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....