Meeting Our Surromama

First I want to apologize to our readers for taking so long to update you on all the happenings while we were in India. As you can imagine, life has been a little hectic with our new boss Kitty who is almost 9 weeks old now.

ok… where did I leave off last? We had arranged with Dr. Patel to meet Sita on Monday April 6. Prior to this day, we had packed a gift for Sita that we took to the hospital in hopes we would see her there. Soon after Kitty was delivered, we saw Sita for a very short time. On day 2 at the hospital I went to the front desk to find out what room she was in so that I could visit with her and see how she was recovering as well as offer her the gift we got for her. I got to the floor that she was on, and asked where to find the room number and they promptly informed me that intended parents were not allowed to see surrogate mothers. I asked how I could get her gift to her and I was told to contact the social workers who would coordinate. I definitely wanted to give her the gift in person and thank her for all she had done for us. So instead, we arranged the meeting with Dr. Patel.

We arrived at Dr. Patel’s office around 4pm on Monday April 6 with Kitty in tow and were ushered to a lounge where we waited nervously for Sita to join us. A few minutes later Sita came in with a big smile accompanied by her husband, her two children and Dr. Patel’s receptionist that was going to translate for us. It was such a warm meeting. We expressed our deepest thanks from the bottom of our hearts. I gave Sita a big bear hug and thanked her for doing what I couldn’t do and burst into tears. I did not expect the meeting to be so emotional. Sita held Kitty for a little while, she and her husband were so happy for us. I asked after her health and how she was recovering and she said she was doing great and was recovering nicely. We presented our gift which was small gift plus cash.

Afterwards, we met with Dr. Patel for the last time before leaving Mumbai. Our flight was on Wednesday April 8th.

– Cat xo ❤

 

 

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Baby #2 Adventures

I am going to try and jam all the updates on Baby #2 in one post so bear with me…

Saturday March 28 – From the hospital we went straight to Dr. Patel’s office for my second IVF appointment. This was the first time Dr. Patel was meeting little Kitty. She said it always gives her goose bumps when she sees a little baby and to think that just less than a year ago this little being was just a couple of cells is mind blowing. This was truly a moment in which we affirmed that SCIENCE IS AMAZING!!!

My Day 5 ultrasound was uneventful and things were progressing as expected. I was to continue my meds, my egg retrieval was tentatively scheduled for Friday or Saturday (April 3/4) .  That night my sister was arriving in Mumbai which was going to be very helpful with the baby considering all the appointments we had to get to.

Monday, March 30 – That morning I took my injections as normal but only this time it hurt  😥. I had been injecting myself in the belly but since I seemed to have been all injected out ion the belly, I decided to take my next doses in the thighs. My Day 7 ultrasound was uneventful everything was going as planned. Based on the follicle sizes it looked like I was going to get 10+ eggs this round.

Tuesday, March 31 – We had a pediatrician appointment, Kitty was doing very well according to the Doctor.

Wednesday, April 1 – We had our US Consulate Appointment first thing that morning and my Day 9 ultrasound that afternoon. I took my meds at the doctors office and they hurt like CRAZY,  there were tears involved 😥 :'(. the ultrasound showed my follicles would be ready for retrieval by Friday. Like music to my ears, I would take my last fertility injection that evening.

After the appointment, we set off to go and have lunch at some place that Tusk had heard about. It was supposedly around the corner not too far from Dr. Patel’s office. Tusk was trying to get us a taxi for us but no one seemed to want to take us because apparently it was too close. It was blazing hot, I was carrying Kitty, hungry and my patience was waning. Everyone we talked to had said that it was just a 10-15 minute walk. I suggested we just walk it so Tusk, my sister and I with Kitty in tow set off on foot for this restaurant. As we were walking I started to feel really anxious and very emotional and to make it worse we couldn’t find the darn restaurant. Somewhere along the way I LOST IT in the middle of the street. I had a complete MELT DOWN, tears, snot and all and I could not stop crying. With everyone hungry, we had to abort the mission of finding this restaurant, go home and order in. Through all the IVFs I had gone through, I had never felt overwhelmingly emotional and anxious before. This round was really rough on me coupled with the exhaustion from taking care of a newborn 24/7.

Thursday, April 2 – nothing happened this day I stayed in with the baby while my sister and Tusk went out site seeing.

Friday, April 3 – retrieval day – Tusk, my sister and I with baby in tow arrived at Dr. Patel’s office. I guess my sister could have stayed home with Kitty but we all went. We arrived at 9am and by 9:30 I was under. As I was waking up, I am told I was saying a lot of random things :). About 2hrs later I was coherent and ready to go home. Dr. Patel gave us a report on the retrieval. Only 5 eggs were retrieved which was by far less than she had expected. A lot of my follicles were filled with fluid :(. I was disappointed to have only gotten 5, it seemed like a lot of effort, pain and emotional drama  for only 5 eggs…but at the end of the day all we need is one good embryo.

That afternoon my sister left, I was sad to see her leave. it was incredibly helpful to have her come f0r a few days and help us with Kitty.

Saturday, April 4 – Tusk, Kitty and I set off for the FRRO early in the morning. We received a text from Dr. Patel that morning letting us know that all 5 eggs had fertilized. based on past experience we expected to have a 40% attrition rate but it was still too early top tell.

Sunday, April 5 – We had a wonderful lunch with our host from the last time we were in Mumbai

Monday, April 6 – We had a pediatrician appointment at the hospital in the morning, and after the appointment we got on a tuk-tuk to a restaurant Tusk had found on trip adviser. We miscalculated the distance, per the gps maps on our phones we thought the restaurant was 2 miles away from the hospital but it turned out to be a 6 mile ride on the tuk-tuk with Kitty in tow! I will have to do a blog post on things that Americans think are unsafe but totally normal in India.

Later that day we met Sita formally for the first time at Dr. Patel’s office – I will post a separate blog post on this.

At this point our little babies have been in the making for  3 days and had all survived which is so unusual and super awesome. Dr. Patel was going to cultivate the cultures to Day 5 and freeze all the embryos.

Fast forward to Day 5 Wednesday April 8… Dr. Patel let us know that all 5 embryos were Grade A, alive and being frozen till we are ready.

and there you have it…baby number 2 in the making

-Cat xo ❤

 

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Hospital Stay

Kitty was under observation for 3 days in the hospital with round the clock care. As Tusk mentioned in an earlier post, the hospital room was very nice and comfortable. The first day we didn’t sleep just staring at her. We finally decided that it doesn’t make sense for both of us to be tired, so we started taking shifts for taking care of the baby while the other person got rest.

The nurses sterilized bottled and made her food for us which was nice. They showed us how to swaddle the baby, give her a sponge bath and take care of her belly button. We had a chance to practice a lot before leaving the hospital. I must have pressed the emergency button at least 3 times for things that seemed so unfamiliar only to be told that whatever was happening was normal #firsttimeparent. The pediatrician visited Kitty twice a day, he only told us information that he thought was necessary to share, again which is different from the oversharing culture we have here in the U.S. Sometimes he would come in examine and leave without saying anything about how she is doing :|, and we would ask ourselves if he is coming back to say something lol. But we figured out that no news is good news.

While in the hospital, Kitty had her vitamin K shot, Hepatitis B shot, hearing test and metabolic screen test all of which were difficult to watch because she screamed bloody murder each time. On day 3 (Saturday Mar 28th), we were discharged from the hospital and were told to come back 3 days later for a pediatrician visit. We walked out of there with our baby….we were on our own. We hopped on an air-conditioned taxi and made our way back to South Mumbai

That afternoon I had an appointment with Dr. Patel for a Day 5 scan….

-Cat xo ❤

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D-Day

The morning of March 25, we woke up with so much excitement and anxiety. The time would not move at all. We had instructions to arrive at the Hiranandani Hospital around noon to meet with the social worker. That morning I packed the baby bag and our bag since we were going to be gone for 3 days. We made breakfast and set off at 11am, the hospital was about 1hr from where were staying. It was blazing hot with temperatures at 109°F (43°C). We jumped on a regular taxi with no air-conditioning, Tusk and I were definitely in agreement that on the way back we would have to get on a more expensive air-conditioned taxi to make it comfortable for the baby.

We arrived at the hospital right around noon to complete all the necessary paperwork. When we arrived the social worker was not available and was dealing with another case,  while we waited we met with our attorney who brought us our original surrogacy contract as well as the agent that was going to help us with getting a quick turn around on the birth certificate. At about 1pm we went to go and find something to eat at the cafeteria in the hospital. I was not hungry because I was just too anxious but Tusk made me eat. I managed to finish my food, not because I wanted to but because I had to in order to maintain strength for all the overwhelming excitement. By the time we were done with lunch the social worker was ready for us and took us through the verification process when we were done with the verification process it was 2:45, the C-section was scheduled for 3pm. The social worker escorted us to the operating theater/delivery room waiting area where we were introduced to the nurses. They told us to come back at 3:30pm. We had to wait another 45 minutes to meet the tiny person we have been for a little over 5 years. It was the longest 45 minutes we had to wait. All the while we were texting our family members who were also anxiously waiting with play by play status updates. When we came back to the waiting area about 10 minutes early, we stood in the waiting area awkwardly – the waiting area which is just in the hallway outside the operating room door by the way. No one said anything to us, the more time passed the more awkward we felt. Nurses and doctors were coming in and out of  the delivery room and not one person said anything to us. This is so different from the US where doctors and nurses over-share information. For the next 17 minutes we stood outside the delivery room waiting for news, any kind of news or status update but there was nothing. FINALLY at 3:37pm, a nurse carrying our baby came through the door and announced with a big smile: female baby born at 3:26pm weighing 3.26kg.

She was here! the moment we had been waiting for had finally arrived! I held my baby for the first time and just gazed at her. She was perfect. We held her for a couple of minutes before the nurses took her back. they put her under a light for about an hour to prevent jaundice. we were told to come back 45 minutes later, so we took that opportunity to check in to a room. We went back after 45 minutes and were told  to come back in another 45 minutes…3hrs from the time she was born we finally had our little Kitty.

– Cat xo ❤

 

 

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Hello Again Mumbai

Hi all, it’s Cat finally getting round to long overdue updates and fill in the blanks from Tusks detailed posts on some of the admin stuff we had to complete in Mumbai. Lets jump right in!

Since we didn’t have any embryos from the last cycle, we thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of our trip as much as possible so prior to going Mumbai we discussed with Dr. Patel starting another IVF process for baby number 2. This would be our last IVF process ever and we would freeze our embryos till were ready for baby number 2.  We were able to time the cycle to start within 1-3 days of our arrival in Mumbai. Just before we got on our flight to Mumbai Aunt Flow paid a visit which meant that my IVF cycle would start as soon as we arrived in Mumbai. I emailed Dr. Patel letting her know and setting an appointment the day we were arriving.  Our flight was long and uneventful.

We arrived in Mumbai at about 3am on March 24th and got to our airbnb apartment around 4:30am. We were so exhausted so we plonked on the bed. When we woke up, we ordered food and headed out to Dr. Patel’s office for our appointment. I had my first ultrasound and started my first round of injections. The injections weren’t too bad. Dr. Patel gave me meds for the next 3 days and instructions for the hospital where our surrogate was to deliver our baby the next day (March 25).

Later that evening, we met up with our last host whom we had maintained a relationship with over the last year. She made a lovely dinner for us and we stayed chatting till about 11pm. She dropped us off at our apartment and Day 1 was over. That night, I tried with all my might to fall asleep but I could not, I was too anxious about the next day. I tossed and turned and tossed again. I finally slept in the wee hours of the morning but for only 3 or 4 hours.

To be continued…

-Cat xo ❤

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Exit Process 3 – Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO)

Tusk here.

If you have heard anything about the FRRO office, it is probably nerve wrecking news of how difficult and frustrating a bureaucratic institution it is. On top of that, our visa application process with the Indian Consulate here in the US, was a process in pure anxiety, pain and suffering. With that in mind, we prepared for the worse. Dr. Patel and others I talked to recommended not using an intermediary, moreover, intermediaries are not allowed at the FRRO. Since we now had our baby’s US Passport in hand, next stop was the FRRO office. Thursday April 2nd and Friday April 3rd were holidays in India and the FRRO office in Mumbai was closed. It just so happened that the Mumbai FRRO office is open on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month, thus they would be open on Saturday April 4th. One of the documents required for exit is the airline flight itinerary to depart  India so I had to reschedule our flight and add our baby for departure on April 8th rather than our initial departure date of April 23rd taking all unknown variables into consideration. The baby’s ticket was a 10% surcharge which came to about $90 while the cost to reschedule our tickets was a whooping $800. Now that I think of it, I should have either bought a higher class fare or looked to get an open ticket since there was no predicting our return date.

To schedule a FRRO appointment, one has to go to the FRRO website and complete a form which then allows you to choose a date for your appointment. I goofed off and started completing the application on the FRRO website late on Friday evening and crossed over midnight into the wee hours of Saturday morning. This meant that when I hit the next button that allowed me to choose a date for our appointment, the first available date was Monday, April 6th. I was bummed. However we decided that we would go to the FRRO anyway on Saturday to try our luck out. So first thing Saturday morning, despite the 90+ degree weather, I dressed up in my favorite Indian shirt that I purchased the last time we were in Mumbai (I figured trying to blend in with the locals could only help) and we headed to the FRRO office and were one of the first people there. However, given that I had completed the FRRO forms in the middle of the night, I needed somewhere to print out the forms, so upon getting to the FRRO office, I left my wife with baby in line and made a mad dash looking for a print shop around the area. Everyone said the print shop was 5 mins away, however in reality 5 mins away in Mumbai means more like……..15+mins lol. By the time I found the print shop, printed the additional documents that I needed and got back to the FRRO office, they had opened and my wife who was in line and already had a token as the 3rd person in line had already been called. She had to explain to the official that I had run to make some prints and was on my way back. She was allowed to wait for me in the air conditioned waiting area with the baby otherwise it would have been a wait in a hall with only fans blowing in a day where the temperature in Mumbai was fast approaching 100 degrees. After I returned with the print outs all sweating and nervous, I talked to my wife to figure out how we would get back in line. With the run around, all the documents that I had neatly arranged for the FRRO office were now in a jumbled pile and my order had evaporated .

The FRRO officer at the desk on the third floor who had allowed my wife to wait in the office returned and told me to go to the reception to sort out our papers. I went to the lady at the desk and told her that we were there for an exit visa for our baby as well as register for another round of surrogacy  and she asked me if I had all the required paper work and I said yes. She asked a few questions and requested the documents which I provided one after the other, as fast as I could as my pile of documents looked like the dog ate my homework. The back and forth took about 15 mins after which she instructed that I head to the waiting room and wait for counter 2 to be called. The lady was really patient with me and I never felt rushed or pushed. I then went over to the waiting area and waited with my wife and baby until counter #2 became available. The lady at counter #2 reviewed our paper work and requested additional documents and copies of others, which I again had to sift through my pile to locate and provide. The lady helping us was also patient with me, assuring me that if I did not have copies of the documents she was requesting, that I could step into the hall and make the required copies using the vendor that was right outside the door which I did a few times. If I did not understand a question, she took the time to explain and was patient with my response. At this point, I had started wondering if we were indeed at the FRRO office or if we had missed our way as everyone was so nice and understanding.

After spending what seemed like close to an hour with the lady at counter #2, she asked for  the “No Due’s Letter” from the hospital which it turned out I did not have. The only No Due’s letter we had was from our fertility clinic that stated that we had settled all our dues both at the clinic and the hospital, but she stated that there was a particular letter from the hospital that was needed. The FRRO officer also informed me that all our paper work was in order and that once she got the No Dues Letter, our exit visa would be issued and the pickup of the exit permit would be dependent on my providing the “No Dues Letter”. She also told me that my wife and child no longer had to be at the FRRO since she had already talked to my wife and was satisfied with the documentation we provided.  I then proceeded to text Dr Patel our fertility doctor using Whatsapp asking about the “No Due’s Letter” specifically on the Hiranandani Hospital letterhead. Dr Patel called the hospital accounts department, requesting the letter and got a response that the letter would be ready and mailed over in 30 mins (recall the part where 5 mins means 15+,…this also applied here and I got the letter 90 mins later). I informed the FRRO officer of the “No Due’s Letter” being worked on that I would go pick it up and bring it back asap and she stated that I could bring it the same day or on Monday depending on what I preferred.

A little digression here. Whatsapp is huge in India and everyone we interacted with used it, from the doctors to the lawyers and taxi drivers. Also we use T-Mobile which has Free Global Roaming in 120+ countries at no additional cost of which India was one of them so we had free 4G data and free texts as well which was golden and It worked flawlessly. For our calls, we used Skype over the free 4G data and all our calls both locally and to the US were clear. Thus we did not need to pick up a local sim card.

I returned with the “No Dues Letter” which was accepted and was told to wait or return in about an hour to pick up the exit visa for our baby. Knowing the rules of 5 mins means 15 mins + I left to have lunch and returned 2 hrs later. 30 mins after my return, the exit visa was handed to me to sign and that was our day at the FRRO. The exit visa validity we were given, which is what we requested was 5 days later so there was no 24 or 48 hrs mandatory timeline that we had to exit India. Overall, I think its important to be patient and not too fussy unless warranted as it only leads to more pain. I did notice a few other foreigners at the FRRO who we fussing at just about everything, even down to a 2 Rupee photocopy fee which was for a photocopy of their payment receipt which was required and it did not lead anywhere fun.

There you have it. Total time we spent at the FRRO in Mumbai was about 4 hrs. We hope this information is useful to others out there. Below are the list of required documents and fees that we paid at the FRRO.

  • Fees
    1. 4800 Rupees for exit visa
    2. There are no fees for registration
    3. 60 Rupees for two folders needed by the FRRO to file your documents
    4. About 50 Rupees worth of photocopy for documents that I did not make enough copies of or just lain forgot to make copies of (its safe to assume 2 copies for all documents that are needed)
  • Documents Needed
    1. Copy of exit visa application (this is completed and printed from the FRRO site after you one completes the application to book an appointment)
    2. Two color copies of 2 x 2 inches (50 x 50 cm) passport photographs of the baby on a white background
    3. Copy of surrogacy contract
    4. Copy of passport information
      • Copy of passport information pages (for my wife, baby and I)
      • Copy of passport page with Indian visa/entry stamp (for my wife and I)
    5. Copy of marriage license
    6. Copy of “No Dues Letter” both from the fertility clinic and the hospital where surrogate gave birth
    7. Copy of embryology letter (oocyte collection data sheet) from fertility clinic (this was a gestational surrogacy)
    8. Copy of letter/report from the hospital, confirming admission of surrogate and delivery/discharge of the baby/babies
    9. Original of letter from the fertility clinic stating that you underwent/ are undergoing treatment at said clinic under the care of a specified doctor
    10. Original of “No Objection Letter” from the surrogate stating that the terms of the contract were met and she has no objections (our lawyer worked with the surrogate to provide this)
    11. Original of “Introduction Letter” which the US Consulate provided introducing the baby as a US Citizen (this letter is addressed to the Indian authorities and the US Consulate seal is affixed so they keep the original)
    12. Original of another letter from the US Consulate also addressed to the Indian authorities requesting they assist the US citizens bearing the passport
    13. Copy of “Form C” if staying at a hotel. Hotels provide this so just ask the receptionist
    14. Copy of departure flight tickets (the baby should already be added to the departure ticket)
    15. Copy of baby birth certificate
    16. Original and copy of undertaking letter stating that you will support and care for the baby/babies (the guy making copies at the FRRO office also has a form template which cost 1 Rupee that you just fill in your specific details and make a copy as well)

– Tusk

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Exit Process 2 – US Consulate Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) / DNA

Tusk here.

With our baby’s birth certificate in hand, next step was off to the US Consulate Website to schedule a CRBA and DNA appointment. The CRBA process is the process by which US citizenship is transmitted to children of US Citizens. A DNA process is part of the CRBA process,  however whether or not a DNA test be conducted is up to the consular officer to decide during your CRBA appointment based on the evidence provided. The US Consulate does advise to expect that a DNA test will be required so we had already reviewed the DNA test requirements a few months earlier, chosen a DNA lab here in the US and had the DNA lab mail a DNA kit to the US Mumbai Consulate in preparation.

I went to the US Consulate website and the earliest appointment that was available was on Wednesday April 1st. We had hoped for a Monday, March 30th appointment but no such luck on this day so we booked the April 1st option. Also DNA samples are collected only on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the US Consulate in Mumbai and since our appointment was on Wednesday, we would have to go back on Thursday for the DNA for our baby. My wife and I had already had our DNA swabs here in the States a month earlier. I sent an email to the fraud prevention unit of the Mumbai consulate to schedule the DNA appointment per the guidance on the Consulate website. The fraud prevention unit responded and tentatively scheduled us for the DNA swab for Thursday April 2nd pending the request by the consular officer at our Wednesday April 1st appointment. The cost for the DNA swab per person was 1000 Rupees (~$16). The documents that were required at the consulate are outlined below;

  1. Consular Report of Birth Abroad Form DS-2029
  2. Surrogacy contract and other relevant medical documents
  3. Marriage license
  4. Two passport photographs of the baby. It cost about 130 rupees (~$2) for 6 copies at a store close to the hospital
  5. US Passport Application Form DS-11
    • When applying for an emergency passport, you cannot also submit the Social Security Card Request Form SS-5
    • The emergency passport is only valid for 1 yr and you are advised to apply for a full validity passport within 1 yr of the issuance of the emergency passport at no extra cost
  6. We did not require documentary evidence showing physical presence in the United States as we were both US Citizens

Our appointment was for 8.30AM and we arrived at about 8:15AM. There was a long line outside the consulate of people waiting, however this line was not for US Citizens and we were directed to the entrance for US Citizens. We were the first people in and provided all the required paper work to the lady at the desk who cataloged and annotated our documents for the consular officer to review prior to our meeting with the consular officer. After providing our paper work and answering a few questions it was time to wait for the consular officer which took about 45 mins. Once we were called by the consular officer, he told us that he was going to ask us some personal questions and then he fired away. Since the consular officer was behind a glass window and was speaking through a speaker with us standing in front of the window, other people in the room waiting for their appointments could pretty much hear everything we were saying. About 15 – 20 mins in the consular officer was satisfied with all the information we provided and we were told that our baby’s emergency US Passport would be ready for pickup in an hour thus did n0t need to proceed with  DNA testing. My wife and I are both US Citizens and our surrogate was a gestational surrogate, as the embryo implanted was a product of my wives eggs and my sperm and thus unrelated to the surrogate. The documentation of my wife’s egg retrieval was provided and the gestational process outlined in the surrogacy contract. We proceeded to pay the required fee, $250 in total, which I paid using my US credit card. The charge is in dollars and the breakdown is as follow

  1. $100 for CRBA fee
  2. $105 for emergency passport
  3. $50 for a letter with a seal stamp from the US Consulate to the Indian authorities introducing us which is required at the FRRO to obtain the exit visa.

I called the fraud prevention unit after we had left the consulate and cancelled the DNA appointment that we had scheduled for the next day. Since the DNA test may or may not be required, it is advisable to use a DNA lab that does not required the full payment upfront which can be about $600+ just in case it is not needed.

US-Passport

Total time at the Consulate from walk in to walk out with US Passport in hand was about 4 hrs. We were another step closer to heading home. Now onto the FRRO.

– Tusk

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