Saturday, January 19, 2013

The End and The Beginning

We've been home just over a week now. The flight home turned out to be much better than I had anticipated. From Delhi to Zurich, we were able to get bassinets for the babies. They slept most of the 8+ hours. It was so beautiful landing in Zurich. It had just snowed and everything was lightly dusted in white. Just as I thought we had finally left the menacing "where's the mother?" questions behind, they started again as soon as we landed. A Swiss Polizei stopped me and gave me a minor interrogation for traveling with such young babies. Maybe they thought I was trafficking children, who knows. I've come to the conclusion that twins attract attention period. Two men carrying for two babies even more so. We'll just have to get used to it I guess. The flight from Zurich to Miami was a little more stressful. We didn't have bassinet seats so we turned our tray tables into bassinets. Luckily we were sitting in the middle of a group of Israeli grandmothers on their way to Las Vegas. They took it upon themselves to hold the babies and give us tips for the next 10 hours.

We've slowly settled into a routine, although we can't tell if we're still jet-lagged or are exhausted from getting up every 3 hours with the babies at night. Aiden and Zara had their first check up with the pediatrician this week. They checked out fine. Although Aiden is getting huge and gaining so much weight, I did ask if we should switch his formula to Slim Fast. We have no concept of time these days. The days creep by, all divided in 3 hour feeding increments, and before you know it, a week has passed. I find myself spending most of the day in my pajamas, not remembering when was the last time I brushed my teeth or took a shower. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. I love being a parent.

I've been reading lately about the changes to surrogacy laws in India. I guess we did this at just the right time as it appears surrogacy in India would no longer be available to us. That is truly unfortunate. The people I met on this surrogacy journey in India will make the most awesome parents. No one embarks on this journey unless you really have the desire, will and capability to be a great parent. Hopefully these laws will one day be reversed. As it stands now, the recent changes exclude most Australians, as reported here, and definitely leaves out homosexuals everywhere, as reported in the Times. Maybe Panama or Thailand are still options, I'm not sure.

I've decided this will be my last blog post. I originally started this blog to be a journal of our journey to have children.  I had hoped this might one day be of interest to our little ones, while also providing a little insight to those contemplating the journey themselves. I hope I've succeeded. I wish my fellow bloggers all the best on your journey. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Signing off,

Hindu baby blessing, New Delhi

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Last Day in Delhi

As I sit here in Svelte, our bags are packed, babies are bundled up and we are leaving for home in half an hour. I must admit, I'm having mixed emotions. Being here for the past month has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. I am a different person going home than I was when we landed here just over 3 weeks ago. There's no doubt about it, we've been blessed. Never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted how perfect things would turn out. Becoming a father to two beautiful children has been one of the most wonderful moments of my life. I'm excited to take them home and start our lives together. On the other hand, I'm also feeling reminiscent. India will forever maintain a special place in my heart as the birthplace of Aiden and Zara. I can't wait to one day bring them back here and show them this crazy, fascinating and intriguing land. I will never let them forget where they came from. The people I have met on this journey have been amazing. No one on earth, no matter how hard we try, will understand what we have gone through besides these people. I sincerely hope our bonds will be lifelong. I can't wait to take them to Australia to visit their "cousins." Mel and Andrew, you guys have made this journey special for me indeed. Gachy and Fernando, ahora tienen casa en Miami - mi casa, es su casa. Preet, you are definitely going to have to help me with Zara. You can be her pseudo "mom"! No, I will never forget this time or these people. Next stop, home!

Monday, January 7, 2013

FRRO... The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I'll try to recap today's events at the FRRO. First off, we chose not to use Poonam, SCI's lawyer, as I didn't think she was worth the expense since she doesn't actually go to the FRRO with you. She mostly makes copies and tells you what to say. Anyway, I made my appointment on line for 9:30 this morning. We got a nurse to come with us to help with the babies while we were there. We arrived at about 9:00am. It was freezing and crowded, but not packed. I would definitely recommend making your appointment for first thing in the morning. There is a ramp on the left and lots of people sitting in chairs on the right. An older man with a microphone was screaming at everyone in Hindi and English to sit down, be quiet, don't stand there etc. Most of the people looked like they had just got off a caravan from Afghanistan. We walked up the ramp to the left and tried to get in with the babies but were told we needed to sign our name next to a number in a notebook next to the guy screaming with the microphone. Sound chaotic? It was. After signing in, we waited. Someone showed up at the desk and started calling out the numbers next to our names. When my number was called, I was given a one inch piece of paper with something scribbled on it and told to go inside. Off we went.

We walked in and took the first left and walked down a small hall. I was 3rd in line at a check in desk. Ruben and the nurse went inside and sat down with the babies. I approached the clerk and told him I was here to get exit visas for my children. "Surrogacy?" he barked. "Where is Wife?" he asked. I sent her home to America. She's ill. He wrote on a piece of paper Single Parent and circled it. He proceeded to ask for my documents. Being the over prepared geek that I am, I had about 600 copies of all sorts of documents. He said to give him the following documents: on line registration form with attached photo for both babies, copy of both babies passports, copy of babies birth certificates, copy of my passport, copy of my Indian Visa, surrogacy agreement, sworn affidavit from the U.S. Embassy, letter from SCI, no objection letter from surrogate, Form C from your hotel (it's a foreigner's registration form the hotel fills out when you check in), and copy of my plane ticket home. He also made me write on a blank piece of paper that I would be financially responsible for the children and I paid no one for them. I gave him everything he asked for and then he abruptly stood up and said, "YOU - sit down."

As we sat with the Afghans and waited, I realized what a  bureaucratic nightmare this place is. We waited and waited. After about 45 minutes, a man sitting behind a desk stood up and called my name. He handed me my packet of documents I had given to the other guy and told me to go to desk 10. Off I went. I stood in front of desk 10 while an older gentlemen finished his cup of tea. Once finished, he took my documents and started flipping through them one by one. "Where is Wife?" he asked. At this point, I seriously almost pointed to the nurse and said "She's right there with the baby." If you've seen these nurses, you would know he wouldn't buy it. I gave him the same line as the other guy - she's ill and home in America. He continued flipping. "Tourist Visa?" Yes I responded. He then took my passport and looked for the entry/exit stamps from my last visit to India in April. A random woman walked up and they started speaking in Hindi. I stood there silent but they were definitely talking about me. All I heard was: Hindi, Hindi, Hindi, "tourist visa", Hindi, Hindi, "single parent" etc. this went on for about 10 minutes. He finally took both babies passports and stamped them. He handed me my packet of documents and said go to the cashier. I went to the cashier and was charged 4360 rupees for the two exit visas. I gave the guy 4500 and got no change back but I wasn't going to argue over $2 in a place like this. I was told to take my packet to a desk that said "in charge" above it. The supervisor took my documents and the receipt from the cashier and started flipping through them again. He called someone over and they started speaking in Hindi. "YOU - sit down."

So far it was going well. After about 5 minutes, a guy comes over and asks where is the letter from Eden hospital. Uh....... What? I tried playing stupid. Oh yeah, SCI is the hospital. "You bring me letter from hospital or no visa." But I'm thinking to myself, you already stamped their passports moron. I asked if the babies could leave while I went to find this elusive letter. He said yes. Off we went. We dropped the babies and the nurse off at the hotel. I called Rachna at SCI and told her I needed a letter on Eden hospital letter head that stated that my surrogate gave birth to my two children on December 18 and she was released from the hospital, is in good health and doing fine. She said she could make the letter and I could pick it up and then take it to Eden hospital to have it signed by Dr. Gupta, the doctor with no personality that delivered our children. Off we went. At this point, I'm in a race against the clock as the FRRO comes to a complete stop at 1:30 for lunch. With letter in hand, we barged back in at 1:15. I walked straight to the front of the line and pushed my way in front of the supervisor who wanted the letter. He found my packet and not even looking at the letter, tossed it in the pile with my papers and signed the babies passports he had stamped before. You are finished he said.

It was over. In retrospect, I don't think we were harassed for being single or on a tourist visa. It was however an issue at each desk or person I had to speak to - they brought it up. Neither were a hindrance in me getting the children their visa though. Could it change in the future? Who knows... We met some friends staying Svelte at the FRRO on our second visit. They chose to use Poonam. They didn't have anything from Eden hospital either. They also didn't have copies of their tourist visa. From observing this place, one guy could ask you for something and then turn around and ask for something completely different from someone else. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this chaotic place. I'm elated this hurdle is complete. We treated ourselves to massages this afternoon.