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. Our babies have the spirit of Darjeeling blood in them.
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.
So, listening to “Love Me Thoda Aur” (various artists) on www.gaana.com (www.mio.to is another site for Indian music) and ready to roll out an update….
Delighted to report that M&S continue to thrive! At their 5-week appointment (January 21), they were:
M: 9 pounds 10 ounces, 20.5″
S: 9 pounds 9 ounces, 21″
At their 8-week appointment (February 11):
M: 10 pounds 14 ounces, 21.75″
S: 10 pounds 10 ounces, 21.75″
So they are quite close in weights and lengths. As an aside (I’m a compulsive numbers geek): R was 22″ at birth, which was at 41 weeks 5 days. So M&S’s birth at 33 weeks 3 days + their 8-week appointment almost exactly equates to the age of R at birth, with their lengths just about the same! However, M&S weigh far more (R was 7 pounds 4 ounces) due to packing in the formula 🙂
More important, their hearts sound super healthy, as are their eyes/ears/nose, etc. They were champs at the appointments, even receiving shots. They are even-keeled, yet alert and happy, babies and are making it even more of a thrill and pleasure to be their parents.
Their smiles have REALLY begun to emerge! Oh my goodness, it is just the best. I will have to capture video. They also are starting to make sounds, so the fun is amping up! And then once they start engaging more with us AND with each other, the games will really begin. So looking forward to each new day, yet devoted to remaining present in these current days and moments, as they likely are our last “infant days” to experience and cherish. M&S don’t seem entirely like infants, having already grown out of newborn-size clothing (sniffle, sniffle), yet of course technically they still are very young babies.
Thinking we were moving to China, I had either given away or consigned a bunch of R’s baby “things,” for lack of a better word. As both babies LOVE to press their feet and stand, while we hold under their armpits, and can even support their own weight, I went ahead and ordered a doorway jumper which arrived today. Amazon’s description said they are for 5.5 pounds and up. That seemed way too light, however, I cross-referenced Graco’s own website for the product, which indicated the same. At any rate, these guys have been holding up their necks since birth and often are pushing or moving their legs in some way, so we will give the jumper a gentle, highly supervised try later today (they’re napping now, ergo my writing). They are strong little critters. In fact, S’s natural posture very much resembles his dada’s. M was until recently eating more than S, so it was surprising they were so close in weight, but now it’s clear that much of his weight comes from his broad shoulders, whereas M’s is packed in her cute belly 🙂
They are doing pretty well at nighttime (waking usually two times) and nap mostly easily during the day, although sometimes there are those comic moments when one finally falls asleep JUST as the other one wakes up. You think, “Really? Am I on “Candid Camera”?” It is remarkable, as the switches can happen within a nanosecond of each other. Welcome to the world of twins! But they do go down quite easily, especially compared to woes I’ve read on forums. We are grateful for this stroke of luck and/or the sleep gene. R also was a star sleeper. From what I’ve read and from common sense, babies who eat more and are heavier generally sleep more soundly.
Okay, now time to share some photos while this writing window is open! Especially on this subject, it feels so good to be writing again!!!
Photos are through January 26. Will add more in another post soon….
Happened to find a parking space in front of the Indian visa processing company. Memories; not necessarily bad, but not glimmering either! What a hurdle clearing all of that documentation.
My *3* kids!
B and the girls
Tummy time, loving it
Droopy sleeping. R also liked being upside-down in various positions, including being held (and swung) by her feet!
Some things stay the same – wrestling! (And this is tame.)
Flying high physically and I know inside also (proud big sister!)
B and *3* kids!
First American pediatrician appointment. So much the same as with R, yet two hands full 🙂
Younger sibling treatment already for S 🙂
Ladybug love for S while he does his favorite thing in the bouncer, gazing at tree branches
Disheveled backdrop, but comfy babies!
All eagles have landed, and this certainly is an overdue check-in to say that we are back! All has gone super well, yet of course we were/are tired from jet lag and parenting two new additions and have been busy setting up our nest and “nesting.”
There is much more to expand upon, but for now here is a handful of photos of our new life back home. My cousin, who is like a sister, arrived last night for a very welcome visit, so just squeezing in this quick update. I will share more later about our journeying, as well as fill in several chapters remaining while in India.
Baby base station!
Comfort zone of Dada’s lap
M held her own bottle the other night! Actually, I positioned her strong and active hands, but she held it up for a few minutes.
My happy big girl
On Saturday, December 28, a Saturday, at 4:00 at our clinic, we met Khina, our surrogate, and her husband, Nilkant. Their children were with relatives at the time. I have held off on writing about this because I had too many emotions and too little time, and I wanted to describe it just right, but finally I will write no matter whether I capture it exactly as I wish because I want to share the photos!
The meeting exceeded our already high expectations. It was relaxed and pleasant and tender. The clinic had told us to bring M and S, so the seven of us, plus Nabanita, a clinic staffer who interpreted, sat and spoke small talk then big talk. We of course thanked her and him for the blessings they had allowed us, our new children, and we said how glad we were to help their family through their generous act. Nilkant said, “We are not rich people,” and remarked upon how much this would change their lives, especially and most importantly their children’s education and future. Their son wants to be a doctor and their daughter a teacher. B had some concern about us being the seemingly wealthy Americans and the financial chasm that might be obvious between our pairing, yet it seems they were a lower middle class or middle class family. (This defies those who oppose Indian surrogacy for “trolling the slums and preying on the poor.” One of the reasons we chose SCI is because they are ethical.) Nilkant has his own business in a social worker capacity. They both were reserved, yet looked in our eyes as we did in theirs, and there was surety and confidence. I asked where they lived, and they said 900 kilometers outside of the city, so I asked in which direction (I love geography!), and it turns out they are from the east, in Darjeeling, a beautiful mountainous area of tea plantations in a little finger of Indian land nestled between Nepal 10 miles to the west, Bhutan 30 miles to the east, and Bangladesh 25 miles to the south. Train is their mode of transport to Delhi, and it must be a stunning ride.
I had actually first seen Khina while Dr. Shivani was giving me a tour of SCI. As we were coming to a close, she opened yet one more door to introduce me to staff, and it was the office of a doctor. At quick glance I could tell that a surrogate was sitting facing her, so out of privacy I did not take a close look. Then Dr. Shivani casually said, “Oh, and this is Khina.” I was very caught off-guard and I’m sure my eyes flew open wide, but as they were in the midst of a medical consultation, we went back into the hallway, and I asked Dr. Shivani to please make sure first that Khina knew that we would talk when we met her soon, as it was odd to see her so suddenly, then to just leave.
When Khina and Nilkant came into the lounge room to meet us, we all sat on sofas in a circle and began with tons of smiles. Nilkant has good basic English, and it was wonderfully unexpected to be able to speak directly to him without full translation. As our conversation progressed beyond small talk, in particular after asking how Khina was recovering (which is well!), I went over to hug her, which was reciprocated, then sat down next to her. Soon the babies were in our laps, and it was just so natural and easy. I felt like she was a sister or a very good friend, that we had known each other a long while. I also felt even more of a sense of comfort knowing that our babies had been nourished and grown from within her.
One of the reasons I was so fond of Nilkant is because he twice said how proud he is of his wife for wanting to be a surrogate and finding the opportunity to do so. His support spoke much about their marriage being respectful, and I adored them as people and as a couple. It was very hard to say goodbye.
Before we parted, I handed them gifts for Khina and her daughter and son, 10-years-old and 7.
While together, I did not tear up, but when SCI’s admin team came in to meet us, as I told them how amazing our exchange was, then the tears began to well. While with Khina, I was too exhilarated and joyful about the opportunity to be together and liking them so much that it did not hit me. But after telling the staff, and then especially once back at our apartment feeling emotionally drained but still exhilarated, I found myself standing in the stillness of the kitchen closing my eyes and processing what had just transpired and being moved to tears. B came in and saw me and landed a hug, and then heavy tears flowed, tears of the beauty of what has been accomplished in both of our families (positive changes) and the affection we feel towards each other. I had a few other bouts of beautiful, deep emotion that evening as it all sunk in. That afternoon is one of my life’s most unforgettable chapters and is framed in awe in my memory forever.
I look forward to writing to Khina and Nilkant every half-year or so and sending photos of M and S and also to hopefully hear from them about their family and any progress they wish to share about their new upward trajectory. I feel like we’ve “kickstarted” their home life, and what a feeling that is.
It is approaching 1am now, so promise to download our meeting photos in the morning!
So now it is next day, and here are the photos of both our meeting with Khina and getting to better know some of the SCI staff!
One thing I notice:
As I have my arm around her, Khina has her hand on my leg.
One thing I know and feel:
That we need to see her and Nilkant again.
I just happily told B that I noticed Khina’s hand on my leg, and he said, “Yea, she really liked you a lot. I could tell.” I had e-mailed the clinic to tell them, “So nice and fun to meet you, Dr. Shivani, and the team yesterday! We felt very welcomed and relaxed, and certainly the highlight was meeting Khina and her husband. We will never forget it. The feeling was warm and wonderful. We *really* like them and think they are very good people. Our hope is to stay in touch with them for a long time.” And the clinic wrote back, “We all at SCI were very very pleased to meet you on Saturday. Khina and her husband were also extremely happy to meet you and B along with the babies.” Although I felt it had gone really well, it was awesome to receive this confirmation, and then when B chimed in tonight, it made me imagine that a visit with them will happen some day. We have tossed around the idea of coming back to India when M&S are 10, and Darjeeling would be a pleasant and doable side trip packed with meaningfulness. I really fell for Khina and Nilkant, and friendships are among the essences of life, so we plan to keep this long-distance affection alive.
I do wish we had a photo of Nilkant, however he politely stepped aside from being included, probably feeling that Khina was the sole one who deserved the attention!
Two of the first things I noticed when we received Khina’s “Surrogate Profile” back in May were her dimples and sparkling eyes, and they were even better in person. She is simply lovely.
Some shots taken by our littlest new photographer:
These are intense. I welled up right away. R hugged Khina and said, “Thank you for my little sister and little brother.”
I had a brief intro with the SCI admin staff (with whom I have exchanged a LOT of e-mails) during my tour with Dr. Shivani. Breaux had met them back in April. It was fun to have them come in to hang out together.
R blinking, then B blinking, so adding both!
And remembered that SCI sent us this non-blinking one, which, with our permission, will be included on their blog and Facebook site. I just looked, and we’re already there!
Back home with baby love and still bubbling inside with exhilaration.