Since our return, I’ve spoken with many women (and some husbands) on their respective family journeys. Most recently, I spent 3+ hours in two days with a sweet (over the telephone) Indian woman who has lived in the U.S. a while and needs help to achieve the dream of family. I earnestly am praying that her road is smooth and outcome positive like ours.
With intense memories, thoughts, and feelings during our conversations, India has been swirling around extra in my head, and I am missing it. So tonight I began to peruse our trove of photos. With a painfully slow computer and an early morning volunteering at our daughter’s camp, I didn’t dig deep, yet easily can settle for this one shot that reveals the fun we had outside of our newborns’ nest, as we enlarged our oldest child’s heart and mind (and furthered our own) during this spectacular experience.
Enjoyment wherever, however, and whenever together, yet with best judgment prevailing in a mosque, temple, etc. We very much appreciate learning about and respecting cultural and religious differences and err on the side of conservatism.
This is at the Red Fort in Delhi and was about 45 minutes before we received the call from the American Embassy that M&S’s passports were ready for pick-up! We sprang into action, leaving early, as we hoped to get the next chapter launched asap, that of Indian exit visas being stamped into said passports, the most laborious and anxiety-ridden hurdle on this highway of paperwork. We were not eager to leave India, however were in the groove of step-by-step momentum, so kept at it. This was on January 2.
Turns out I ended up holed in a hotel business center for 3 hours the rest of that afternoon scaling digital photos of the babies to exacting specifications for the online exit visa applications and wrangling with dysfunctional drop-down menus! Patience is the overriding virtue here, and thankfully that was assisted by the business center attendant who offered tea AND happened to be a brilliant tech guy able to outwit the glitches. I wrote a commendation to his manager in hopes of his brighter future and was glad at least that B&R could enjoy proper “tea time” upstairs and explore the grassy grounds while Johar and I navigated towards the grand finale of our family + new additions being granted permission to leave the country.
M&S have been rolling front-to-back for quite a while, then M started rolling back-to-front at week 22 and S at week 23. It’s so cute how they arch their backs, lean to a side, and then press off with toes of the opposite side foot.
So now that they are rolling ALL OVER, they’re in lots of contact with each other, which is really fun.
Here they are a little disheveled in the hat department after a long, fun yesterday!
And toe-catching is their new thing!
Bitter + sweet
Three weeks ago, our eldest daughter turned five, which coincided with M&S happening to be 21-weeks-old. And it got me thinking … of the pregnancy we lost at 20 weeks 2 days. Our babies have been out of Khina’s womb as long as our lost baby was in my womb. Perhaps overthinking, and it’s purely a numerical train of thought, yet is reflective of my thoughts easily turning towards our lost and still loved one, whose brief life still deserves our respect and acknowledgement. In fact, I think very often of it because we would not have M&S were it not for the path our loss charted for us.
I also came across this photo around that time after an external hard drive croaked and I was in the recovery process. It was taken two days before all hell broke loose and my body started to implode. I never forget that I came away unscathed. Well, mentally wrecked once home from the hospital when reality was further saddened, but I survived and feel immense gratitude in my God, for the capabilities and care of humans to intervene with healthy outcomes, and for the “next step” we took that resulted in our most amazing blessings. It *still* feels too good to be true!
It also makes me shivery to think that two days prior we were in the Delta, a rural area of 1,000 miles of waterways (the main contributing rivers are the Sacramento and the San Joaquin), about 1.5 hours from San Francisco. The nearest city is Antioch with about 100,000 people. Almost always I am an optimist, yet the feeling of dread sets in when I think what were to have happened had my symptoms so suddenly started to manifest while in such a remote place. So, another huge positive is that we were ensconced back in the city, and also my husband was back and not on a frequent trip to China. No better bedside visitor than him (our daughter was three and did not visit). I’ve always felt I’ve had “an angel on my shoulder” to look out for me during trying times.
Despite the tinge of pain I feel looking at this and related photos, my overall strong recollection is of a super lovely, blazing golden late afternoon of warmth and gusty sweet air while teaching our daughter how to really fish. And we swam a lot. And we got messy eating watermelon and having seed-spitting contests. And we stayed in a little rustic bungalow. And we ate good fresh fish. And we saw beauty and nature and wildlife. And we came away loving each other even more. And now after our ordeal love each other yet further! (Sorry for the high sap factor.)
Putting down words about this for the first time, I just realized that our family’s joy and love surrounding my final moments of carrying this pregnancy were a fitting send-off for our wee one’s soul.
My first blog entry is about our loss mid-pregnancy, so seems right to have circled back for another on the poignant topic.
Brannan Island State Recreation Area
Rio Vista, CA
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Watching her rod’s action while Dada holds it for a while
She loved caressing the worms! She also loved holding and analyzing the frozen sardines we used as bait on our rods.
A teaching moment
Sweet, smiley, snuggly, and oftentimes sleeping 8-8!
“Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.” C.S. Lewis
As the kids and I were leaving our four-hour session at the park on this warm and golden afternoon, the last person we passed on the way out was a frail elderly Indian woman with a lovely smile and lively eyes as she saw the babies approaching. Of course we stopped to engage with her. She had minimal English, but I was able to learn that she is from Darjeeling, the home of our surrogate. Despite my exaggerated hand motions, it didn’t seem she comprehended our surrogate story, probably wondering why I was so animated learning her origin, and I was glad she didn’t notice the accumulation of tears which I willed away to keep my composure.
A short bit later, she and her granddaughter passed us as we were tucking into the car, so more happy chatting, then her daughter joined and was able to explain to her our blessing of a surrogate. As usual, I welled up sharing the beauty for both our and our surrogate’s family. And then we learned that we live on the same street just a few blocks away.
Life is extra neat when its pieces line up like this. It was just one of those shooting-star encounters that touched me deeply, emphasizing the larger connection we can all have in our lives. Prior to this, I had never met a person from Darjeeling (even while visiting India twice), and now there I was with two babies born to a Darjeeling woman while speaking with a precious Darjeeling elder. (She had few teeth which is from old age or else perhaps a sub-standard previous quality of life.) We both reached out at the same time for a tight goodbye hug. And that time she knew I was emotional because I was too choked up to voice a final goodbye. Just as I have thought about her the rest of this evening, I feel pretty certain that she is doing the same about us. Further connected.
So here is a nutshell on Darjeeling, with scads of photos that were fun to peruse and choose:
It is located in the Lesser Himalaya at an average elevation of 6,710 ft (2,045.2 m) and dates back to the mid-19th century when the colonial British administration set up a “hill station” there.
A hill station is a village, post, or town at a higher elevation than the nearby plain or valley where government officials and others can be stationed to escape the great heat of tropical summers. The term was used mostly in colonial Asia (particularly India), but also in Africa (albeit rarely), for towns founded by European colonial rulers as refuges from the summer heat, up where temperatures are cooler. In the Indian context, most hill stations are at an altitude of approximately 3,500 to 7,500 feet (1,000 to 2,500 metres); very few are outside this range.
Subsequently, extensive tea plantations were established in the region, and tea growers developed hybrids of black tea and created new fermentation techniques. The resultant distinctive Darjeeling tea is internationally recognized and ranks among the most popular of the black teas.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, connects the town with the plains and has one of the few steam locomotives still in service in India.
Darjeeling has several British-style public schools, which attract students from India and neighboring countries. (Author’s note: Amazing to know that Khina’s two children now can attend one of these fine schools.)
The varied culture of the town reflects its diverse demographic milieu consisting of Nepalese, Tibetan, Bengali and other ethno-linguistic groups.
Snow leopards and red pandas
This lake is nearby in either Sikkim or Nepal.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a must when our family travels here in the future (perhaps 10 years?). Ideally, we will be able to visit with Khina and her family, but, if not, just being in Darjeeling will help to shape the circle of our babies’ lives.