Sunday, November 24, 2013

Two Months!

Yesterday Anjali and Arian turned 2 months old. Our lives have definitely changed in past two months. It has been more than a month since we are back home and it has taken me this long to update the blog. I used to wonder why some parents (specially of twins) don't update their blogs after the babies birth, and now I understand why! And those of you who used to warn me about not being able to sleep once the babies come, you were not kidding! LOL.
We left Delhi on Sunday October 20th taking direct flight on United to Newark, NJ. We had a pretty smooth flight. The United Airlines crew and passengers were all accommodating and helpful. I definitely recommend that direct flight to other parents. Overall it was a pleasant experience despite the long flight, and we were so relieved once we made it home.

Since then it has been challenging first few weeks, but we are adjusting to our new life as best as we can. My mom stays with us about 4 days a week and helps during day which is very helpful, and we take care of the babies at night and weekends. My mom is not very healthy so we cannot fully rely on her, but just having her around and relying on her expertise is priceless. Babies have been doing well and adjusting to their new life here in Brooklyn. The weather has got cold, but we have been taking them out for a walk at least once a week. Our daughter has been having problem with gas and has a tendency to spit up and we have to make an effort to feed her while sitting up right and also pause a few times during the feed. As a result she hasn't gained as much weight as her baby brother. Last Tuesday they had their 8-week visit to their pediatrician. Anjali was 8 lbs 5 oz (3.8 kg) and Arian was 9 lbs 6 oz (4.3 kg). The doctor seems to be happy with their progress. Despite all the hardship of the past 8 weeks, I have to admit I love being a father and it was all worth the trouble to bring them to this world. Every day I have to pinch myself to make sure this is not a dream!

Here are some pictures of the babies taken professionally in past few weeks:

Arian (left) and Anjali (right) at 3 weeks in Delhi
Arian and Anjali - 3 weeks old in New Delhi
Babies at 3 weeks
Baby Arian whispering something to baby sister! - week 5 at home (Brooklyn)
Baby Anjali yawning! week 5
I highly recommend our wonderful photographers, The Creative Lens in Delhi and our dear friend, Nany, here in New York.

Also I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank a few people here.
• First of all we are forever thankful to Dr Shivani and her wonderful staff at SCI. There were many doctors and nurses and staff involved to make this happen.
• Our beautiful surrogate, Shabana, for carrying our babies for over 34 weeks and going through everything. She's an angel that we will forever be thankful for her sacrifices. In our last week in Delhi, we got to meet her and personally thanked her for everything she has done for us. She briefly held the babies in her arms, and we all took pictures together. It was an emotional moment that we will never forget.
• Our beautiful donor - even though we never got to meet her, without her contribution we couldn't have these babies.
• Meg and Margarida for all their efforts and support specially at the beginning. Those two women were simply amazing.
• Our supportive family for being there as we struggled to find a way to have a family. We are forever thankful for that. I still cannot believe a year ago I wasn't out to my parents. And now they are so happy for us and love their grand children.
• Our dear friend, Stacey (also an SCI parent) who held our hands from the beginning and helped us so much throughout the journey. She's even so helpful now with her advice. She is like a sister to me! 
• My good friend, Marion, for showing me the rope and encouraging me to pursue this journey to fatherhood despite the challenges.
• My amazing coworkers specially Debbie who used to listen to me 10 years ago when we used to work together in Dallas. Also Sherry at my current job in past 3-4 years encouraging me not to give up.
• Our wonderful friends who have always been supportive of us (food team, tennis friends, theater community, etc).
• And last but not the least, the surrogacy community specially all the SCI intended parents of August - October time frame. We all held each other's hands as we were reaching the finish line.
This has been an amazing journey, where we got to meet so many wonderful people that I hope to keep in touch and meet up as our children have something special in common: how they came to this world.

The journey to bring Anjali and Arian to this world had a happy ending, and now the journey to raise them to the best of our ability has started. I would like to keep this blog alive and update everyone with their progress / pictures as they reach milestones. Not sure how frequently I will update it though. And maybe in few years if we are lucky and once India figures out its surrogacy laws, we will go back for a sibling project! Thanks for sharing this amazing journey with us, and may all your dreams come true.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dengue Fever?!

So we have had an interesting stay in Delhi in past 2-3 weeks, which is coming to an end. At times it feels like we have been to hell and back!  :) String of our recent misfortunes continued. As my partner was recovering from his cold, I started having fever and headache, and shortly after he started showing the same symptoms. I was convinced our emotional and physical stress was taking its toll out of our bodies! After a visit to Phoenix hospital and some tests, it turned out we both had Dengue Fever. It was frightening at first not knowing how bad things will get. We knew it is not contagious for the babies, as only a mosquito can transfer the virus from an infected person to another.

We checked our platelet counts every other day at ISIS clinic under Dr Shivani's supervision, and our numbers went as low as 50,000 (normal range being above 150,000). The main advice that doctors gave us was to rest for a few days, drink plenty of fluid (including the juice from Papaya leaves), and we managed to get nurses to take care of the babies while we were recovering. Thankfully our platelet counts improved and I want to say everything is back to normal this week.

Last Tuesday, we went to the US embassy for both DNA test and ACS interviews. Everything went smoothly. Although the counselor gave me a little bit of difficult time for wanting to hyphenate the babies last names mainly because Indian birth certificates don't allow hyphens. Anyway with some back and forth, they did approve "Mazidi-Pillai" for their last names!

Meanwhile we haven't been happy with our apartment, Tulip House (B-40 GK1), from the day we moved in. We originally had reserved apartment E-253, but since the babies showed up early that apartment was not available and we had to settle down with B-40. The apartment was not very clean. The staff were helpful but there was always a communication gap. There was also a rat and a small mouse in the kitchen that prompted us to leave. Also still not sure where we got the Dengue Fever. We do not want to blame the apartment for that, but we have seen Mosquitos in the apartment. Anyway my intention for this post is not to bash Tulip House. I am sure their other apartments would have been better options for us but they were not available when we arrived in Delhi. Sandeep in fact was very sympathetic to our problems and offered to let us leave to take care of our health and the babies.

So last Sunday we moved to Apartment 18 (GK1 Enclave), and we have been very happy here. We missed the cook we had at Tulip House, but in so many other ways, this place feels like home.

This week there are many holidays here. Monday was Columbus day and the US embassy was closed. And then Wednesday and Friday is Indian holiday and the FRRO is closed. So I was hoping we can get the babies US passports from the embassy on Tuesday and go to FRRO the same day, but the passports were not ready until 4pm. So this morning we took the babies to FRRO at 9am. It was a crazy place the exact way other bloggers had described it in their blogs. Happy to report by noon, we were able to get our exit visas and leave. It was very straight forward for us. No major question or headache. I was elated once we had the exit visas in our hands!

Technically we could leave tonight if we wanted to, but we decided not to rush and try to enjoy our last few days in Delhi and also to avoid the crowded flights over the weekend. So we have bought our direct ticket from Delhi to Newark leaving Delhi Sunday night.

We used Poonam Jain for all the paperwork, and I highly recommend her. Although I must admit if you have the time and your babies don't show up early, you can do the paperwork yourself, but Poonam and her team definitely took the headache out of the whole process and we are thankful for that.

Despite being sick, we have managed to meet up with Magnus, David (from Australia) multiple times and Lynn and Raja last night. It has been a pleasure knowing these folks and sharing our journey with them.

The babies are doing well and growing well. We will take them to the pediatrician, Dr Anuj, one last time on Saturday before we leave. My next blog should be from Brooklyn! Wishing the best for other IPs getting ready for their turn. My advice: pack mosquito repellent (like OFF) with you. There is definitely a pandemic of this virus in the tropical countries, and you don't want to be the next victim!

Our babies have been growing despite the parents not being well!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Anjali & Arian

Greetings from New Delhi!

Just posting a quick note about our status. So last week we bought our one-way ticket on Air India. We had a direct flight from JFK to Delhi that left on Friday at 3pm and arrived Delhi Saturday afternoon 3pm local time. There was a mix up with our arrival date and SCI thought we are arriving on Sunday, but as soon as we called Rahul, he sent his driver and within one hour, we left the airport and went directly to Eden hospital to see the babies. We arrived after visiting hours, but the nurses allowed us to spend 10-15 minutes with the babies. It was an unforgettable experience.

Couple of unfortunate things happened last week. First my partner got a cold right before the trip and hasn't been feeling well ever since. Secondly, my mother-in-law who was going to come to Delhi to stay with us twisted and fractured her ankle on Friday and had to have a surgery. It was heart-breaking for all of us as I know she was looking forward to seeing her new grand kids, and we were looking forward to spending time with her and get help from her and specially with her expertise with newborns. She is recovering well at the moment. But these things are out of everyone's hands.

We are staying at Tulip House (B-40) two bedroom apartment. Things are going well so far with the apartment. On Sunday we went back to Eden Hospital during visiting hours and met with Dr Anuj. Our babies were discharged on that date and we brought them home. The first few hours, I was fine with both and was so happy holding them despite the jetlag and lack of sleep. The difficulty was my partner was unable to get too close to the babies because of his cold and per advice from Dr Anuj. Sunday night was pretty overwelming as I was up until 6am. At that point we called the nursing services and they send Alice, this wonderful nurse who took over taking care of kids on Monday.

Yesterday we went to SCI, met with wonderful Dr Shivani and all the staff. The birth certificate process has started and we should get them in couple of days. Then met with Poonam and went through the paper work, US embassy interview and FRRO exit process. Hoping we can have our interview with US embassy and the DNA testing done next week. I was able to get some sleep last night (thanks to Alice).

The names for babies are confirmed:
Baby girl: Anjali Nina
Baby boy: Arian Millan

I will leave you with their pictures I took last night:

Our baby girl Anjali - 8 days old
Our baby boy Arian - 8 days old
 Hope everyone is doing well.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The pictures

Monday September 23rd, 2013 will always be remembered as one of the most special days of our lives. This morning at 2:48am EST (New York time), Lalit from SCI sends us this email:

Dear P&S,
We hope you are doing fine.
We would like to inform you that Shabana has gone into labor and she is having strong contractions.
In view of the same, our Obstetrician team has taken her into labor room and planning her delivery.
We will request our colleague- Ms. Nabanita to please visit Eden Hospital to capture photos of your babies after birth.
We will get back to you soon with good news :))
With Best Regards,
Of course we were sleep at the time. But apparently 10 minutes later (3:01AM and 3:03AM EST),  babies are born via C-section. At around 7am when I was waking up to go to work, the phone rings. As soon as I looked at the caller ID, I knew it's from India. Dr Shivani congratulates us and gives us the update. It was so wonderful to hear her voice giving us the good news. Then we get this email with pictures attached: 
Greetings from SCI Healthcare!!!
Congratulations on Achieving Parenthood.
Please find attached the Pics of your babies.

Also please find below the health status of your babies:
  • Both the babies are healthy and fine.
  • Both the babies are on Demand Feed.
  • Vitals and Systems of Both the Babies are Stable.
We would like to inform you that your baby girl & baby boy are in Eden Hospital.
We would like to request you to please find below the contact number of Dr. Anuj (Pediatrician at Eden Hospital).
If you have any concern in mind or you need any updates regarding your baby girl & baby boy, you can directly contact Dr. Anuj to clarify the same.
We all at SCI are very happy for you and looking forward to meeting you soon.
Please feel free to contact me for further assistance.

Thanks & Regards

So the babies showed up 2-3 weeks earlier than expected. But the good news is they are healthy and won't be needing NICU. So now we are in a hurry to pack and get ready to book our hotel and head to Delhi. Have spent most of the day dealing with work, HR, talking to family and friends and doing last minute paperwork. It's going to be a crazy week. Have shed a few tears when talking to loved ones. Have been waiting for this moment all my life, and I cannot believe it's finally here and we'll get to hold them in our arms in few days. I feel emotionally drained and my brain is scattered all over the place at the moment. Need to get some sleep soon. 
We haven't finalized the names. Would like to see them in person before naming them.
May all your wishes and dreams come true. Ours definitely did today. 
Introducing our bundles of joy :)

Our baby girl born at 3:01AM
Our baby boy born at 3:03AM

Babies are here!!!

Speechless Monday!

Dear Brooklyn Couple,

Item Thumbnail
We would love to Greet you as God has blessed you with a beautiful & lovely baby girl and a smart & healthy baby boy.

We wish your babies to be as fascinating, beautiful, cheerful, smart and kind as you. Let the lucky stars always follow them.
Please note their details :

Twin 1-
Sex: Female
Date: 23rd September 2013
Time: 12:31 PM
Weight: 2.33 kg

Twin 2- 
Sex: Male
Date: 23rd September 2013
Time: 12:33 PM
Weight: 2.25 kg 
Your little master and little princess are so cute and we all are so happy for you as you have got the most precious present.
Our Colleague Ms. Nabanita will get back to you soon with their photos and further details.
With Best Regards,
on behalf of SCI Healthcare
A-28, Kailash Colony
New Delhi- 110048
Ph: 91 11 41034631

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Week 34

Just a quick update that we received our 34-week scan and our surrogate mom and the babies are all doing well. Here are their stats:

• Twin1: 4.8 pounds (2191 grams)
• Twin2: 5.2 pounds (2343 grams)

That's exactly 10 pounds together! Sorry Ms S for having to carry all that weight around for us! :) According to the report, both babies are in cephalic presentation now.

Supposedly week 34 is a big milestone in pregnancy. Still cannot believe we are at this stage and getting closer to the finish line. We have checked with Dr Shivani and she's recommending we should be there by week 38, which is mid October. But something tells me we have to go before then! I have read that majority of twins are born around week 36-37. Hoping the babies will stay put for another 3 weeks so we can finish our remaining shopping and shelf projects. We don't want to inconvenience them with those tasks when they are here!

The war for picking baby names continues. Lol. While we have pretty much settled with the 2 boy names, the girl names are still up in the air because we have too many choices. For their last names we want to hyphenate ours. Hoping we won't have any issues for their birth certificate or passports. Would like to hear from other parents with similar experience.

Congratulations to SCI clients Anwar and Magnus each having twins recently.  Best wishes to each family.
Will share our packing list in next blog.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Week 32

No news from SCI, but a few random thoughts in my head to share. Have been quite busy with the remaining preparations. Most of the shopping for the major baby items are done. Still need to pick up a few smaller things. I have to say the hardest decision was buying a double stroller. As other parents can attest, you would need at least two sets of car seats and two sets of strollers for babies throughout their childhood. The choices for double strollers get limited and can get expensive compared to single strollers.  After lots of research and visiting baby stores, we finally decided to start with a simple "Universal Baby Trend Snap N Go" stroller, where you can easily snap two infant car seats into it. Hopefully after a few months when we don't need to snap car seats into the stroller, we will buy them a double stroller (hopefully City Select or City Mini). Funny how these days I turn my head on streets when I see strollers, not only to check out the stroller, but also the babies inside! :)

In past few months we have got many great advice from parents from all walks of life. Interestingly we find many contradictions. What works for one parent may not work for another. For example, our neighbor keeps swearing the diaper genie is a must-have, whereas I hear from others it's waste of money! At the end of the day we have to assess each item to see if we really need it. We tend to lean towards the advice of other twin parents, specially those in NYC because they share similar challenges.  In past few months our good friend Stacey, an SCI mom, has been so helpful with her advice on so many things including stroller and car seats. I have relied quite bit on her because she has twins via surrogacy, and they live in a small apartment like ours.

Since we live in a two-bedroom small apartment in Brooklyn, at this point we are only buying things for newborns / infants below 6 months. For examples, we are starting with a mini crib and will eventually buy two cribs once the babies get bigger. That should give us time to make room and do the research and also knowing the gender will be helpful in making decisions later on. Definitely raising kids in a big city like NYC is quite challenging as space is limited. I love this storage ad that I recently saw in Manhattan:

Last week my sister and her family visited us from California (the Bay Area), and it was so wonderful spending time with my nephew and niece one last time before becoming parents. Those kids have been a major reason for us to pursue parenthood, and we would always love them and cherish the relationship we have with them even after we have our own kids, although I know we won't have as much time for them as we used to.  This weekend my sister surprised us by announcing that she's expecting her third baby in January! So I am thrilled our twins will have a cousin their age to play with :) My sister and I are only 16 months apart so growing up we were very close like twins. So in a way it's nice to have kids in the same age so we can share the experience. We were joking that once we all get together next year, people might think our kids are triplets! :) Interestingly we have about 7 friends from various cities that are pregnant within few months of us. This is in addition to all the friends expecting via surrogacy. So we should have plenty of support as we go through this journey.

Our next scan is due in 10 days. Time is flying fast. We are now focusing on buying a car, hotel and airline reservation. October 11 is supposed to be my last day at work.  Have a great September everyone.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Week 30: Shower Time!

Last Saturday, August 17th, five of our female friends put together a memorable shower filled with great food, fun games, music even dancing at the end. The party was at our apartment, so we couldn't invite too many people. But we managed to squeeze about 30 guests including 5 toddlers (two sets of twins)! My mom and sister were the only family in attendance. It was such a delight to see all, and we are very thankful to everyone for the gifts they showered us with. 

Baby shower gifts
At the end our wonderful hosts turned the shower into a disco event!
Construction is completed. Babies room painted light purple. Nursery setup is in progress
Shower party favors given to all the guests depicting our monkeys! :)
Our favorite gift of the shower arrived from New Delhi 3 hours before the party in the form of an email from SCI for week 29 scan!  Happy to report our surrogate and babies are doing well. The little ones have been putting on weight (in fact doubling since last scan). According to the scan, twin2 has now surpassed twin1, weight wise:
• Twin1: 3.1 pounds (1420 grams)
• Twin2: 3.3 pounds (1513 grams)
Twin1 is currently in breech position and twin2 is in cephalic position.
Hoping the next few weeks will go smoothly and the babies don't trouble Ms S too much.

While we are happy with our pregnancy and grateful for everything that SCI has done for us, we wish smooth journeys for other IPs currently pregnant as well as those who are trying. And still hopeful India will reconsider its surrogacy laws to include singles and gay people in a near future. Having a child should be everyone's right not a privilege for a few.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Welcome Third Trimester

No update from SCI but we are starting week 28, which is generally known as the end of second trimester, and we are very thankful for it. Although I feel for twin pregnancies the third trimester should be earlier! Time is definitely flying by as past few weeks have been quite hectic with multiple small and large projects happening in parallel. August madness is in full swing!

First off, congratulations to my good friend, Fred, for the arrival of his twin boys. On Sunday I had a pleasant and surprising Facetime session with him and got to see the little Chase and Camden. They are simply adorable babies!! We have been in touch for months and so happy to see him becoming father.  I always looked up to Fred for his advice as he was 9 weeks ahead of us. Now feeling the pressure that we are getting closer!

Here are some updates since my last posting:

• I shared the news with my boss and coworkers. The support has been wonderful. I'm working on planning my backup while I'm away on paternity leave (hopefully for 12 weeks).
• Fixing the apartment took longer than expected but finishing this week.
• Purging the house to make room for the babies stuff. This is painful!
• Last week I had to resign from my condo board membership as I won't have time anymore. Working on transitioning my responsibilities to my replacement.
• Researched pediatricians in our neighborhood and most likely going with TriBeCa Pediatrics which is in walking distance to us. We are attending their orientation / introduction session next month.
• Have signed up for CPR and Safety course - August 22.
• Have signed up for Essential Baby Care course - September 5.
• Introduced ourselves to the US embassy in Delhi and received a link with step by step info for the exit process.
• Started the DNA testing process by reaching to Chromosomal Lab in Arizona. Melissa Valmonte has been very helpful. Thanks to all who recommended her.
• Have started research on buying a car and hopefully will start test driving soon.
• Setup baby registries at Amazon and BuyBuyBaby.
• Our baby shower is set for August 17, and our wonderful friends have been very hard at work. We are grateful for their effort.
• Have created the list of baby items to buy but wanted to wait until after shower. The bigger items like stroller and car seats and the cribs will require more research and comparison shopping.
• Have started looking into setting up a will with a lawyer.
• Making travel arrangements seem too early at this point. But we are aiming to be in Delhi by week 37 which is October 13. That's when the babies are considered full-term. But I know we have to be flexible. So we will think about that in September.  For airline tickets, we'll look for direct flights from NY to Delhi either with United Airlines or Air India.

If we should be aware of anything else at this stage, please provide your feedback or email us directly. We appreciate everyone's support, and I hope my checklist can help the IPs behind us in their journey. Please reach out if you have any question.

Recently when people hear our news they usually give us such advice: "get plenty of sleep; take some vacation; go to nice restaurants now!!" My response to them: "I have rested, vacationed and dined for too long!" LOL Cannot be more than ready for this new chapter of our lives. Maybe I will sing a different tune next year at this time? :)

Our next scan is due in less than 2 weeks.  Happy August everyone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Belly Images

So today we got our week-25 scan, and thankfully everything is ok with our surrogate and the babies. The twins weigh more than one pound each - that's twice their weight last month! Here is a video of what to expect during this stage of the babies development.

Also earlier this week SCI shared with us some belly pictures from our surrogate:

Every time I look at the pictures, I get very emotional, as it makes me realize what an amazing woman she is for doing this for us. We will always regard her as the angel that came to our life giving us our precious gifts!! We are planning to send a gift to her and her children this week as a token of our gratitude.

We have started sharing the pregnancy news with more people. Next week I am planning to tell my boss and coworkers the news as I have to plan my FMLA and backup plan. This week we have joined several parenting groups in our neighborhood including the Brooklyn Parents of Twins group. Very exciting!!

As we prepare for the babies arrival, a few projects are in full swing including the reconstruction of our living room and the baby room that was damaged two years back due to flooding, shopping for the babies, creating the registry, etc. Our friends are planning the baby shower in mid August. We have already spent a few hours at Buy Buy Baby store creating our registry and learning about their products. Time is definitely passing quickly and there is so much to be done!!

Also it is quite interesting to see how we are gradually changing our "extra-curricular activities" as we prepare for the arrival of the babies. Last year I had to stop playing tennis tournaments after 13 years - it used to be my passion for years. And last week, I stopped Bikram Yoga after 9 years of practice! Our priorities in life need to change to make time for the little ones. Will have to figure out creative ways to have a healthy life style while parenting.

Hope everyone is having a great summer (or winter for those IPs Down Under!).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Past Halfway Mark

Last week we received our 20-week scan. According to the report, our surrogate is doing fine and the babies are growing well. The only thing that the scan picked up was the presence of a tiny Echogenic Intracardiac Focus (EIF) in one of the twin's heart! The email from SCI mentioned that "in most cases there is no consequences, and it disappears later". Of course we panicked a little at first. However after some research and talking to a few people, apparently it is seen in 3-5% of all pregnancies during second trimester, and in most cases everything will turn out fine. As a follow up, this week SCI organized a more detailed scan by the Fetal Medicine Specialist, Dr. Vandana. We are happy to report the results are fine, and all the parameters are within normal range - a sigh of relief for the moment as we are past the midpoint of pregnancy. Very happy and grateful for reaching this milestone.

Recently we met up with a friend who has an identical twin sister. She told us when her mom was pregnant with her some 30 years ago here in the US, she had no idea she was carrying twins and her doctor apparently didn't notice! So at about week 26, the mom goes into early labor and everyone was shocked when they saw the second baby coming! Makes me wonder how much we have advanced in medicine and technology in past few decades and what the doctors are capable of doing these days. I must say we feel very fortunate for choosing SCI and Dr Shivani as they are carefully monitoring the pregnancy and taking a good care of our surrogate and babies. Speaking of babies, check out their recent 3D images!! :)

Baby 1 at week 20
Baby 2 at week 20
We have started compiling a list of all the tasks that need to happen before the babies arrive. I am treating this like one big project and assigning priority and due dates for each task (kind of like what I do at work!). I have categorized tasks into two groups: Essential and Non-essential. My goal is to complete all the essential tasks by week 30. Our biggest project that is about to start is fixing our apartment that was flooded 2 years ago from heavy rains, and we finally recently settled with our insurance. Also need to buy a bigger car as our old Acura CL won't be big enough for our growing family. Hopefully all these tasks will keep our minds off the pregnancy a little this summer...

Hope everyone in the blog land is doing well.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

16-Week Scan

Earlier this week the much anticipated wait for the 16-week scan was over and we got the result. It was the first time we had to wait 4 weeks to get the update. Not knowing the exact date made us quite nervous and anxious, so finally decided to send Neha an email to get a status. We are happy to report the twins and the surrogate mom are all doing well. The next scan (20-weeks) is when we should get a 3-D image that everyone talks about. Looking forward to that around mid June. Here is a nice video about what to expect at this stage of pregnancy (Thanks to Meg).

We have gradually started telling our close friends about the news. Not ready to tell my boss and coworkers yet. I think I will wait until second trimester is over. 

Meanwhile we have been wanting to take one last international vacation before the babies arrive as we know traveling with babies gets tougher specially to foreign countries. So we decided to take a 9-day trip to Berlin and Prague and my in-laws (partner's parents) joined us for part of the trip. We have been to a few Western European countries, but this was my first time in East Europe. Prague is particularly a romantic city. We all had a great time. Berlin is much bigger than Prague but not as charming. It was definitely nice to get away from mundane life for few days and not think too much about the journey. However these days my mind and heart is in Delhi no matter where I'm physically.  On our flights I managed to watch two family/comedy movies which I definitely recommend: "This is 40" & "Parental Guidance". They were hilarious and something most IPs can relate to.

I recently found out two of my good female friends are pregnant, one at 20 weeks, and the other at 16. What a pleasant surprise. We have now so much more to talk about, and we are already planning play dates once the babies are here. In fact lately I'm noticing a lot of pregnant women in our neighborhood, which makes me wonder if their kids will go to same school as ours. I know I shouldn't plan too much in advance, but I cannot help it :) also the other day I was at Costco, and I noticed 4-5 sets of twins of different ages. I don't think I was seeing so many twins before, but a friend told me it's natural to notice them more now that we are expecting our own!

Wishing everyone a great memorial weekend, of course If you observe the holiday. And lastly, our thoughts and prayers are with our friends, Fred and Ben & Travis, whose surrogates have been in hospital for sometime. Hoping for a speedy recovery and happy ending for both families. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Living Life to the Fullest

I would like to keep our blogs focused on our pregnancy and not discuss other topics, but I thought I should share one of my biggest struggles in life as it relates to this journey. I decided to write this blog as recently there was so much hype in the US news about the historic day in pro sport as Jason Collins announced he's gay. I applaud his decision to be true to himself and pave the path for others who have been struggling with their sexual orientation.

For me, I have struggled with it for years, and I can write a book about it. Growing up in a conservative society where there is death penalty for gays, I learned to keep my feelings inside from a very young age and live a double life as I thought my family would never understand me if I tell them the truth. Sadly there was nothing in literature or news about gays, and I grew up with so much feeling of confusion, guilt, depression and shame. I kept wondering if I was going through a phase and my feelings will change. Not sure if you read the book or watched the movie "Gone with the Wind". Scarlet O'Hara's famous line had become my favorite line: "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

Not knowing what to do about my feelings, I focused my attention in school, and I tried not to think about my sexuality and the future.  Interestingly I had a couple of gay friends in school who were not out to their families either. Also I had known my grand uncle was gay as he never got married. He lived with his mom for years and once his mother passed away, he lived alone. I was told when he passed away, no relatives knew about his death until few days later when the neighbors reported to police about smell of dead body coming from his house. I was very sad and scared when I heard the news.

Right after high school, I decided to leave Iran, not because of being gay, but mainly because of religious persecution. So I came to the US as a refugee back in 1990. I have been forever thankful for having a new life and the freedom to be who I am. In past few years, I have come out of closet selectively to people that I trusted. I gradually came out to my siblings, but I always knew I could never come out to my parents. First of all, they lived back in Iran. Secondly they are quite traditional and may not be able to understand me. Also health-wise they are not in great shape and I didn't want to add to their stress and affect their well-being. My mother had stroke when she was 49. The few relatives who knew the news advised me not to tell my parents as they will never understand, and their health might deteriorate. Sadly, one of the reasons I postponed parenthood was my parents. I always thought I cannot have kids while they are alive. I was convinced my parents might have a heart-attack if they find out. How would I explain to them where the babies came from and my own sexual orientation? It was a painful thing in my life that I had to wait for the passage of two of the most precious people in my life (my parents) to welcome the soon-to-be precious entities (my children). I do not wish that feeling on anybody.

Meanwhile my goal was to be a father by age 40. In 2008, we decided to sponsor my parents and bring them over to the US. They met my partner and liked him a lot, but I could not come to terms to tell them the truth. Since they moved here, I have taken care of their medical needs, taking them to all sorts of specialists and regular check ups. My mother's diabetes is now better managed, and I think overall they are healthier than before. Meanwhile my parents have been pressuring me to get married and have children. I have heard my parents specially my mom saying "You have been helping us in our old age. Who is going to help you when you get old?" or "Don't you want to leave a memory behind?!" Even though I don't exactly agree with my mom's suggestion that I should bring a child to this world to help me during my old age, I do understand her point and her desire for me to be a parent....

So as I was becoming determined to have kids, I told myself I have to be truthful to my parents about this and face the consequences. In December shortly after registering with SCI, I had one of those conversations with my mom about my life. I finally had the courage to tell her the truth and break the news about the plan to pursue surrogacy in India. Her reaction really surprised me. She seemed very supportive of me and in a way sad for what I had gone through all my life and not having the courage to be truthful with her. Her only question since that day was if I ever got professional help as I was struggling with being gay. This was one huge weight coming off my shoulder, but I knew coming out to my father will be the toughest.

Interestingly few weeks ago I found out my mom couldn't keep the news to herself and decided to share it with my father! In one way, I was disappointed she couldn't keep the secret. On the other hand, I'm relieved she took care of this humongous task that I was supposed to do before the babies' arrival! I heard even though my father was disappointed of the news, he seems happy he will have couple of more grand children on the way! I should have a discussion with him in upcoming months. Anyway, I couldn't believe I had to wait so many years to finally come out to my parents. I feel so relieved that finally my two worlds are merging, and I don't have to live this double life, at least to my close family. Clearly I had under-estimated my parents and their reaction to my news. You should never underestimate a parent's love and understanding for their children. I'm confident I will even be closer to them once the babies are in the picture. I really don't know how many years my parents have left in this world, but I do intent to share this dream with them. My sweet mom is already excited about the twins, and she's offering to help caring for them once they arrive.

I have always been reluctant telling others about my personal life. However I understand how important it is for LGBT community to be open with others as much as possible if we are going to change hearts and make it easier for the future generation. That seems to be what's moving the needle on marriage equality so quickly in recent years here in the US. And I am aware that by staying in closet, I am not helping the community. So I still have a lot of work to do to get there.

I am a strong believer that God has a plan for all of us. We all face unique challenges in this life - some more than others. We just have to make the most of the cards we are dealt. I have always been determined to live my life to the fullest despite the challenges. I wanted to live a normal life, fall in love, form a family and have kids. Looking back, I really don't know what could have happened to me had I stayed in Iran. Would I have given up to the pressure of society and got married and ruined a woman's life to form a family? Or would I have followed my grand uncle's footstep and had a lonely life? Would I have remained silent to the discrimination in that society? I would never know the answer, but I am happy for becoming an American and having this opportunity to pursue the dream. Yet feeling sad for the previous generation of LGBT community (like my grand uncle) for what they had to go through and the sacrifices they had to make to pave the path I'm taking. And I know the next generation will have a better life...

In closing, I would like to share a beautiful excerpt I heard this week from one of my favorite American presidents, Bill Clinton: "I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason's colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Present Day - End of First Trimester

This past Saturday, we received our week 12 scan marking the end of our first trimester. From now on, we will be getting scans every 4 weeks (instead of two weeks).  Also SCI informed us that our surrogate mom and the twins are all doing well. It's great to get through 1/3 of the journey. It's definitely a remarkable milestone that we should cautiously celebrate. The embryos are gradually looking more like human beings! :)

Twin #1
Twin #2
Trying not to think too much about the gender, name and such and rather hope for healthy babies. Next few months we have lots of projects and work ahead of us to prepare for this. Would like to wait a few more weeks before telling our close friends as we are fully aware of the risks involved with twin pregnancies.

One thing I have learned in past few months is that surrogacy journey is complicated. You learn to give up control and have faith in so many entities as so many things are really out of our control.
Our journey in the first trimester was a little bumpy. Wishing and hoping for a smoother / boring ride for the remainder of the journey.

It's also nice to finally be up-to-date with my blog. I have to admit it is hard to discuss what happened in the past and trying to capture the emotion, excitement, anxiety and anticipation that we went through in past few months. Not sure how well I did that on my blogs.

Throughout this journey I have met some wonderful people from all walks of life, from near and far, various countries and continents. What bonds us together is the desire to have a child and form a family. I hope to keep in touch with most of them as our babies will be close in age and share similar paths into this world. Some are ahead of us and some behind. Some have had many failures and heart-breaks, and some have had smoother rides. The blog community has been wonderful and very educational for myself. God knows how many tears I have shed reading their joy and their sorrow. Their stories inspired me to write my first blog about this important chapter in our life.

My hope is for everyone to reach their dreams or at least find some solace and peace regardless of the outcome.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2WW and Beyond

On February 14th, the Valentine's Day,  Dr Shivani transferred four of our 3-day embryos and froze the remaining.  Then we had to wait for two weeks to get our pregnancy / HCGB test. This is known as 2WW (Two Week Wait). As expected, it was indeed two stressful weeks, specially towards the end!

On Feb 28th, we received our HCGB test result indicating our surrogate was pregnant!! It was one of the best news we had received for a very long time. However we had to be very cautious as things could go wrong in the early stages of pregnancy. We decided to share the news only with our immediate family and a few IPs we have met through SCI.

Our HCGB value was relatively high, so we were told we could be expecting multiples! Our assumption was confirmed when we got our next scan on March 4th showing multiple sacs. It was another great milestone we had reached. However 3 days later, we received an email from SCI that our surrogate had been admitted to hospital due to mild bleeding. That was a very stressful news putting a pause on our celebration. At that point we did not know what to expect from this pregnancy. My sister who is an OB GYN doctor told me many women experience spotting during the early stages of pregnancy, and we should not stress too much about it.

The next day, on March 8th, the USG scan showed strong heartbeats which was good news amid the bleeding. Thereafter SCI staff were emailing us daily providing status of our surrogate and the pregnancy. During this time I reached out to other IPs who had experienced the same and they were all very comforting and resourceful. I realize this journey can be a lonely one as you try to keep the news inside, but at the same time it's great to share your fear, sorrow and happiness with others who are going through a similar journey.  SCI staff as well as Meg and Margarida were very helpful explaining the situation, checking the status, and assuring us that things are going well. Basically it was better for our surrogate to stay in the hospital and being monitored regularly to make sure everything is ok. I could not believe only few weeks after returning from Delhi, this emotional roller coaster was in full swing! I spent many sleepless nights praying as I waited for an update from SCI.

Finally on March 23rd, the bleeding stopped and our surrogate was discharged after spending 17 days in the hospital. It was truly a sigh of relief, and we were very thankful for the news. I could celebrate the Persian new Year, which coincides with the beginning of Spring! With the help of our sister-in-law who is fluent in Hindi, we sent a card to our surrogate thanking her for everything she has done for us and all that she has gone through so far. We will be forever grateful.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our Theme Song: "I Have a Dream"

In January we went to the Musical Broadway show "Mamma Mia" and I loved it. I had a few ABBA favorites from my childhood but that night the song "I have a dream" resonated with me in respect to our current journey,  and I fell in love with it.

On our flight to Delhi I listened to this song and other ABBA songs. My favorite part of the song as we were flying to Delhi:
"And my destination makes it worth the while
Pushing through the darkness still another mile"

So this song has become the theme / symbol of our journey and that's how our blog's name came about! :)
Interestingly last week we watched the movie "Mamma Mia" staring Meryl Streep. It was great but not as good as the Broadway show.

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Delhi Trip

In January (few weeks before our appointment) SCI started our donor on "down regulation" to prepare her for the egg retrieval. The surrogate selection would happen later closer to the transfer.

We flew from JFK to New Delhi on February 1st on Qatar Airways (via Doha). This was my third visit to India having been to South India twice previously for the weddings of my partner's siblings. But I had never been to the North before.

We Arrived in Delhi Sunday morning, Feb 3rd. I was quite impressed with Delhi's new airport. Very modern with latest technology. Since our first SCI appointment was not until Feb 6th, we decided to take a 2-day trip to Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India.  And then back to Delhi on Feb 5th. We stayed at FFOUR hotel, across the street from SCI. It was decent but nothing memorable as some of the staff did not speak English and communication was an issue at times.

Varanasi ghats by Ganges river

Boat ride on holy Ganges river

Evening holy Hindu ceremony - Varanasi

Our first SCI appointment was on Wednesday, Feb 6th at ISIS hospital. That's where we had to deposit samples to be frozen for future use. Then we met Dr Shivani briefly at ISIS clinic. It was so nice to finally meet the doctor who has brought so much happiness to so many people and hopefully one day will make our dream come true. We also received the profile of our surrogate. I had heard from others that SCI will provide a few surrogate profiles to choose from, but I think in February there must have been a shortage of surrogates as we only had one option. That wasn't too important for us as we trusted the doctor and her expertise.

Thursday was our day off, so we took a tour of the city which included the beautiful Lotus Temple, Humayun's Tomb, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Raj Ghat (Gandhi's memorial), Rajpath, the India Gate, the President's residence and the Parliament Buildings. Being in India was truly amazing. So much history and tradition and so many people with different religions and traditions.

Baha'i Lotus Temple
Humayun's Tomb
Gandhi's memorial
India Gate

Friday Feb 8th we had another appointment with the embryologist to deposit samples for freezing. Afterwards we did some sightseeing on our own. Unfortunately we came down with some stomach bug and had fever. Fortunately it wasn't too serious and we recovered in couple of days.

Saturday we had our meeting with Dr Shivani at ISIS clinic, and she gave us a tour of the facilities, and we met all her staff.  Here is a similar tour of SCI that we took. It was so nice to put faces with names of all those wonderful people who have been exchanging emails with us in past few months. Then we had our legal meeting with the SCI lawyer and signed all the paperwork. After that we were introduced to our surrogate. We were not prepared as she walked into the room. We were emotional and speechless. We exchanged a few words with the help of SCI staff who translated the exchange. She was a young sweet woman whom we will be forever thankful whether she carries our child or not. She's married and has 2 young children of her own who will stay with her during pregnancy at the SCI surrogate accommodation. Later in the afternoon we visited an old friend who took us to the magnificent Akshardham, the biggest Hindu temple in the world. It was one of the most magnificent temples I have ever seen.


We had Sunday off so Rahul arranged a car service for us and we took a 3-hour trip to Agra to see the majestic Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. It was such an amazing experience and a relaxing day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

Taj Mahal
Agra Fort
Our final appointment was on Monday Feb 11th. Egg collection was done earlier that day. We gave our final samples to be used for IVF that day. Later on that night we received our Egg collection report: 19 eggs were collected, 17 of which were mature. This was a good number. Our egg donor is anonymous, but we will forever be thankful for her donation. We had extensively talked about who will be the biological father. Since both of our semen analysis were similar, we decided it's only fair to split the eggs between us. We will transfer the embryos from one of us first and we will freeze the embryos from the other one for a future sibling project.

Our flight back to New York was Tuesday early morning at 4am and we made it back to JFK Tuesday afternoon, tired and jet-lagged.

We had done our part. The rest were in the hands of SCI, Dr Shivani, God and our destiny.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

New Indian Surrogacy Law

Back in December as we were preparing for our trip to Delhi, we found out a new law is being considered in India that will ban surrogacy for singles, gay couples and those who are not married for at least 2 years. We got quite paranoid as we had already paid our first payment, booked our donor and made reservation. SCI gave us the assurance that this pending law should not impact us as we had already registered with them and the treatment had started. That gave us some peace of mind but still worried how things will turn out in upcoming months. It was sad to see India writing discrimination into their constitution and blocking the dream of many good, deserving parents. Currently SCI and other clinics are trying to sort this out with lawmakers, and we are hopeful this issue gets resolved soon.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Choosing SCI

So I had been researching and reading about surrogacy and various clinics out there for some time. Generally I don't trust Google and everything that I read online. I prefer having references and talking with real people who have become parents through surrogacy. So last year joining the support group in New York and meeting other parents was very helpful. From the very beginning of my research I was leaning towards Indian surrogacy for various reasons:

  • Average cost of surrogacy in India is about 1/3 of domestic surrogacy. 
  • The fact that my partner is of Indian origin was a big factor to go to India as I thought he is quite familiar with the culture. Also we will have great options with Indian egg donors as I wanted our child to have Indian roots.
  • Medicine in India is quite advanced. I had heard how the medical tourism is thriving there, and India is becoming the surrogacy capital of the world.

So I reached out to a few domestic and Indian agencies asking for information and also made contacts with other IPs who had gone through surrogacy in India. At the beginning the journey seemed quite overwhelming. Not only having to rely on two complete strangers (egg donor and surrogate), but also there are many other parties involved: The agency, lawyers, doctors, nurses, social workers, insurance component, the legal aspect, etc etc. At times my head was exploding, but I tried not to think too much about the process and instead focus on the end result and the dream!

Then in May I found out through Facebook that one of my tennis friends and his partner just had babies through SCI (Surrogacy Center India) which is based in New Delhi. I immediately reached out to them and they had amazing things to say about their experience with SCI. So I contacted the agency and started the communication with Meg and Margarida, two most wonderful ladies from Australia who act as foreign client liaison for SCI. They were amazing at answering all my questions. I was so impressed with their great communication, something that was lacking in other agencies. For the most part I was getting replies to my emails within hours. Also I joined their online forum where other IPs discuss their journey. Pretty much everyone had wonderful things to say about Dr Shivani and her staff. I knew right away that if we take the surrogacy path, SCI would be our top choice.

Unfortunately my partner at the beginning wasn't too comfortable with surrogacy and he insisted we should try adoption first. I knew if I were single, I would have proceeded with SCI right away. However being in a relationship for 15 years, I wanted to take a journey that we both can agree on. So in next few months, we put the idea of surrogacy on hold and focused on adoption and the related paperwork.

It was around mid October when my partner had a change of heart and agreed to pursue surrogacy in India. So I reached out to SCI right away and set up an Skype session with Meg and she was so patient in answering all my remaining questions. We also met up with two other wonderful couples in our area who had babies through SCI and they all had positive experience.

Next step, SCI provided us a large number of their egg donor profiles. Choosing the egg donor was fun yet challenging as we couldn't agree on everything! We limited our favorites to 20 and later, per SCI recommendation, we had to pick our top 5 choices. We could both agree on our top choice but the other ones were compromise. Thankfully our top donor was available in February. Even though our other choices were available sooner, we decided to wait for our top choice. I will never forget we were choosing our egg donor in the middle of hurricane Sandy super storm that hit the Northeast last Fall!

So it was early November when we did all the paperwork and sent our registration forms and booked our egg donor for the first week in February. Then we had to wait 3 long months to start the journey in New Delhi.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pursuing Adoption

Still backtracking to last year and hope to catch up to the present day soon...

As we could not agree on a journey, we decided to get professional help! After a few sessions of couples therapy, we made a decision to go with adoption. And if in the future we still wanted another baby, we'll pursue surrogacy for child #2. We explored our options. Met a few agencies and decided to go with Adoption STAR in Buffalo, NY. On August 16th, 2012, which was our 15-year anniversary, we took a trip to Buffalo / Niagara Falls to meet with the agency and register with them. I was so happy that finally we are taking a major step towards our dream. 

We spent almost 3 months doing all the necessary paperwork for adoption and we were getting ready for home study. We had to come up with sooooo many documents... very painful. We started putting together a profile so birth parents (mostly birth mothers) can review and decide if they want to place their child with us. 

I have to say we learned so much about adoption during those few months. As previously mentioned every journey has it's own challenges. Here are the few challenges we learned about adoption:
  • It turns out International Adoption is pretty much not an option for gay/single people. Almost all countries have closed their doors to us. So our only real option was domestic adoption. 
  • Adoption can take a long time, as we have to hope someone will choose us among all other profiles.
  • Studies show that every year there are less and less children (throughout the world) available for adoption. So there seems to be more intended parents than babies to be adopted. 
  • We have better chance of adopting older kids or those with special needs, but we have always wanted an infant.
  • Adoption is not cheap. It can cost as much as doing surrogacy in India.
  • Most domestic adoptions are open. That means in most cases we have to make arrangements with the birth parents so they will see the child once or twice a year until the child's 18th birthday. I wasn't very happy with this aspect of open adoption.

So in October we mailed out most of the forms to the adoption agency before we went on vacation to Greece and Turkey. After we returned home, I was ready to mail the last form plus the final check to start the home study. Then my partner had a change of heart and suggested we should pause on adoption and try surrogacy!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How the Dream Started

Wanting to be a father has been a dream for me for years. I am the second child of 4 in our family. My older sister is only 16 months older than me. Then my younger brother and sister were born when I was 10 and 13 respectively.  We helped our mom with the younger ones (babysitting, feeding, even changing diapers). From a very young age I knew how much I love babies. Even my friends and family always say how good I am with kids. The same thing is true about my partner.

Originally I'm Middle Eastern and I moved to the US when I was 18. So growing up accepting my homosexuality was particularly tough as I knew it will be hard to form a family and being a father that I have always wanted to be. Keep in mind back in 80's and 90's surrogacy didn't exist and adoption for gay people was rare, or at least I had not heard of.

In 1997 (when I was 27) I met my partner and I knew he's the one for me. When I was in my early 30's, we met a gay couple having a baby through surrogacy in California. I was so happy that the option is there despite the huge cost associated with it. Since then on and off we have discussed the idea of becoming parents one day. I set a goal for myself to be a dad by the time I'm 40 (my partner being 3 1/2 years younger). Meanwhile we had to save money; I had to come out to my family; and we wanted to move from Texas to New York. I always felt raising children as a gay couple in Texas would be hard and I didn't want to expose the children to the discrimination and homophobia that I have struggled with all my life.

So I turned 40 in March of 2011 and I could not believe I was still without a child! How did all these years pass by?? That year I promised myself to do something about this dream. So I did a lot of research. Meanwhile one of my good friends adopted a baby girl, Olivia. That inspired me so much to follow his path. My friend suggested I should join the support groups here in NY for both adoption and surrogacy. I finally woke up. It was so great meeting so many LGBT single and couples either having babies or planning to have a family.

The good news: we have so many options to have a child.
The bad news: every single option is hard!!
Here are some of our options: Adoption, Foster care, co-parenting, Domestic gestational surrogacy (where 2 women are involved), foreign gestational surrogacy, and traditional surrogacy (where 1 woman is involved, being both egg donor and carrier). We soon realized domestic surrogacy is too expensive, so our best options were foreign surrogacy and adoption. While I started preferring surrogacy, my partner favored adoption. He started questioning why we should create our baby if there are so many babies out there who need home. I thought it would be a good idea if we try both surrogacy and adoption at some point in our life. To me adoption is noble. Meanwhile I have always wanted a child biologically related to us. We argued and could not agree on a journey for a while....