

Leaving Delhi.  Jag passed out on my luggage.  The new international airport is stunning.  It rivals any airport in the world - efficient, clean and modern.  Last year you had to navigate a barrage of farm animals to even get thru to the terminal!

'Where's the Mother?'

I kid you not, we must have been asked this question in excess of 50 times.  I kid you not!  It started with the security at the entrance to the airport and continued with every Indian national that walked past.  It became offensive at some point.  We had our story.  Each time we were asked we replied 'at home, she's at home'.  Some puzzled looks, some further questioning.  Some accepted and walked away.  For a select few, the interrogation continued.  A couple of times I got carried away with our 'tale of the missing mother'. I finally told one person she had to work and couldn't go with us!  Ugh.  I did not relax until the wheels left the tarmac and we were airborne.  The American Airlines flight attendants were amazing.  We were in business class and I had bulkhead seats (the airline blocked the seat next to me - so nice) and Steve sat across the aisle.  They will not allow two adults in one row with lap children because there are only three oxygen masks and that doesn't jive with four mouths.  They brought a bassinet for one and the other slept in the seat next to me.  Several times the flight attendants took them for a period. One flight attendant held Ajay in the jump seat, fed him, changed him and let me sleep.  The 15 hour trip was really painless.

We appreciate India and thank God for the USA!

It is good to be home and good to be alive...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Farewell & Alvida

Well, after 5 weeks and some of the most memorable days of our lives, we are headed home.  We fly out tonight on a 12:15am flight - non-stop to Chicago and then a quick connection to Dallas.  We are so happy to get home but we will always have fond memories of our time in Delhi.  It is stressful, chaotic and foreign but it is also the home of our children's mother and birth mother and because of that it will always hold a special place in our lives.

 An image I won't soon forget!  I visited this location (the MHA) on four separate occasions.

Our investigation, which was required in order to issue the boys' visas, took exactly 8 days to complete.  We had wonderful help from Mr Chawla and his associate Radhika.  We paid extra money for expediting the process because we are eager to get home.  I suspect we could have saved the money and let Radhika work our case at a less frantic pace - if we had been comfortable staying another week, but no sense in second guessing after the fact.  I can tell you that it would have been stressful beyond belief to attempt to navigate the investigation without Radhika.  Even this morning, despite being assured our visas would be issued, there was a last minute scare.  We were at the FRRO almost an hour as Radhika ran between officials - appearing somewhat upset at times - leaving the room and returning. We feared for a bit that perhaps this was not over after all.  As it turns out, the officials are simply being extra, extra careful with the departure of these surrogacy babies.  Several signatures later and we paid the Rs 3700 ($83 USD) for the actual visas and were on our way. 

There is much speculation about why this happened but I can now share that it appears this is all the result of one couple who have tried to leave without paying their bill and it just happens they are SCI clients.  The odd thing is that this very person who is now stuck in Delhi has taken to posting nasty, anonymous comments on others' blogs and posting untrue details on forum message boards.  I have always, from the day I started this blog, worked at telling the truth - not sugar coating - but always trying to find the positive in a very challenging, emotional process.  Why on earth does this person feel the need to single us out for persecution?  Why would this person blame their troubles on Dr Shivani?  I don't know this person and God knows I don't care to but I write this and ask that you please stop posting anonymous comments on my blog and others'.  I will NEVER publish them anyway so save your time - use your time trying to dig yourself out of your own mess that you created and have now created for the rest of us.  And to satisfy you constant questioning - here are your answers - so grab a pen and paper Ms Anonymous...

1.  I do not work for Dr Shivani.  I love her dearly, but she is my doctor, not my employer.  We have a professional relationship whereby I paid her for services and she delivered them in a manner that exceeded our expectations - thus, I say nice things about her.  That's how it works.
2.  If you read my blog you would know I have a full time job, and fortunately, I make a nice income and don't need to try and claim referral business from the doctor in an attempt to offset my bill...unlike yourself.
3.   I received no discounts on our surrogacy package for saying nice things about Dr Shivani.  I think she is good at what she does, genuinely cares about her clients and I want to share that good news with others who are exploring options for building their family.
3.  Our surrogate was paid approximately $6,000 and this was all spelled out in the contract - how it was to be paid, at what stages of the pregnancy, etc. And, unlike you, we paid our surrogate.
4.  Yes, I care about whether or not our surrogate was paid.  I know she was paid because I was with her last week in person!  She provided us a signed affidavit stating she was satisfied and paid in full.  She took one whole day of her own time to accompany us to the MHA in an effort to expedite the boys' visas.  Does that sound like a surrogate who has been mistreated by her doctor?  Hardly.

Moving on.

We had a great visit with the SCI staff today and here are some photos as we bid farewell and final thank you to Dr Shivani and her wonderful staff.

Thank you again Dr Shivani for making our dreams come true.  We are forever grateful.  Much love from us and the boys always.

Dr Shivani (left) with Ajay and Shilpi (right) with Jag
Laxmi with Ajay

Monday, October 4, 2010

How Time Flies By

We are now into our 5th week in Delhi.  Not how we planned it, but it is what it is and as my mom said, 'honey, there is a reason God has kept you all there'.  This I believe.  Even last week when I was throwing a fit inside to get our exit visa and leave, and get home to my work, our dogs and our home - I knew I had to be open to seeing the positive in our delay here.  It doesn't take much looking actually - not when you are open to seeing the positive in things.  The fact of the matter is this - I would have gotten home and immediately gotten on a plane and begun to attend a series of very important work engagements that I am now missing.  I am missing several events this week alone and it pains me to miss them...but, the events go on without me - planning via late night phone calls and emails with staff in LA...and as a result of my fabulous team (you know who you are), the events will be perfection - this I know.  I am spending invaluable time with my family.  I am with the boys during a critical time in their growth, development and imprinting.  Everything happens for a reason...

For those who don't know, there was a delay in obtaining our boys' exit visa last Thursday.  This was not a complete surprise as our embassy had told us from day one that this was happening with some surrogacy cases - 'further investigation' as it was called.  We believed we had taken some steps, under advice and guidance from our legal representation, that would potentially preempt an investigation, but it did not satisfy the Indian officials.  So, it wasn't a total shock last Thursday when we were told the Indian government needed more information (despite all our papers being in order, US passports in hand for the boys and citizenship certificates as well).  This 'enquiry' as it is called can take several weeks but our embassy made a call (they have been terrific) to the head of enquiry and things are moving along quickly with the assistance of our attorney.  I don't want to get in the middle of Indian surrogacy politics here - this blog is about my family, and our friends and family sharing our story - not about politics.  So, we can all speculate about the motives, but it is irrelevant.  The fact of the matter is the government wants to make sure our surrogate was treated properly, paid as contracted, etc.  Our investigator visited us at our residence in Delhi the very next day after the launch of the enquiry and then interviewed the surrogate at Dr Shivani's office the same evening.  Things are moving quickly and we are told that our case should be complete and our family on a plane very soon.  Only time will tell.

Aside from being able to spend unforeseen quality time with the boys, another beautiful thing that came from this enquiry is that we were able to see our surrogate again - something that otherwise would not have happened.  She is doing fantastic - post c-section - and looks well!  She went with us on our FRRO appointment to assist in moving our case along thru enquiry more quickly.  This is something she didn't have to do, but in order to help us, she took most of an entire day and accompanied us.   While waiting at the FRRO, she was able to hold and feed Ajay a bottle.  It was the most precious moment of the entire experience for me and I am welling with tears even now.  When we left that day she placed both hands on each babies head and bowed to us, smiling ear to ear.  She is so proud of what she was able to do - this gift she was able to give.  It is the most amazing, gentle reminder of the kindness of the human soul.  I will always remember that moment with her. 

I can tell we've been here a while because of things I've watched grow and change.  The monsoons have gone since we arrived and the city has taken on a new feel - people are outside, washing their cars and cleaning the walkways.  The Commonwealth Games have begun after years of preparation - opening ceremonies were Sunday evening.  For the Americans and others who have likely never heard of the CWG, think Summer Olympics with no American team.  Delhi is the host city this year and, like the Summer Olympics, this event comes every four years and is largely a competition for the original British colonies (of which India is one), but there are 54 permanent members of the Commonwealth of Nations and over 70 participating nations in this year's games.  www.cwgdelhi2010.org.  The city has been vastly improved since my last visit - all largely in preparation for these games.  There are over 6000 athletes here competing.  Traffic - not so fun.

One thing, however, that reminds me of our tenure is a family of pigeons outside our bathroom window (yes, pigeons are filthy, I know - but I love animals and have been obsessed with these birds).  When we arrived, the mother had just hatched two small baby birds and I watched her feed them each day, watched them grow.  They are now almost grown and I suspect they will fly any day.  It has been so cool to watch them mature.  They are in the front of the picture below - their mother behind them.
So, to pass the time - I bird watch - sans binoculars!

Our other pass time?  Television.  I have watched more re-runs of Murder She Wrote than I watched when it was on the air in the 1980's!  How on earth Jessica Fletcher always wound up in the midst of a murder each week is still astonishing!

And now, as always, the important part...here are the boys...

I call this edition 'Brotherly Love'...enjoy...

Jag: 'But I'm not sleepy daddy'
Ajay: 'Really? I'm exhausted, speak for yourself!'
Jag:  'OK, will you dim the lights please?'
Ajay:  'Can someone pass me a pacifier?'
[silence - occasional coo-ing, but mostly silence]
Ajay:  'Thanks, I needed that!'
Jag:  [silence]
Jag:  'It's hot in here, move over!'
Ajay:  [silence]
Jag:  'I said move over!'
Ajay:  [yawn]
Jag:  'OK, now you are really pissing me off'
Ajay:  'But, I love you Jag'
Jag:  'Daddy, GET ME OUT OF HERE.'
Ajay:  'No, Daddy take me instead.'

And they lived happily ever after...

And this video titled 'Ajay finds his thumb'...
video

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two Weeks

The boys are two weeks old today and they are growing and gaining weight!

We left Dallas three weeks ago and this is the longest period of time either of us have ever been away from home.  We are eager to get there, but not sure when that might be.  We've adapted our lives pretty well to this apartment and our surroundings, but there is no place like home.  We had hoped to leave early this coming week, but we had a little bad luck...and we aren't complaining because overall the experience with this pregnancy has been a dream...but, a bit of bad luck none the less.  Our DNA samples were randomly selected for inspection by US customs when the package arrived in NYC.  Customs sat on the package from Sunday to Thursday so we basically lost an entire week.  UGH!  The laboratory was great and they sent a letter to customs explaining the contents and assisting with its clearance.  The package was delivered to the lab on Friday and they are going to do their best to provide the results on Monday.  So, passports on Tuesday is our hope.  This means if the exit visa process and FRRO went perfectly, we could leave on Friday.  So, being the optimists we are, we booked a flight for Friday.  Fingers crossed.  Time will tell.  The Indian official who handles US visas has begun to challenge the surrogacy process a bit and has made the entire process of obtaining the exit visa a bit unpredictable.  This used to be a one-two day deal - done, fly home.  Now, there are more thorough processes being practiced - won't go into the details here and don't even know yet if they will apply to us. 

Good things this week...
  • I mastered the navigation of the grocery market and have become fairly proficient at preparing Indian dishes (cooking is one of my hobbies)
  • Steve and I have learned that I take care of the boys from dinner to 1am (and he naps) and then he takes them from 1am-6am (and I nap).  It works.  The boys do NOT sleep at night (yet - we are working on it, but it is a process and they are still so young).  
  • We had enough frequent flier miles to get us on the non-stop American Airlines flight into Chicago - in business class - this is now booked!
  • It stopped raining and the humidity level dropped to a comfortable level (sort of)
  • I finally found Coke Zero
  • The boys have started showing facial expressions and boy are they cute when they grin!

How cute are our kids!!!!!????!!!!!

Here is our Ajay - no doubt he is the sensitive one in the duo.  He has a four tiered cry - three shouts at progressively higher volume followed by the real deal - it goes something like this... ah, AH, AHHHH, AHHHHHHHHH!!!  I love that I can tell their cries apart and have even begun to know the difference between hungry, poop and indigestion.

Ajay looks alot like me in early baby pictures
Ajay is now on soy formula due to an apparent lack of tolerance for lactose.  Now if we just had a formula to cure drool!

And here is Jag - boy is he a piece of work!  He is a huge pig - always, always, always hungry!   I get a lot of laughs out of him. He has a big personality and I am in love with his hair!

Look at that frown!  We HATE baths!!
You know your baby is small when it fits comfortably into a kitchen pot!

I just got them both settled and Daddy Steve is snoring on the sofa so life is GREAT!  And now a moment of quiet and sanity (somewhat) - at least for 2-3 hours anyway - or until another diaper change or burping is needed.  Oh, who am I kidding...I can't rest until 1am when Steve takes over...

Goodnight to my boys - all three of them.  I love you guys so much.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

One Week

Happy one week birthday Jag and Ajay!  Your daddies are officially screwed.  Anything you ask for, you will likely get - a pony?  Sure.  You name it.  You have wrapped us around your little tiny fingers and we are forever here to take care of you and keep you safe.  We love you so much!

Lots has happened since the last post.  The boys were discharged on Tuesday so we have now had 4 nights alone with them.  It is a lot of work as we had been told but we opted for no nurse at the house - quite honestly, we love the privacy.  There are two of us and it is not brain surgery to figure this out, so we are managing just fine on our own - sleep deprived, but great all at once.  We are on a 3 hourly feeding schedule - we wake them if they do not wake themselves at or about 3 hours between.  If they wake themselves and seem hungry, then we feed them a bit ahead of schedule.  Jag is a much bigger eater so he may squeeze an extra feeding in, but for the most part they are quickly adjusting to the routine.  Each night is better than the last.  Jag is up to 3oz (90ml) on some feeds and Ajay is consistently taking 2oz (60ml) now.  A nice woman who we were visiting with yesterday at the US Embassy (more on that later) told us that they wake during the night because that is when the mother was sleeping and they were able to move about - they sleep during the day because that is when the mother was moving about and her movement rocked them to sleep. Makes sense.  So, we are slowly moving them into a sleep pattern that allows them to fall back to sleep at night, post feed.  Last night was much better - perhaps because Steve let me close the bedroom door and sleep - I love him.  He is sleeping now and I am on morning duty.

Our favorite nurse (sister as they are called).  She has quite a little attitude so she snapped us right into shape!
She was so happy to have her picture taken - she grabbed her iPhone and had another sister snap a few of us for her as well.
Jag right before discharge from Phoenix Hospital.
Ajay - 3 days old. In the midst of a diaper swap!
Last moments in the Phoenix Hospital nursery.
With Dr Deepak in his office - along with two of the Phoenix sisters.  Dr Deepak operates Phoenix Hospital along with his wife.  Last stop before discharge - first round of vaccines in his office.  We had oral Polio and the first Hepatitis B injection - and yes, babies screamed and daddy cried.

So, it was at or about one hour after these photos that Daddy Terry had a mini-meltdown amidst all the joy!  You see, I am an insanely organized, meticulous person and I have a low level of tolerance for inconsistency, tardiness and anything related to either of these.  I call this episode 'a bitter dose of this is not Kansas'.  After a series of appointments that were scheduled only to have the other party arrive 1-3 hours late and an 'issue' with our birth certificate that apparently came about on Monday but wasn't communicated until late on Tuesday, I had a momentary, mostly internalized, freak out session.  The learning from this (clear headed now and four days later) is that surviving the Indian surrogacy process is reliant on one's ability to spin the negative into a positive!  So, this is my new game that I play - and I play it several times daily depending upon which in our surrogacy 'cast of characters' is involved in that day's events.  For example, if you meet with an attorney's representative (an attorney that you have paid a large sum of money) on Saturday to fill out your birth certificate forms and this representative tells you that you will have the birth certificates on Tuesday evening (and you question this because it seems too soon, and they assure you, 'yes, Tuesday evening') and you move into your 'planning mode' and then you receive an email on Tuesday at 11:30am that says 'URGENT - COME TO SCI OFFICE ASAP' and you email back 'be there in half an hour' and you show up and are told 'no, I asked you to come at 7pm' and you received no such email and you are told that the birth certificate forms have to be redone (3 days later) because there was an 'error'...[inhale]...I now find the positive in all of it!  In this case, the 'error' turned out to be no error but an uptight officer at the hospital who insisted that the forms have the surrogate's home address on them and then, later, insisted that I redo all the forms.  In order to keep our US Embassy appointment that I had scheduled for Friday morning, we had to have the birth certificates by Thurs evening - it is now Tuesday evening.  Hmmmm.  We had been told at the beginning that 5 days was 'best case scenario' so we had little hope.  But, Mr Chawla's representative arrived at our apartment at 6pm on Thursday evening with the birth certificates in hand.  The positive in it all - it all works out in the end - always works out, one way or the other.  

Attitude adjusted - all better.

Key takeaway - yes, pay Mr Chawla for his services in obtaining a birth certificate - you do not want to go this one alone.

Now, our visit to the US Embassy.  This was remarkably painless.  Our appointment was at 9:30am yesterday and we arrived at 8:30am - and waited until 9:30 for our appointment - the first appointment was at 9am.  The Consular interview is pretty simple.  When you arrive at ACS (American Citizen Services) you will find a clean, modern room with four glass 'teller' windows - much like a bank.  Three are to take appointments and one is to collect payment for fees - both boys' passports and CRBA's (Consular Report of Birth Abroad) were $205 each, $410 total.  There is a flat screen tv on the wall and it has all the major channels - we turned it on, adjusted the channels and the volume - otherwise it would have been off the whole time I suppose.  The interview is really not an interview if your paperwork is in order.  I spent 5 minutes at the window with a nice woman providing the requested documents and then about 1 hour later Nancy, the Consular officer, called me up (from a different window) and asked me to take an oath swearing that everything was accurate to the best of my knowledge and that was it!  Emergency passports will be issued on the same day as the DNA results come back - hopefully within one week. As long as you exchange the emergency passports for the real thing within one year of arriving back in the US, there is no additional charge for this.  Passport pickup is between 2-4pm each day.  The points here are primarily for US citizens, so everyone else...scroll.  Here are my points of advice...
  • Email Nancy Hamilton at the US Embassy in advance and introduce yourself ndacs@state.gov.  She told us that so few people do this, she is learning about the process herself, and it really helps if she connects with you in advance.  She is super nice.  She is the Consular officer who approved our file yesterday and I had been in touch with her in advance so this was great.  You can also call her direct line 11 2419 8000 ext 4306.  We called her after the birth and she arranged for our DNA testing to happen at the same time as our appointment for obtaining the CRBA's and the Passports.  This means only one trip to the embassy with the baby(ies).  The DNA collection is a simple mouth swab - 2 samples taken from each individual.  The babies didn't even cry.  This happened in a room right next door to ACS.
  • Forms to take for Consular interview - only take originals - no need to take a bunch of copies.  If using an egg donor, the birth certificate should say 'surrogate' under 'mother' - nothing more.  
    • Original birth certificates.  
    • When using an egg donor, the US citizen father has to prove 5 years of US residency.  Instead of taking all my tax returns, I took my previous passport and 5 years of social security earnings statements.  
    • Dr Shivani will give you a file with all your medical reports, ultrasounds, etc - take that as it is.  
    • Two passport photos of each child.  
    • Original copies of surrogacy contracts.  
    • Print your confirmation of your appointment at the embassy - you will need to show this outside the embassy to get in.
    • If you take your cell phone, they will ask you to walk down the way to a different entrance and 'check it' - they will give you a number to claim it at exit. You cannot take any type of electronics into the embassy.
  • Forms to take for DNA collection.
    • 2 passport photos of the US citizen parent(s).  
    • 2 passport photos of each child.
    • Copy of US citizen parent passport photo page and copy of Indian visa page.
    • 1 copy of each birth certificate.
    • A bank draft (cashier's check) for Rs 1600 for each test kit (for us it was three - me, Jag and Ajay).  Also, we couldn't find a bank that would issue these because we didn't have an account.  Fortunately our landlord arranged them for us. For Rs 300 (about $7 USD) someone came to the house and returned with them in about 2 hours.  Someone will call you, in advance of your appointment, to confirm the date and time of your DNA collection and will give you the details for the payee on these bank drafts.
  • A thermos with hot water for making up bottles.
  • Two bottles for each baby (we were there until 1pm).
  • Change of clothes - there is a changing table in the restrooms outside of ACS.  
Our DNA collection was to happen at 11am and the testers did not arrive on time and it backed up all appointments so ours was at 12:30pm.  There is a vendor that sells sandwiches and drinks which saved us from starvation.  We ended up needing 2 feedings for the babies so it was great that we had 2 bottles for each.  We had the dry formula pre-measured in the empty bottles and then just needed to add water from the thermos.

We have opted to not use baby carriers.  This was really Meg's advice (of Amani and Bob blog fame).  The babies are so small that you really want to hold them.  We have only been out 2 times - once from the hospital to the house  and from the house to the embassy round trip.  I swaddle them and cover their heads and we hold them.  It was a little tiring holding them for 5 hours yesterday from the house to the embassy and back, but it was fine.

Sleeping.  Shilpi, the concierge at SCI, got us these great little baby beds - basically a pillow top pad with a mosquito net that is attached - they are compact and perfect!  You lay them on the pad and pull the net over - the net is on a wire frame so it opens and closes like a canopy.

Sterilizer. Shilpi got us this also - ours is electric and it handles four bottles at a time - the cycle is 10 minutes.  We are working with 8 bottles which is plenty.

Lastly, a big thank you to Meg for all her support as our SCI case manager.  She has been our voice in India all these months and she has been so wonderful at juggling both the needs of SCI and the needs of us, the client.  She has been placed in some tough spots and she has risen to the occasion.  She even jumped in on Tuesday and talked me off the ledge. The great thing about Meg is that she has a heart of gold.  She is passionate and that comes across as all sorts of things in written communications, but the intention is always good and I love her to death...would not be where we are without her and that is the truth!

Here are some more photos to close...this is why we are here after all!  I should note that it is very hard to get little babies to open their eyes - they blink with flash photography and don't like light.  This made passport photos a challenge!  We hired a photographer from a store at M Block market to come over and take them.  No extra charge and they were done in five minutes.  In order for me to get photos with their eyes open I have to turn off the flash which lowers the resolution.  So, these are a little blurry but at least you can see them awake!

Jag
Ajay

Me and Ajay

Steve and Jag

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Big Appetites!

We were able to feed the boys this morning.  Ajay is definitely the screamer in the duo - Jag the quiet one.  When we arrived at the nursery at Phoenix Hospital this morning, Ajay was wailing but after I picked him up and held him, he fell fast asleep and then we ate, and then back to sleep.  The nurses say he cries unless he is held - Uh Oh!  I am a sucker so this will be interesting.  I can't stand to watch him cry.  They are both so small, but there are 6 other babies in the nursery - 2 sets of twins - and they are so very tiny - their birth weights were all just over 1 kg - I think 1.4 kg is the largest one.  That is half of what Jag weighed at birth.  The good news is they are all growing and maturing every day.

Here are pics of me getting Ajay to quiet down and then me feeding Ajay and Steve feeding Jag.  Every time Steve looks at me holding the boys, he sees that my eyes are full of tears

'...are you crying again?' 

'Yep.'

I am so in love with them I can't even begin to relate it to anything else in my life thus far. 

And, yes, they polished off their bottles like champions!