Monday, April 30, 2012

The Wisdom of India: Delhi Day 28

Last week was not our best.

If this past month was a painstakingly built sea-line sandcastle, then last Wednesday was most definitely a big old shore-crashing wave.

Nevertheless, after a really lovely night with Chad, Doug, and Kate and caramel popcorn, french fries and cheeseburgers-- these guys really know how to make a girl feel at home-- I was fired up and ready to rebuild, shovel and sieve in hand.

Starting with a trip to the Embassy.

To be honest, I was quite excited, rising at 6 a.m., getting an early start in anticipation of some "unexpected" traffic (note that in Delhi you should always anticipate "expected" traffic), and feeling in an overall cheerful ready to take this week by the horns sort of mood. 

In honor of the occasion, we all donned our most patriotic attire. 

And after a quick one and a half hour drive, we arrived. 

I waited about forty-five minutes, was asked to hand over some documents, waited another half hour or so, and was called to the cashier to make a payment.

I hand over my credit card. 

Um, madam, I am very sorry to tell you that the credit card machine is broken today. 

Wait. Wha....???? 

Um, yes, you know we cannot process anything without payment, so you will have to come up with payment some other way. You should not worry, though, because if you walk out the door, and make a left, and then a right, and then five more lefts and rights, circle the roundabout, past the temple and the five spotted cows, then you will see a market. At the market, you will find an ATM. There you can get cash. 

Well yes, technically, if I had an ATM card-- and was crazy enough to take on pedestrian status in Delhi-- I could get cash. The problem being, I don't have an ATM card. (As for the crazy issue, it's still up for vote.)

Well madam, I am very sorry that we will not be able to help you today. 

It was a test. I could feel the Hindu gods looking down upon me. Arms crossed, eyebrows raised, lips turned up into a half smiles. Bernadette, in two days time, you will have been here one month. You have swapped your coffee for tea, your hello for namaste, your heels for bare feet and your Post for the Hindustan. But show us that you have acquired more than what is on the surface. Show us that you have acquired the wisdom of India. And, indeed, I did...

You see, one month ago, I would have responded as follows. I would have demanded that the person who created the problem take responsibility for fixing the problem, raced out of the Embassy and foregone picking up my cell phone from the checkpoint-- thinking I could make it through the whole day without it, calculated that I could make the 3 hour round trip back to Saket in 3 hours, counted on having enough RS back at my hotel to fund the payment, relied on making it back to the Embassy prior to its shutting down for lunch, all the while anticipating that after I finished at the Embassy, I could still make it to the NICU in time for Scarlett's feed because my second 3 hour round trip of the day-- just like my first-- would also only take, 3 hours.

But not yesterday. Yesterday, rather than respond in the manner above, I accepted that I would need to take full responsibility for fixing a problem created by someone else that has now adversely affected me, I recognized that I must pick up my cell phone as it's inevitable that I will need to call Rahul no less than ten times in the next hour for general help in all areas, I accepted that the 3 hour round trip to Saket will take no less than 4 hours because there will certainly be a bus accident, a broken down tuk-tuk, two weddings and a government protest along the way, I anticipated that I would not have enough RS on hand in my room and would need to factor in an additional trip to the money changer-- who would surely be out with some unexpected surgery today, I predicted that I would arrive back at the Embassy exactly .000012 seconds after it breaks for lunch and that it would most definitely not make an exception for the girl who was forced to leave because their credit card machine was broken, all the while knowing that there ain't a chance in hell that I'm making it to the NICU in time for Scarlett's feed, as that 3 hour round trip to Pitampura will surely take 5 hours due to an encounter with all of the above mentioned  obstacles faced on the prior trip back to Saket, plus an additional herd of immobile cows blocking the only road leading into town.

And so, rather than make any attempt to accomplish further activities at the Embassy, I calmly smiled at the cashier, and I mean it-- a real, genuine smile, apologized for not anticipating that the credit card machine would be down today-- silly me, I should have known, and made the decision to start again tomorrow. I picked up my cell phone, called Rahul, and headed to the NICU, where I did, indeed, make it in time for Scarlett's next feed.

Below was Scarlett's reaction when I told her about my day. Ordinarily my calm one, this girl has got a closet temper. 

Still preoccupied with his weight gain, Hayden was too busy engaging in his afternoon calisthenics to care.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Scarlett Shapes Up: Delhi Day 24

So Scarlett and I had a little chat today. Mommy told her of a really beautiful place in India called Zara. Mommy explained that Zara just happens to be attached to Mommy's house in India. Indeed, all Mommy has to do is walk through her hotel door and there it is-- Zara!

My perceptive Scarlett concluded that Daddy would not be happy if he had to simultaneously pay for both Mommy's visits to Zara as well as her own stay at Hotel Delhi New Born.

Amazingly, Scarlett has decided that she no longer needs oxygen, as she would like to be released as soon as possible. Such a bright girl, she is!

A few pictures from today...
Let's hear it for my sister! Woot! Woot!

Sleeping Scarlett recovers. 

Hey, Mom! Notice anything different about my face? Good job, buddy-- no C-Pap today!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day... that got better: Delhi Day 23

I walked into the centre today to find Scarlett on oxygen, an IV and a feeding tube.

Right before I left the hotel, I had been catching up on one of my favorite NICU mom blogs.

I had left off at this post, and as I'm standing in the middle of the centre, unable to ask the nurses what's going on because they speak Hindi, furiously dialing my mom on my local cell phone-- knowing full well it doesn't dial long distance, and angrily swiping away tears after swearing I would never cry in front of my children, but unable to sneak in the restroom because for goodness sake I don't even have access to a "Western toilet," all I remember thinking is I really wish I had a NICU scrapbooking club right now.

What I really meant was I really wish I was home. With my family. In America. Where everyone speaks English. And where I sure as heck could find a "Western Toilet" to wash away my tears.

A discussion of a possible blood transfusion followed as did a question about whether I was the genetic mother.


Overall, a perfectly horrible, no good, very bad day. 

Thanks to the amazing Bhatia family for allowing me to take over their suite with my tears, Scarlett's twin roomies' mommy for the hug, and my good friend Rahul for going to great lengths to cheer me up. Aside from providing the the best car service in India, laundry transporting and gym equipment purchases (more on this funny one later), he is also an amazing friend.

When his driver informed him that I had been "weeping" on the way home, he insisted on coming by and taking me to the temple. Indeed, we ended up doing a bit of temple-hopping followed by a really lovely dinner of Punjabi food in Connaught.

When I arrived home, I took inventory of the multiple blessings on my forehead, the red string around my wrist and the various good luck paraphernalia in my purse. I reflected on all the support I had received from my friends here in India, and most importantly, I talked to Scarlett's doctor who told me she would not be needing a blood transfusion at this time.

I've come to the conclusion that it's likely I'll survive... even without a NICU scrapbooking club.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy One Month Birthday: Delhi Day 21

Scarlett Rose, March 23, 2012
April 23, 2012
Hayden Michael, March 23, 2012
April 23, 2012

One. Month. Old. 

A year ago, I struggled with whether surrogacy in India was the "right" decision. I feared the unknown and contemplated all that could go "wrong"--

failed cycles
lost pregnancies
preterm labor
unexpected costs
 extended stayS in India

On April 2, 2011, I put aside my fears and sent my very first email to our clinic.

On April 2, 2012, I boarded a plane to meet OUR CHILDREN.

Isn't it extraordinary how so many wrongs can produce something so incredibly right?

To all those parents-in-waiting, paralyzed by the fear of what could go wrong should you take that next step, may our children be an inspiration to seek what you know is right.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sarees, Street Food & Holding Hayden: Delhi Days 17-19

So after a mediocre Day 17 and a below average Day 18, we had a well worth the wait Day 19. I'll let the pictures do the posting!

Thanks to the awesome Avey for capturing my first Hayden hold!
Hayden reminds me that I am only allowed to hold him for 1 minute.  
Scarlett listens intently as I relay Hayden's adventure out of his crib.

Someone told Scarlett that gaining weight is the key to her release. Suddenly, she is my champion eater!
Cotton and adhesive tape wardrobes are all the rage in the NICU.

Gurudwara Sis Ganj

Saree shopping in Old Delhi
Avey dutifully takes pictures as I try on every one in the store.

Across the street to the tailors to have the blouse and petticoat sewn.

An authentic Indian food experience!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Little Help from My Friends: Delhi Days 15 & 16

So what does one do when they are living in India, coping with the stress of all things Indian, two preemies in the NICU, never ending bills and a family and husband who are 7000+ miles away?

Well if they're as lucky as me, they lean on their friends.

Since arriving in Delhi, I have been fortunate enough to form some truly amazing friendships with people from all around the world. Different countries, different ages, different family compositions, but all with the same goal-- to become parents.

Tonight, 18 of us gathered for dinner at TGIFridays. 18! One of my new friends asked how I "found" all these people. To be honest, we are actually fairly easy to spot. Single women alone in India, anyone carrying a few day old baby or often bab(ies), the same guy/gal sitting at the pool... for the 14th day in a row-- just a few clues that one has spotted a bona fide SCIer.

What's really incredible, however, is to listen to the stories that brought each one of us to Delhi. My new friends are the most strong, resilient and creative individuals I have ever met. To hear the obstacles they have overcome to embark on this journey will take your breath away.

I am so proud to have acquired these new friendships-- long-lasting friendships that will surely survive our short stays in India. (Dear Avey, I use the word "short" loosely.)

and now for the update...

As the babies progress, it's of course inevitable that we will have some setbacks. Yesterday, both babies has lost weight and Hayden was intermittently using the C-Pap with no oxygen.

It was fascinating for me to hold some of the other recently born babies last night. How different it was to not be repetitively "extending the neck" for an unrestricted airway, scratching feet to remind the baby to breathe and constantly checking to ensure the baby was not in distress. I am certainly looking forward to this day with my own children.

Below are a few pictures (starting with the most exciting first)!

An elephant passes us in traffic. I believe this says a lot about the speed at which traffic often moves in India. 

Hayden requested an eye mask for his daytime naps.
Scarlett gives me a knowing smile not to worry, she's got this bottle thing under control. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Just Another Day in the NICU: Delhi Day 14

Hey Mom, if I look cute enough, do you think we could finally take this feeding tube out ?

OUCH! Peeling all that tape off my face was really painful!

Checking to see if it is really gone.

Rechecking the other side.
Still trying to get over the shock of it all.

Scarlett gives me a big cheesy grin sans feeding tube.

Sleeping beauty (or beast). My little man has got one hairy back! Doing well on room air today.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happy Blogoversary: Delhi Days 12 & 13

A whole year since my very first post!

And how appropriate that I should find myself IN India, awaiting the homecoming, er hotel-coming, of the two most beautiful beings I've ever laid eyes on.


For the past hour I've been crying.

Not to worry, nothing to do with the blogoversary-- I mean it's exciting, but not that exciting-- simply my dinner du jour which I selected to celebrate.

KFC's fiery grilled chicken. 

And no, they do not sell it minus the fiery. Indeed, the cashier, clearly sensing that I was in celebration mode, slipped in an extra ten packets of tango sauce!

Unfortunately, because my taste buds were about to fall off just looking at it, I never got around to sampling the "tango."

So this morning, I was chatting with "the greatest little sister ever" as I contemplated how to capture this day of reflection in none other than--a blog post, and in addition to suggesting that I somehow manage to slip in a certain five words (can you guess which ones?), she thought a "Best Of" post might be appropriate, a suggestion with which I wholeheartedly agreed.

Until I started reading through all of my posts.

At which point I really was crying. Only these tears had nothing to do with chili flake covered poultry.

Had we really experienced ALL THIS in the span of a year?

The apprehensiveness of wiring thousands of dollars to a doctor we had never met, the exhilaration of traveling 7000+ miles to a country we knew nothing about, the thrill of spending a week in India, the devastation of finding out that both transfers had failed, the uncertainty with which we proceeded again, the caution with which we celebrated our success, the fearlessness with which we toasted our first trimester's end, the bitterness of losing another pregnancy, the uneasiness with which we traipsed through our second trimester, the amazement of realizing that we had made it to the third, the fear of finding out that our babies had been born at 29 weeks, the guilt that accompanied wishing that they had waited, the raw joy of realizing that despite all we have endured...


As it turns out, there are no Best Of posts. Each and every one of these posts, they all make up OUR STORY. They cannot be separated, as what happened prior and what happened after are integral to understanding what happened at the time.

And as for what has yet to come? For those curious, please do keep on reading...

and now for the update...

Around 6 p.m. last night, Hayden found himself back on the C-Pap. No oxygen needed, but he was looking too distressed on room air only. Additionally, he is still on Lasix, caffeine, and a nebulizer twice a day. Though Lasix is a diuretic, the doctor was pleased to see that he is continuing to gain weight. (Seriously, this kid does not miss a meal.) The goal now is to continue supporting his lungs, in hopes that he will not have long-term respiratory problems, a determination which cannot be made until he is closer to his term date.

Poor little guy was NOT happy to be reacquainted with his helmet.
Scarlett is plugging away at "spoon feeding" or as we would say in America, taking a bottle. Today, just as the nurse was about to feed her, I swiftly snatched the bottle and asked in my sweetest voice if I could give it a try. Under very close supervision, I was allowed. Lo and behold, mommy knows how to feed her daughter! Unfortunately, the task is exhausting for Scarlett, and she tends to fall asleep and/or oxygen drops mid-feed. In time, we will get there.

So maybe her diaper was a little too tight or maybe, just maybe, my girl's got a little belly! (Must be the result of Mommy's bottle feeding skills!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

3 Weeks Old and Breathing on His Own: Delhi Day 11

I walked into the NICU today, glanced over to where Hayden's incubator is usually located, saw a happy, healthy, wide-eyed, breathing assistance-free baby  in his spot and began to search the room for my son.

Then it dawned on me. Could that be him?!? I am embarrassed to say that I crept over to the incubator, held my breath, and slowly checked his hospital bracelet.

And it was HIM!!!

Gone was my sick, pale, struggling baby, and in his place was a vibrant, bug-eyed, "smiley" boy, kicking and grabbing at everything in reach. I could not believe it! I just stared and cried and laughed as he looked at me with his beautiful blue eyes as if you say, Mommy, are you really surprised?

And surprised I shouldn't be. Given all the obstacles these children have had to overcome to become OURS, surely I shouldn't have expected a minor 29 week delivery to stand in their way.

An interesting side note...yesterday, I received our embryology report for the surrogate who ultimately carried our babies. If you recall, after our first two surrogate cycles failed, we transferred our frozen embryos to two new surrogates.

That put us at a total of 23 embryo transfers-- each with a 70% chance of success.

While the initial 19 embryos transferred were all perfect blasts and 8-cell grade Is, on our 3rd and 4th surrogacy attempts, one of our surrogates received our 4 lesser quality frozen day 2 embryos.

Want to take a guess which ones resulted in our babies?

Happy 3 week birthday to OUR Scarlett and Hayden!

Don't worry, I didn't forget about Scarlett, but as my doctor would say "Yeah, yeah, the girl, you know, she is always doing fine."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Namaste, Scarlett & Hello, Hayden: Delhi Days 9 & 10

I found this poster at Connaught Place the other day and have posted it above the couch. I'd say it does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of this portion of our journey.

Indeed, I feel as if we have made a LOT of progress these past two days on all fronts-- babies, immigration and document collection.

But because I know you really only care about one of the above, I'll save the boring stuff for another day.

So as far as progress on the baby front goes, yesterday we didn't see much change, other than Scarlett deciding that the bottle was far too much work. She has since opted to hang out on her feeding tube for a few more days, before she makes her next attempt.

Yesterday evening, Hayden made his third attempt at C-Pap, and after struggling for the first 4-6 hours, has been able to maintain his oxygen around 25% for most of the day.

When I visited them this morning, I decided to first engage Scarlett in a photo shoot. Naturally, as soon as I got the camera out, Ms. Stubborn decided she wanted no part of it.
Seriously mom, I'm just not in the mood.

Nope, not doing it!
Mom, I said stop!
So I'm jabbering away to Scarlett, trying to coax her to open her eyes with zero success, when one of the "sisters" (nurses) walks over, and says to me in the most sincere voice, "Madam... she speaks Hindi."

Ohhh. Why didn't I think of that?!? Of course, she does! 

Unfortunately, despite daily lessons with my driver, I can manage to churn out one heck of a "Namaste"... and that's about it. Lucky for me, the sister took over in their common language, and sure enough, this results...
To date, my favorite picture of Scarlett!
Anyways, word spreads fast in the NICU, and once Hayden got wind of the fact that Scarlett was boasting of her bilingual skills, he decided that he had enough. It was time for him to show off too. So without further ado, I present to you, Mommy and Hayden's very first conversation (thankfully, it seems he has chosen English as his "mother" language-- for those who can't tell, he is working on his short vowel sounds)...

In addition to an exceptionally good day in the NICU, I also had the pleasure of meeting Kate and her husband, who invited me over for dinner. Three words: Beef, cookies and wine. Oh, and exceptionally good company!

As only those who've "been there" can do, we hit it off immediately, engaging in conversation about eggs and uteruses... and a few non-reproductive system related things as well! We were each thankful that the other had not turned out to be some "internet weirdo" and after meeting my new friends in person, I am sincerely looking forward to following their journey to parenthood-- because I have seen firsthand what amazing parents they will make!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Only Write on the Good Days: Delhi Days 7 & 8

Yesterday, I had a mini-meltdown. Ok, maybe is was a mega-meltdown. I should have known it was coming, as I exceeded my allowable activity limit for the day. The rule is: NICU visit + one other activity, per day. Other "activities" consist of dealing with the immigration process, retrieving necessary documents and preparing correspondence to get same, and making payments to what seems like just about everyone in Delhi. Stick to it, and I manage to survive. Bend the rule a bit and "yesterday" results.

Those of you who have been to India understand the stress that often accompanies trying to accomplish anything. Everything takes longer, miscommunication is expected and often times it's easier to just completely start over, when the result ends up nothing like what was intended at the beginning.

However, if you cannot appreciate these differences (and figure out a way to laugh along the way) then surrogacy in India is not for you. Yesterday, not only did I partake in one too many "activities," I completely forgot to laugh,

As a reminder to myself-- and to all those embarking on, engaging in, and finalizing the process-- to do it today, I have captured in pictures, the 3 Indian NICU essentials:

1. The Lawn Chair-- for holding babies, of course!

2. The Community Shower Shoes-- upon entering the in-patient area, you are required to don a pair. If you happen to be short, and one of the employees happens to be wearing a smaller pair, they will give you the shoes off their feet. Literally. Do not refuse-- it would be rude. (Same rule applies if an employee is served tea and offers it to you. Drink up, my friends!)

3. The Fly Swatter-- I can only speculate on the purpose of this one, as I've yet to see it in action.
 And now for the baby update:

April 9, 2012

Hayden chugging along on the ventilator.

Scarlett expresses her frustration with her brother.
April 10, 2012
Hayden stars in "Sleepless in Pitampura" while Scarlett makes her debut in "Gone With the Feeding Tube."

Note that Mommy really wanted a starring role in this one, however, she was relegated to behind the camera. The nurse felt that a demonstration on "extending the neck" was necessary. Hoping that my skills will be satisfactory tomorrow!