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Our Family is Coming Home!

3 Jun

GREAT NEWS!

Matt camped out at the Indian FRRO office today, here in Mumbai, and HE GOT THE EXIT VISAS FOR THE TWINS!

celebrateMatt called to tell us the good news at 3:30 p.m. Looks like we’re all set to take tonight’s flight from Mumbai back to the United States, leaving in just hours. (Thank god for airline reward miles!) Matt, Ellen, Julianne, Henry and I will fly Mumbai to Newark, then on to Charlotte, NC, and finally to Wilmington, NC.

By 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, we’ll be in Wilmington, NC, where we’ll reunite with Matt’s family, and with our dog, Butter, whom we haven’t seen for 36 days. (He’s been staying with Matt’s family there during our adventures bringing the kids home.)

We’ll stay in Wilmington for a day or two and then drive back home (in a rental) to New York City with our pup and twins. 🙂

After 20 full days in India, words can barely express how excited we are to be COMING HOME!

–Josh

The Dreaded FRRO Mumbai

2 Jun

I needed to take a few days off before writing about our final step of the process, the dreaded FRRO (Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office).  This was like the DMV without any rules.  I knew in advance that the FRRO in Mumbai was requesting a dozen different documents to complete the applications for our twins’ exit permits.  In addition, Mumbai FRRO has decided that they will no longer process applications for ‘single’ parent (i.e. gay) surrogacies, and thus sends the scanned documents via email to the Delhi Ministry of Home Affairs for approval before issuing the exit permits locally.  I don’t know why only Mumbai FRRO has decided this, as the FRROs in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, and pretty much everywhere else are still allowing it, but that’s the hand we have been dealt.

As soon as we picked up the baby passports and letter of introduction from the US consulate, I returned home to fill out the FRRO applications online.  I printed a copy of each child’s application in the business center, and made sure that I had a full set of documents for each child.  It’s better to make an entire second set of copies just in case, because the copy machine at the FRRO is not something you want to deal with.  After completing the applications, you are given the option to select the date of your physical appointment at the FRRO.  Thankfully, there were still slots available for the following day.  The slots are not for a specific time, so it’s best to arrive well before the doors open at 9:30 AM.

The following day, Wednesday, Mom and I loaded the babies into our car and took the 45-minute drive down to the FRRO.  Here is a  YouTube video made by hammockguy66, who thoughtfully filmed the drive up to the building, as there are no signs on the main road.  It is located down the road, behind St. Xavier College’s welcome sign, so make sure your driver turns when he sees that sign.  We left the hotel at 7 am to account for any traffic and arrived around 7:45.  You will never be prepared for this experience, so let me just explain that the building itself looks like a bombed-out warehouse.  The sign that lists the departments on each floor is not attached to the wall… someone just propped it up against the building next to a pile of trash.  A security guard sits at a folding card table stacked with large ledgers6943601469_f545c7f14a_z in front of an open door frame leading into the building.  The doors have long been removed and are nowhere to be found, but the brackets that once held them in place are still swinging in the sweltering breeze.  When you peek into the entryway, you see a set of stairs covered in dust and construction materials, live wires hanging down that should probably be avoided, and an elevator that looks like it could easily become your coffin.  I’m not exaggerating.

The security guard was very nice and explained that we were extremely early and that we could have a set on a bench right next to his own chair.  The bench looks like it was stolen from an airport lounge 20 years ago, but it was comfortable enough.  At 9 AM, the guard suddenly announced that people could start signing their names into the ledger and head upstairs to the 3rd floor waiting room.  Despite the order in which you sign your name, your seating order in the 3rd floor waiting room determines how quickly you will be seen.  We ended up as the 5th and 6th chairs (they are numbered, as is every single thing here in India).  During the half hour wait until the FRRO opened at 9:30, Julianne decided to have a little meltdown that her bottle, her pacifier, her swaddle, and snuggling could not cure.  I think that the lack of air conditioning was getting to her, but eventually she calmed down.  Henry slept the entire time in my Bjorn.

At 9:30, the officer at the reception desk started calling us in.  Each time a person was called, everyone was required to shift down to the next chair.  A few minutes later, we were before the officer.  He asked my intentions (to apply for exit permits) and reviewed all of the paperwork briefly before writing the number 5 on my top sheet and telling me to head to window 5.  By then, Mom and both babies had already gotten settled into the air conditioned interior waiting room and they were able to sit there quietly for the rest of the process.  I walked over to a desk that had a large 5 drawn on the wall, but no one was sitting there, so I asked at desk 4 if this was the correct location.  He told me that I must wait to be called to desk 5, so I returned to the waiting area with Mom.   One of the employees who would eventually complete my entire process saw me and asked if I was waiting for desk 5. Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 3.42.28 PM I replied ‘yes’ and she took me (strangely) to desk 15, where I sat next to her as she pulled up each of the online applications, checked every document, confirmed my status as a ‘single’ parent, looked at the babies to ensure that they matched their passport photos (Ha!), and explained that she would scan all of the documents during her afternoon session.  A small roach crawled across my foot and I jumped.  The FRRO takes customers from 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM, followed by lunch hour, then the rest of the day is spent processing all of that day’s applications.   She had me buy two large folders from the small shop located directly behind her for 60 INR to hold all of the documents.  She also explained that the documents would be sent to Delhi MHA for approval and that I would pay for the exit permits once approval was granted.  The cost would be $80 US per baby, plus $30 per baby for my incorrect use of a tourist visa instead of a medical visa (that the Indian government refuses to grant ‘single’ parents effective 6 months ago despite my pregnancy already existing… bullshit).  Finally, she had me write my contact information in her notebook and she gave me her mobile number to check up on the process.  I left her a 1000 INR tip for her help (as I’ve heard that people have had much worse experiences here) and she seemed genuinely surprised.  That evening, around 7 pm, I received a call from her explaining that my applications had been scanned and fully submitted to the Delhi MHA.

It has now been a few days since Wednesday evening’s submission, and we are still waiting for the exit permits.  One of the required documents is a copy of your e-tickets for your departure flight, which is currently scheduled for Tuesday evening.  Since it is Sunday and the office is closed, I will be telephoning them again tomorrow morning to remind them that we need the permits by Monday evening.  I have tried a few times to contact the Delhi MHA and the Mumbal FRRO to get an update, but I am run in circles and constantly referred back to a phoneIMG_8887 number that had no information for me.  When I read other blogs that were able to get exit permits in 5 hours, it really frustrates me that Mumbai alone has decided to make it difficult for us to leave.  These babies are already US citizens and this step should just be a formality, but they are really dragging their feet with issuing our documents.  I will update once we hear back from the FRRO.

In the meanwhile, here are the documents required for your applications for an exit visa.

-US Consulate introduction letter

-Surrogacy agreement between the applicant surrogate mother & doctor treating the case.



-Doctor’s letter who has given treatment, which explains the embryo transfer and the date of birth.  This was delivered to us by the lawyer’s courier (see below).

-Discharge Letter from hospital where infant was born.  Our hospital’s front desk knew exactly what to write and had it for us in a few hours time.  It will be combined with a letter of ‘no dues’ or outstanding debt into one document, and you can point this out if the FRRO officer wants to get picky.

-Infant’s (Applicant) passport.

-Infant’s birth certificate issued by Indian authority.

-Parent’s passport and visa copy.

-Confirmed Air Ticket (Infant + parent’s)

-

Infant’s photo – 3 (with white background) – They only took 1 of the 3 and used a webcam to scan it into the online application, but bring 3 just in case.

-‘No objection letter’ / No Dues affidavit from Surrogate mother.  The lawyer would have already obtained this document for you while you were waiting for the birth certificates.  Our surrogate returned to Rotunda where she signed the affidavit and it was notarized and brought to us at the hotel.



-“No dues are pending” letter from Clinic.  This letter was also brought to our hotel by the lawyer’s courier.

-Letter from the hotel you’re staying or last stayed.  Our concierge had experience with these documents and was able do draw one up that simply stated “Mr. Matthew _________ has been a guest at our hotel from x to y.” and it was printed on official letterhead and signed by the manager.

More to come…

-Matt

Newborn Twin Photos, Vol. 2

31 May

India, Day 18: Matt and Ellen went down to the FRRO yesterday to apply for the babies’ exit visas, the final step before we can leave the country. Matt called to check up on things today and was informed that everything is “in process.” We’re still crossing our fingers for getting out of here on Tuesday, June 4, but there’s always a chance it could take longer than that. We’ve had a good time here, but I think we’re all ready to be home, sleep in our own beds, and let the twins enjoy their nursery for the first time.

In meantime, some more newborn photos. 🙂

josh julianne pool mumbai

Daddy Josh and a snoozy Julianne yesterday at the hotel pool in Mumbai.

henry sitting up

Well hello, Henry! The little guy has been awake a bit more often and appears to be a more interested in checking out his surroundings. He’s getting so big so fast that it’s almost alarming.

facetime with great grandma dot

Daddy Matt, Henry, Julianne, and Ellen on FaceTime with Great-Grandma Dot, 86, in Wilmington, NC. She was so excited to see her great-grandbabies for the first time. Looking forward to Dot getting to hold them soon.

julianne sleeping

Sleeping sweetheart. (Julianne)

henry sleeping

Henry takes an outdoor nap on Daddy Matt by the pool in Mumbai.

josh henry julianne matt two weeks old pool westin mumbai memorial day weekend

Josh, Henry, Julianne and Matt. Just another family at the pool on a sunny Memorial Day weekend. 🙂

–Josh

Updates from India, Day 15

28 May

Happy news from India!

Today at 12:45 p.m. we got the call that the twins’ passports were ready for pick-up. Ellen stayed with the kids while Matt and I trekked down to the U.S. Consulate in Bandra, about 25 minutes south of our hotel.

Completed passports are given out at the consulate only between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., so we showed up at 1:45 p.m. Before we could enter the consulate compound, a security guard at a station out front asked to see our passports, as well as the receipt from the payment for the babies’ passports.

We ended up having to wait outside for 15 minutes before we could go in, though, as the consulate workers were on lunch break until 2 p.m., and nobody was allowed inside until they were finished. After waiting outdoors (92 degrees and very humid–yum! ;)), they issued us visitor’s passes, and an escort took us into the compound.

julianne henry us american passport blueOnce inside, getting the passports was a fairly easy process. Matt was first in line, and after another 15-20 minute wait, we had the passports in our hands. The only problem? The consulate’s letter that accompanies the passports, part of the required paperwork to get the twins’ exit visas, had an error in it. (We are not, as it turns out, “Mr. and Mrs.” ;)) It took another 15-20 minutes to fix the error and have the letters reprinted, but then we were all set. Just under an hour after we’d arrived, we were back in our cab with the magical blue passport books in our hands.

And just like that, our kids became American citizens. 🙂

Two of the three big steps in getting home (obtaining the birth certificates and passports) are now complete.

Back at the hotel, Matt logged onto the FRRO website to get the third and final step rolling. On the site, he filled out the application for Henry and Julianne’s exit visas, and managed to snag a next-day appointment to present our case and our mountain of paperwork. There are a finite number of slots available each day, so we felt lucky landing two of them.

After finishing the online exit visa application, Matt printed the work he’d just finished (an FRRO requirement) and added it to the fearsome stack of paperwork for tomorrow’s appointment.

While Matt worked on the exit visa stuff, I went to the front desk at the hotel to request a special letter on hotel letterhead that states our full names, check-in and check-out dates, and our passport information, with duplicate copies. (It’s just another of the FRRO’s dozens of fun/bizzare/frustrating hoops to jump through.) I thought I’d have to carefully explain to the front desk about the letter I needed, but the manager was like, “Oh, no problem, we’ve done this before.” A few hours later, we had our hotel-signed letters, and added them to the stack.

So, alas, we now enter the final stages of the process of leaving India. We’ve been told it takes about four business days to get the exit visas, so hopefully we’ll have them by Monday.

Then, hopefully, we can fly back to the U.S. on Tuesday (June 4).

We’ve had a good time here, but we’re ready to be home. Not much longer now!

–Josh

Newborn Twin Photos, Vol. 1

26 May

We’re still in India, and hoping to get home next weekend, but in the meantime we have some more baby photos to share.

j sleeping on matt

Sleepy Julianne takes a nap on Matt.

henry cheeks

Cheeks! (Henry)

julianne henry sleeping on matt

Julianne (left) and Henry.

julianne happy dreams

Happy dreams for Julianne.

henry author photo

At two weeks old, Henry has penned a memoir titled “On Being a Baby.” This is his author photo on the back cover. 😉

family portrait

Our first family photo. Left to right: Josh, Henry, Julianne, and Matt.

Hope every is having a great Memorial Day weekend!

–Josh

For more photos from our family, feel free to join us on Instagram @joshcentral

Updates from India, Day 10

23 May

The biggest news from here in Mumbai is that Julianne and Henry are thriving. They’re eating more all the time. Julianne now regularly drinks 40-55 mL (1.3-1.9 oz.) of formula, and Henry guzzles 75-100 mL (2.5-3.4 oz). We couldn’t be happier about that. Henry has been an eating machine from the beginning, but I’m so excited that Julianne is now having a much easier time staying awake during her feedings, which are getting much more consistent.

scaleAll this eating means that the twins have put on some weight, which also makes us very happy. Using a digital scale here in the hotel room (first weighing me, then me and each baby, and doing the necessary subtraction) we’ve learned their approximate new weights. Julianne was 1.87 kg (4.1 lbs.) at birth, and yesterday, at 10 days old, she weighs 2 kg (4.4 lbs.). Henry was 2.2 kg (4.9 lbs) at birth, and weighed 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs) yesterday. That means she’s added about 8% to her body weight, and Henry has added about 17%. (With those percentages extrapolated to an adult, that’d be like me gaining 15-25 lbs. in just 10 days. That’d be a lot of donuts and pizza.)

Henry has been making all kinds of great faces from Day One, but now Julianne has joined a bit herself. A couple days ago I saw her smiling for the first time, which was pretty awesome. She has a beautiful smile. Practically melted my heart right out of my chest. Of course, smiling at this age is usually just gas, but we don’t mind! Gas or not, it’s pretty much the cutest thing ever. After a long night of feedings, sometimes fussy or overlong with extra doses of hiccups, just one of those smiles makes you totally not care about the hours of sleep lost or whatever else. Brings everything into perspective.

imageOn Monday, May 20, we got the birth certificates, which is so much faster than we thought we’d get them. We thought we’d be waiting another week for those, but our awesome lawyer, Urvi, really got things moving. It’ll help us get home to New York so much faster.

Having those birth certificates in hand meant that we were able to visit the U.S. Consulate on Tuesday, May 21, where we reported the birth of our babies to the U.S. government. The twins also did DNA cheek swabs to prove that Matt is their legal parent. Since our egg donor is anonymous, and our surrogate is genetically unrelated to the children, the only “known” genetic tie is Matt. Since Matt is an American, the kids are automatically Americans as well. (Handy, huh?)

dna sample tracking mumbai to memphisOnce those DNA results are confirmed, we’ll be issued U.S. passports for the kids. We’ve been anxiously tracking those DNA swabs as they travel via FedEx from Mumbai to Arizona (where our DNA lab is located). We watched as the swabs went from Mumbai, to Dubai, to Paris, and then to Memphis, TN, where they are now. We’re hoping that later tonight we’ll log on and see those swabs in Arizona.

Until then, more feeding, more swaddling, more sponge baths, more cuddling, more kisses, more tears wiped away, and many, many more naps. (They’re still sleeping the vast majority of the time.)

We’ll keep you posted. 🙂

–Josh

baby blocks

Matt and I also want to thank everyone for the very warm outpouring of support and kind comments from Twitter (@thenewdads), Instagram (@joshcentral), and right here on the New Dads blog. It’s been very sweet, as we trade off baby duty throughout the day and night, to scroll through all those messages as we’re burping a baby or folding infant laundry, etc.

A big thanks also to Joe.My.God for posting the video of us meeting the twins for the very first time, leading to Buzzfeed writing a story about us (which, as of this moment, has been seen more than 75,000 times, shared 180+ times on Facebook, and liked 800+ times on Facebook). china blog new dads on the blogGreat blogs like Boy Culture and Queerty also wrote about our baby adventures, along with TheGailyGrind, as well as a radio station in Australia, and even blogs from as far away as China (screenshot at right), France, Israel and the Netherlands. We’re just completely blown away by the response. Never did we imagine our story would get picked up like this.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your kind support and well wishes.

–Josh & Matt

The United States Consulate and DNA Testing

23 May

Things are happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up with the blog.  This entry will be about the US Consulate and the passport application process.

After meeting with our lawyer, Urvi Rathod (who has done an amazing job in a record amount of time), we realized that we would have to return to Hiranandani Hospital to pick up a copy of a ‘no dues’ letter, explaining that all liabilities for the babies and for the surrogate have been satisfied.  Easy enough, right?  The front desk receptionist asked for a copy of our final bill, checked his records, and typed out the letter in roughly 5 minutes.  He also informed us that we were eligible for a small refund (2400 INR or about $46 USD) and that it would take a few minutes to process and be r182811_10200620227780718_1891491860_nefunded in cash.  He filled out the form while Josh ran over to the hospital’s gift shop to purchase more preemie formula.  The few minutes turned into an hour and a half wait.  First, they could not locate the CFO of the hospital who was required to sign off on the refund, then we were told that he lost his cell phone, then we were told that he was just in a meeting, and finally, we were told that he was returning shortly.  I killed some time by returning to the records room in the basement to make sure that our birth certificate applications had been processed, and was told that we should expect them in just a few days.  When I returned to the counter, I was finally offered my refund after signing 2 forms, noting that the document had since been signed by the CFO, stamped, affixed with a physical stamp that was signed over, and photocopied.  If nothing else in our blog demonstrates Indian bureaucracy, this document should… all for 46 bucks.

The next day, I called a woman named Nita who owns a Priyanka Photography Studio in Hiranandani Gardens.  (Phone number +91 98 2030 8746)  She often works with our lawyer to help clients obtain passport photos for their newborn babies.  Rather than enduring another bumpy car trip with no car seats, I opted to pay a premium to have the photographer come to our hotel to take the pictures.  He spent about 30 minutes in total, wiggling the babies’ feet, trying to get them to smile, or at least to open their eyes.  Personally, I think the photos look more like mug shots than portraits, but they will work perfectly well at the consulate and the FRRO.  I do enjoy the idea of Julianne and Henry traveling for the next few years with a 5-day-old photo as their identification… I hope they stay that way forever.  The photographer was happy with his shots, and he returned about 6 hours later with the completed photos.  Total cost was 2800 INR ($54 USD), so Saturday’s refund basically took care of the photos.

We received the US consulate documents on late Monday evening.  These included our original birth certificates, a ‘no dues’ letter from the Rotunda clinic, an embryo cycle summary, a letter explaining the specifics of our surrogacy process signed by the medical director of the clinic, a signed and notarized copy of the ‘no dues’ letter from our surrogate, and a copy of our doctor’s medical license.  As soon as I had the birth certificates in hand, I logged onto the US Consulate website and registered for the next available appointment to process a CBRA (Consular Birth Report Abroad).  Thankfully, there was one appointment left for the following morning, Tuesday at 10:30 AM.  Knowing that I would require a DNA test for each child, I emailed the Fraud Prevention Unit at the US Consulate to schedule DNA testing following our 10:30 AM appointment.  Since it was so late at night, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to do the DNA portion on the same day, but in the morning, I received a telephone call from the FPU letting me know that they were able to contact the physician who would conduct the swabbing and he was available at 11:45 AM.  I was never told to fill in these forms by anyone, but after reading the link above, I prepared myself the night before by printing two copies of each form and filling out as much as possible in advance of the appointment.

We opted to take the Westin house car rather than a blue taxi because it was set at a flat rate for 3.5 hours of usage and the driver would stay outside of the consulate to wait for us.  Prior to arriving at the consulate, I asked the driver to stop at a bank in order to obtain a demand draft of 2000 INR, payable to the physician doing the swabbing, as he does not accept cash.  Alternatively, we could have made the payment directly to the cashier’s counter at the hospital where this physician works, but I thought it would be easier to just have the demand draft ready for him.  The first bank seemed very confused when I asked for a demand draft.  It’s essentially a cashier’s check, so I assumed (never do this in India) that any bank would charge me a small fee and accept cash in exchange for the draft.  Apparently this is only done at certain banks, and the one that I chose was not one of them.  I had wasted 15 minutes figuring this out, so I decided to head to the consulate in order to not be late for my appointment rather than showing up late with the draft.  A few metBL25_VISA_1063963fal detectors and passport checks later, we were through security and in a small room full of plastic chairs, the far wall lined with cashier windows.  Now this process is going to sound stressful, but honestly, the US Consulate was amazingly efficient and very comfortable.  Everyone was incredibly friendly and the entire CBRA/passport application process took less than 40 minutes.  First, I provided a copy of the appointment confirmation sheet that was emailed to me when I set up the appointment to the check-in window.  She proceeded to give me two stickers with numbers on them (602 and 603) and asked me to wait until my number was called.  A few minutes later, I was called to a second window where I provided the completed CBRA application, the application for a US passport, and all of my supporting documentation for each child.  The man reviewed each document, showed me how to correct a few things, handed me back the originals, and asked me to walk 2 windows over to the cashier in order to pay for the applications.  The total for 2 CBRAs, 2 passports, and expedited processing was $410.00 US and they aNew Consulate Mumbaiccepted my credit card.  Lastly, I was called to the window of the consular officer.  She was amazingly sweet and asked to look at each of the babies to compare them with their passport photos.  Once this was done, mom held both of them while I stood at the window, held up my right hand, and swore 6 different oaths about providing financial care until the twins’ 18th birthday, the accuracy of the submitted applications, and my status as a US citizen.  Instant citizenship for Henry and Julianne.

Next step, the DNA tests.  Since I was unsuccessful in obtaining a demand draft prior to the appointment, I asked Josh to leave the consulate with some cash and take the Westin car to find a bank that would process the draft.  He blazed a trail and returned just as we were leaving the building to head over to the FPU side.  The bank was located a few blocks away from the consulate, still within the ‘G’ block of the BKC, a massive complex of government buildings and international banks.  The bank that granted the demand draft is called Bank of Baroda and the address is C-26, G – Block, Bandra – Kurla Complex, Bandra (East), Mumbai-400051.  The demand draft should be made out to Dr. Jayant Rele and they charge 84 INR to print the draft.

Now it was time for the DNA testing, which took place within the same consulate, but we would first have to backtrack from the American Citizens Services (ACS) building to the main entrance of the consulate.  This meant that we were asked to leave the secure area, take the car around the block to the main entrance, and resubmit ourselves for security on the other side.  If you are reading this blog because you are interested in surrogacy in India, please remember to leave all cell phones and electronics (even your ipod ear buds) in the car, because this is non-negotiable.  A consulate employee was waiting for us at the main entrance, checked my passport against his list of DNA tests for the day, and granted us access to a waiting area off of a beautiful bench-lined courtyard.  The DNA testing went smoothly after I provided the original birth certificates, photocopies of these certificates, my passport and visa copies, and the demand draft for 2000 INR.  Each baby had both cheeks swabbed 4 times, the samples were sealed into envelopes, and shipped out directly from the consulate to our lab in Arizona.  As I sit here now, I’ve tracked the package from Mumbai to Dubai to Paris to Memphis.  It should arrive later today in Phoenix.  Once the DNA test is run and there is a match (crossing fingers!), the lab will email the US Consulate and the passports will be ready within 24 hours.

There is a lot of down time here in Mumbai.  Since the babies are so small and we do not have car seats, we are really stuck at the hotel for days on end.  The mall provides a brief respite, as two of us can go to dinner and bring back a meal for the ‘babysitter.’  Mom and I went to the British Brewing Company last night for some food, and it did not disappoint.  The menus are on iPads, so you click on whatever you want and press send to deliver the order to the kitchen.  It’s a cool concept, but seems so out of place when you think about the thousands of people living right next to the mall in the slums who barely have running water, let alone enough electricity to run an iPad.  Mumbai is a stark juxtaposition of incredible wealth and incredible poverty, and the interaction between them is often a few short footsteps.

behind the beautiful foreversI picked up a copy of the book ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers‘ for mom to read, as Josh and I have already read it.  I highly recommend it if you are interested in learning more about the slums of Mumbai and the lives of their inhabitants.  The story is completely true, told by a journalist-turned-author, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.  For my own guilty pleasure, I grabbed a copy of ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown, and although the reviews have been pretty dismal, I’ll give it a shot.

Thank you to everyone for your words of support.  It has been difficult to respond to all of the Facebook messages, the emails, and the blog comments, but we appreciate all of them.  Now that buzzfeed and queerty have picked up the story, our video has been viewed over 75,000 times on multiple sources.  We made a video so that our friends could see the process, but having strangers support our decisions has made it all the more meaningful.  Thank you!

-Matt

Update from the New Dads (With Baby Photos!)

20 May

It’s hard to know where to start on the updates! Also, I’m now a new dad, so my brains are addled from being up at all hours of the day and night and sleeping in odd pockets of time. I think there should be a memoir about parenting newborns called “The Sleep Thief” because that’s pretty much what you have to do if you want some rest. 😉

First of all, the twins are doing really well. We were so surprised and grateful that they spent only two hours in the NICU before being transferred to the regular care baby nursery at the hospital. We met and held them for the first time on Wednesday, May 15, and had them back at the hotel with us the next day.

matt ellen henry julianne facetime new dads on the block

Matt and Ellen introduce Julianne (left) and Henry to Matt’s siblings via FaceTime on the first day back at the hotel.

matt henry julianne tandem feeding new dads on the blockThe twins have been feeding well, about every 3-4 hours (give or take 30 minutes). Henry has been eating with gusto pretty much from the beginning, and regularly puts away 60 mL of Pre-Nan formula (for babies born before 37 weeks, recommended by our hospital). Julianne started with 30 mL feedings, and is now up to 40 mL feedings. (I got her to do 50 mL once and was pretty proud. ;)) The thing with Julianne is that she gets so relaxed while eating that she falls asleep and you kind of have you keep waking her up and remind her that it’s still time to eat. I’ve learned a couple tricks: feeding her near a light source, and occasionally clearing your throat–along with the usual tricks of tapping gently on the bottle, or running a finger along her cheek–helps keep her awake.

In the photo, Matt is doing a tandem feeding, which is more rare for us, but sometimes their hunger lines up in such a way that it’s handy to just go for it all at once. This has happened to us a couple times now during the 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. hours.

Feeding and sleeping move in big cycles, which are relatively predictable. For example, Henry will wake up, give a few cries, and be ready to eat. I’ll feed him, burp him, change him, and get him back down. Right now that’s taking about 45 minutes from start to finish. Then it’s Julianne’s turn to do the exact same thing, usually quite soon after her brother. (The only difference is that she often gets hiccups, which requires more holding and back rubbing after the diaper change. The hiccups often go away after about five minutes of holding and back rubbing.) The feed/burp/change cycle takes about 90 minutes altogether for both of them, and that gives about 1.5-2.5 hours before repeating the cycle. The interim is good for tidying up, resetting baby supplies (formula, diapers, wipes, etc.), and trying to get a little sleep.

josh henry sleeping hotel bathroom new dads on the blockThere’s actually a kind of pleasing rhythm to it all. The other nice thing is this: infants have very simple problems, and there are very simple solutions to them. It makes it kind of gratifying to be able to solve problems all the time and make those little babies happy. They’re also adorable. It’s hard not to just hold them all time. When I burp them and have them on my shoulder and I can hear each little breath, and feel the breaths on my neck–oh, don’t even get me started. Really, they had me at hello.

So what have we been up to other than feeding, diapering, bathing, hand washing infant laundry, holding, cuddling, and burping?

On Friday, May 17, Matt and Ellen went to the mall for some more baby clothes, diapers, and wipes. They also went to a pharmacy in an auto rickshaw for more of the Pre-Nan, an adventure in itself.

When they got back, Matt and I took a taxi to meet with our lawyer, and it sounds like we’re on track so far with the process of getting the kids home. To (really) simplify things, there are three steps: (1) get the twins’ Indian birth certificates, (2) go to the U.S. Consulate for DNA tests that will allow the processing of American passports, and (3) get an exit visa from the FRRO so we can get on a plane and head back to NYC. Each has a bureaucratic process that boggles the mind, but we’re on track so far. (Matt has done an amazing job of being on top of that.) We’re thinking we can be on a plane home hopefully by June 4.

On Saturday, May 18, Matt and I ventured out in an auto rickshaw and went to a local grocery store called Hypercity, which is actually a lot like a Super Target. We bought infant laundry supplies and snacks for the hotel room.

matt henry passport photoOn Sunday, May 19, we got the kids’ passport photos taken, which was an important thing to get crossed off our list. Our lawyer recommended a team that comes to you, shoots the photos, and returns a couple hours later with the finished product. It was $60, and worth it for the hassle-free experience. (That’s Henry getting his passport photo taken on the right.)

On Sunday night, Grandma Ellen babysat while Matt and I had dinner with two guys who used the same clinic as we did and just had a baby boy at the same hospital. They’re from the U.S., but currently live in Singapore (for work). It was fun to put on a real outfit, go out, have a drink, and swap notes about our experiences.

Today Matt and I returned to Hiranandani hospital for what’s called the “no dues” letter, which basically just states that we’ve paid all of our hospital bills in full. It’s a requirement for getting our exit visa from the FRRO before we can leave the country. On our way there we got in a fender bender–a car slammed into the back of ours, going about 20 miles per hour–but as soon as the cab driver assessed that there was no serious damage, he was back in the car and driving off without a word about it.

So, you know, that was different.

Other than that? Bottle feedings. Bottle cleanings. Diaper changes. Burping. Hand washing laundry in a bucket, and then air drying it. Getting babies to wake up; getting babies to fall asleep. Wiping bums, giving sponge baths, swiping away eye crusties. Nibbling little cheeks. Holding little warm bodies. Feed, diaper, change. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

–Josh

henry julianne new dads on the block

Henry (left) and Julianne, at five days old.

Hiranandani Hospital in Powai

19 May

So now I’m going to try to remember everything that took place at the hospital in detail… here we go.

We arrived before 9 am, and the first step was to meet with the social worker who would verify my identity, review the surrogacy contract documents, and make photocopies of these records for their own purposes.  For those who are following in our footsteps, I will try to provide locations.  The social worker’s office is located on the ground floor, directly behind the welcome desk.  If you walk to the right of the welcome desk and pass the Hindi statues on your right, look to your left for a small door.  The social worker got in around 9:15 am and immediately began to review ourbabies documents.  There was a small concern over my middle name being omitted from the surrogacy contract when compared to my passport, but it should not be a problem as long as the birth certificates match my passport name exactly.  A few minutes later, I was taken up to the 9th floor where the nursery was keeping our babies warm and cozy.

The 9th floor of the hospital contains the nursery, a few private ‘hotel’ rooms, and the snack bar.  A row of chairs in the nursery waiting room is where Josh and my mom spent most of the day waiting to see the babies.  I spent 20 minutes sitting there before they allowed me access into the tiny nursery.  Eight babies were in individual carts and ours were in the two closest to the door.  Julianne was born first and barely weighed 4 lbs.  She was under a blue-ish lamp due to slight jaundice and she had eye covers to protect her baby blues.  Henry was just laying there, staring up at the ceiling.  I couldn’t breathe because I was so happy.  The nurses asked me to put on a mask, a hairnet, and some scrubs in order to hold the babies.  A series of forms had to be signed, giving permission for the photo light therapy, the formula feeding, etc.  I was able to hold each of them for just a few minutes before heading back down to the ground floor to meet with a friend who brought a local SIM card for my blackberry.  At this point, mom and Josh had been sitting patiently downstairs, waiting for any word.  They clearly were anxious to meet the babies, so I was able to convince the social worker to allow all of us up to the 9th floor waiting area until a private room could be made available.  About five hours in, we were finally given our room, just a few doors down from the nursery.  We spent the next hour waiting for the babies to be wheeled into the room.  If you’ve seen the video, you know how amazing that moment was for us.  Josh was speechless and mom did not want to let them go once they were in her arms.

The nursing staff came in with bottles, formula, and hand sanitizer and gave us a brief lesson in feeding schedules, burping, and swaddling.  While the doctors can communicate in English pretty well, the nurses struggle to understand some more complicated requests.  Nevertheless, we were able to keep the babies in our room until discharge the next afternoon without any further medical intervention.

While Josh and mom were feeding the twins, I was able to pop down to the 2nd floor, where the NICU and the birthing suites reside.  I found a nurse in the NICU and requested two copies of the form that needs to be filled out to begin the birth certificate process.  These forms need to be filled out perfectly, making sure that the names are spelled correctly, the location of birth explicitly stated as Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital (you would assume that they would just do that part for you, but most of the babies born in the area are born at home and only brought to the NICU if needed).  I was then asked if I had changed the baby names from I and II in their computer system to their actual names.  Since I had never been told to do this, hospitalI had to return to the welcome desk on the ground floor and fill out two ‘information change’ forms that were immediately received and updated by the representative.  Once the babies were named in the computer system, I returned to the NICU with proof of the name change and the previously mentioned forms were filed.  Finally, I took the elevator down to the basement to find the records room.  One of the records room employees stated that it was too early to see if the birth certificate forms had been properly submitted and suggested that I return the following day.

At this point, I returned to the 9th floor to our room.  Josh and mom decided to return to the hotel for the night, with a stop at a baby store to check out the availability of portable bassinets.  I spent the rest of the night feeding, burping, and sleeping.   I think the babies did that too.

At 9 pm the pediatrician, Dr. Ahuja, popped in to check on the twins.  He listened to their hearts, checked their jaundice, and told me that we would most likely be discharged by Friday afternoon (2 days later).  The next morning, mom and Josh returned and we waited for a few hours for the morning rounds to speak with the doctor again.  When he did not show, I called down to the clinic where he treats patients and asked to be discharged.  He readily agreed, which makes me think that we would probably still be sitting there if I hadn’t been more demanding.  Clearly, the babies were healthy, feeding well, and needed no extra care that a hospital would provide.  He asked the nurse to wheel the babies down to his clinic to weigh them one last time.  I joined this caravan from the 9th floor to the ground floor, smiling happily as all of the other patients and staff stared at the two carts, trying to figure out exactly what was going on.  Both babies had lost a little weight, which is normal after they transition from placenta feeding to bottle feeding.  Dr. Ahuja explained that we should allow the babies to be in direct sunlight for a small amount of time each day to help with the jaundice and asked us to return this coming Friday for a checkup.  I popped back down to the records room and the clerk informed me that the paperwork was in place and that the certificates would be available in a week.

From there, I returned back to our room, signed a bunch of discharge forms, and we got the babies wrapped up for their first road trip.  Finally, I had to settle the hospital bill for the babies as well as our surrogate.  The billing office is also on the 9th floor, right next to the elevators.  The billing manager spoke with the nursing station on the 5th floor where our surrogate had been recovering from her c-section.  Our surrogate was also being discharged, so her final bill was settled pretty quickly.  One note about costs: every single item brought to your hospital room is charged to your account.  While in our parenting classes, we were told to stock up on free diapers, wipes, formula, etc., but I guess that things work differently in US hospitals.  I requested wipes and was told that I would have to go downstairs to the convenience store to purchase them.  Every diaper was billed to our account.

We plan on writing an entry about the total costs of surrogacy, but for now, I’ll just provide the hospital expenses.  After an initial wired deposit of 102,000 rupees (about US $1800), the final bill was for another 158,000 rupees, for a grand total of 260,000 rupees (US $4800).  While this is a lot of money, it included a full 4 weeks of admission for our surrogate prior to the birth, the entire delivery of the twins, the anesthesia and follow-up care, the accommodations, all consumables, all drugs, the daily consultations, and all of the lab tests.

Now the babies are back at the hotel with us.  We have fallen into a pretty routine schedule of feedings, and we couldn’t be happier.

-Matt

VIDEO: Gay Dads Matt & Josh Meet Their Twins on the Other Side of the World

17 May