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10 months already?

10 Mar

This week, Henry and Julianne will be 10 months old.  I can hardly believe how quickly they are changing from tiny, milk-hungry blobs into real human beings!  Julianne often smiles with her one gummy tooth and mutters PaPaPaPa… I’m not sure if she understands what she is saying or is just mimicking, but either way, it’s amazing.  Henry can pull himself up into a standing position, but hasn’t quite figured out how to get back down.  Our days tend to repeat themselves on the same sleep and feeding schedule, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  Here are a few pics:

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During my downtime (ha) this week, I want to write an update on the second parent adoption process in the state of New York.  We seem to be moving in the right direction, but it is taking much longer than we anticipated.


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!


Hospital Bills

29 Apr

Our surrogate spent a total of 15 days in the hospital for treatment of pregnancy-induced-hypertension (PIH) and pre-term labor.  Hiranandani Hospital was amazing when I asked for updates from Dr. Soni, the OBGYN who will oversee the birth.  I occasionally requested a copy of the most recent bill, and it was provided typically within 24 hours as a pdf.  The 15 day stay included the bed, consultation fees, medication, and supplies.  We have used about 3/4 of the initial deposit, so we will most likely have to either top off the account via wire transfer or pay the balance when we arrive in Mumbai.  Josh and I anticipated this scenario, so we budgeted appropriately and are anticipating a total hospital expense of roughly $4,000 including the birth, NICU time, and the surrogate’s pre-birth stay.  (On a side note, if I stayed in the hospital for 15 days in NYC as a cash paying patient, my bill would probably approach six figures, so getting a bill for approximately $1,400 was almost enjoyable.)hiranandani_hospital_600x450

She was released from the hospital last week, and a few days later, she was re-admitted because her blood pressure continues to be a concern.  Pre-eclampsia is a condition that women pregnant with multiples can encounter, and we believe that the hospital is a better place for her to wait than the surrogate housing.  Dr. Soni has indicated that she is doing very well, on a strict diet, and getting very close to her delivery date.  In anticipation of a last-minute flight to India, Josh and I spent the weekend in Richmond, VA, meeting my mother half way to her home in North Carolina in order to pass along our dog.  ‘Butter’ will stay with my brothers and my father in NC until we return from India to claim him.

Mom is all packed and can’t wait to get this party started.  On the day that Rotunda announces our birth (or if we make it to the scheduled C-section date), we will fly mom up to NYC and all 3 of us will hop on the 8:35 PM direct flight to Mumbai.  Obviously this could happen at any moment because the twins are already at 33 weeks, so it’s hard to focus on all of the small things that I have to take care of before we depart.  Oh, and I just got an email from our lawyer letting me know that one of her clients was just able to obtain the baby’s exit visa through the FRRO in Mumbai rather than having to schlep everyone to Delhi.  She believes that we will be able to do the same thing, saving us a rather large travel expense and a few wasted days.  Small blessings.  Thank you to Meg at Amani & Bob’s Indian Surrogacy for keeping tabs on the ever-changing FRRO regulations.  I’ve been glued to your blog since the day our pregnancy was confirmed.


The Second Attempt

25 Aug

I took a trip to Capital One today to send two wire transfers off to Mumbai to begin our second attempt at surrogacy.  After quite a few emails back and forth with the clinic, all of our questions were answered about what to expect during a second try.  Unfortunately (and I know this is going to sound awful), we have no way of ever knowing what happened with the first attempt or if an attempt was even made.  After freezing two sperm samples, Josh and I left the country, so for all we know, the first attempt was never completed and this is a way to squeeze a little more money out of us.  I did receive copies of the hormone test results from the clinic, but a document like that is very easy to replicate and without having seen the actual implantation of the embryos, it’s a large leap of faith to simply send another round of cash out into the world.

If I hadn’t gone to the clinic in person and met with the surrogate, the lawyer, and the doctor, I would be extremely nervous about this.  I absolutely trust that Rotunda has our best interests in mind, which is why we agreed to follow their protocols and work with a new surrogate as well as a new egg donor.  The rationale behind this is that either of those factors could have been what prevented the first pregnancy, so the best odds are keeping the sperm the same and changing up all other variables.

Surrogacy abroad is not for those who can’t handle stress.  This transfer has put our total spend over 20k so far including travel, legal fees, passport visa fees, and two attempts.  In the US, we would have clear guidelines to follow and our money would not be tracked via email with rounded international conversions treated as full payment.  In the US, if our deposit was a penny short, the computer would freeze things and we would have to resolve the issue.  Everything is negotiable in India, and we have tried to get used to the more laid back culture when conducting business.

I’m trying to think good thoughts as we begin the second cycle.  It’s very difficult when you can’t see any of the physical manifestations of your payment, but we just have to trust that Rotunda and our new surrogate will have a more favorable outcome this time around.  That, and I need to fly back to Mumbai at least one more time to secure my newfound mayorship of Rotunda – The Center for Human Reproduction. 🙂


Lawyers Without Borders

22 Jun

A lawyer who specializes in surrogacy will be required for the second parent adoption as well as to answer any technical questions that will arise as fees begin to accumulate. This child (or children) will genetically be linked to myself and an anonymous egg donor, so legally, a second parent adoption will be required to cover any potential parentage issues for Josh. As this process can not start until after the birth and takes approximately 8 months to complete, a lawyer should be placed on retainer to help us with the entire process. Unfortunately, every lawyer that we have contacted has essentially replied with the same message: they have no legal standing to practice in India, so they are unable to provide us with the counsel that we require.

We may have to figure this out on our own until we arrive back in the United States. A family lawyer will be able to procure the second parent adoption, but as far as a surrogacy lawyer goes, we are out of luck. Thankfully, the surrogacy laws in India are unique in that the only names placed on a birth certificate are those with a genetic link to the child. Therefore, I would be the only name listed on the birth certificate, and thus Baby X will be considered a US citizen born abroad, at least according to India. This makes immigration a very easy process, once the US is satisfied with a genetic test proving my parentage.