Saturday, April 30, 2011

Another Round of Pictures!

Cornelia's Passport
The secret envelope issued by the HMA and submitted to the FRRO.

Another bottle with Dad.

Drafting the next blog post while Cornelia provides editorial comment.

First family picture

Our Home Away From Home

Some of you might be wondering where we are staying during our time in India. We are very, very lucky to be staying at our friend Michael Aram's home in Delhi. Ken has known Michael for . . . . well, let's just say they have known each other for "some number of years." They first met when Ken was a buyer at Pottery Barn and regularly traveling to India on buying trips. Michael had recently started his design and production company in India and Ken worked with him on a number of products for Pottery Barn. Although Michael has since moved back to New York City, he still returns to India regularly to oversee his New Delhi factory. As a result, he maintains a lovely apartment here and graciously made it available to us during our stay.

Our stay has been truly wonderful. Michael was here for our first several days in India before he flew home to New York. Just two months ago Michael and his partner Aret welcomed their newborn twins, Thaddeus and Annabelle, so Michael was able to share with us a lot of new parent stories and advice. He also introduced us to a group of his friends here and they have stopped by to meet Cornelia and of course for cocktails and dinner. Also making our stay wonderful are Reema and Biru, Michael's house staff. Reema is a wonderful cook and both of them are taking very good care of us. In fact, we're feeling pretty pampered at this point.

As an aside, Michael has the honor of being our first friend to meet Cornelia, and his visit to the hospital to see her even caused a bit of a stir. In the afternoon after Cornelia was born Ken and I were at the SCI offices and we got a message from the hospital that my brother had been there looking for us. Of course we were baffled by the message since my brother is in Denver and not in Delhi, but we didn't give it a whole lot of thought. Clearly, something had been confused in translation. Later, we were back at the hospital and Dr. Tandon told us that the fashion designer Suneet Varma had been at the hospital that day. We weren't sure why this should be important to us. Then Dr. Tandon told us that this fashion designer had been to the hospital that day to see Cornelia. Again, we were baffled.

Ultimately when we got home that evening Michael told us that he and his friend Suneet (who is in fact a designer in Delhi) had visited the hospital to see Cornelia that afternoon. When the reception desk hesitated to let them go to the nursery, Suneet – thinking quickly and realizing that Michael and I look alike or at least look sufficiently alike in India where all tall white guys look alike – proclaimed to the receptionist, "This is the brother of one of the fathers! You must let him through to see the baby!" It worked. They let them right through to see Cornelia.

Cornelia's One-Week Check-Up

Today (Friday) we took Cornelia to see Dr. Tandon for her one-week check-up and she's doing great. She's even gained a bit of weight – about 5 grams – which made us very happy since most babies lose a bit of weight in their first week. We weren't too surprised by the weight gain since she's been slurping and sucking down formula like a real champ all week.

The nurses drew blood for some standard tests and gave her a Hepatitis B vaccination since she did not get the vaccination at birth. A Hep B vaccination at birth is standard practice in both the U.S. and India. However, recently a new parent from the U.S. had a fit about the Hep B vaccine being administered immediately after birth without her consent. As a result the hospital has decided not to give the vaccine to non-Indian babies until their parents' affirmatively consent to it. We gave our consent and Cornelia got the shot. I suspect by the ensuing crying she would have preferred that we hadn't given our consent.

By the way, the hospital nursery was full of babies today – seven new babies including three new American babies.

Other than the needles today, Cornelia has been quite a happy baby. She has two dads who dote on her twenty-four hours a day and keep watch for any signs of looming trouble. She has made sure we know her "I'm waking up now so you better get my new diaper and next bottle ready" signal. She made this one clear from the beginning. It's an intricate choreography of face squinting and nose crinkling, fish-like mouth opening, and occasional sighing and squeaking sometimes accompanied by intermittent arm waving. We've been pretty good students and for the most part she has had to resort to crying only a couple times when we weren't following along closely enough. She has also established for us her "I'm going to go to sleep now" signal. It's relatively brief and pretty amusing since she pretty much passes out like a drunken sailor after she finishes a bottle.

"Like a drunken sailor . . . ."

Before the visit to the hospital we took Cornelia on her first outing that didn't include a hospital, an embassy or a government agency. We took her to the nearby Kahn Market for a brie sandwich and chaussen (fancy name for an apple turnover) at the French bakery and then dropped by the tailor shop to browse fabric for new dress shirts. Cornelia thoroughly enjoyed the outing and activities. Well, she would have if she had been awake. Her grandma Mary would have been very proud of her granddaughter's first shopping excursion.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Foreign Regional Registration Office

Today (Thursday) we delivered our special sealed envelop from the MHA to the FRRO.  Again, Kuldeep met us outside the FRRO offices and walked us through the entire process.  He filled out the required forms in the first waiting room (where he pulled out of his "McGiver" backpack a hole punch, paperclips and a glue stick to affix Cornelia's picture to the forms), escorted us past two very long lines, delivered the documents to the necessary official (who opened the special sealed envelope although we never saw the documents inside), found us seats in the second, very crowded waiting room, and then chatted with us for thirty minutes while we waited.  He mentioned that he was very happy because today was the one-year anniversary of his arranged marriage (he didn't meet his wife in person until his wedding day!), their recent week-long trip to the famous Golden Palace, and some interesting Indian history related to the Palace.  At that point, the only thing he didn't do was offer us cocktails from his backpack.  But it was before noon after all. 
The entire FRRO experience was quite a "parade of nations" as Ken described it.  From outside the building in the chaos of the parking lot to the crowds in the second waiting room, the crowd must have represented dozens of nations.  There were many, many people from Afghanistan.  Apparently there is a very large Afghan community in India and it's relatively easy to enter the country for work.  Everybody was dressed in their ethnic or national costume: Sikhs in their turbans, women in bedazzled burkas (Ken described it as "very Sex in the City II"), an African woman in a bright yellow, full-length beaded dress and, of course, the blond "hippy-dippy dude" from the U.S.  Ken was a bit jealous that he didn't have a costume as well, until he realized his Banana Republic khaki shorts, plaid Penguin shirt and All Star Converse tennis shoes were his national costume.
The entire time he kept us abreast of the progress of Cornelia's documents.  "Ah, they have just been taken to the Server Room," he told us at one point, nodding at the room labeled "Server Room / Access Restricted.  Then when the documents reappeared from that room he collected them and escorted us to a counter where he had a very involved conversation with the woman behind the counter.  Mike's anxiety climbed a bit at that point since the conversation went on for some time and there was much talk, some shaking of heads and very little smiling.  Finally, that conversation finished and Kuldeep escorted us to the "Pay Here" counter where we paid the necessary fees.  Grinning, Kuldeep announced that we were done; we could take Cornelia out of India.
Once in the car Mike asked Kuldeep if the woman behind the counter had raised concerns or objections.  "Oh, no," he said, "we know her well and she was just asking about Radhika."  So, essentially there were just old friend catching up.  In fact, as we talked more with Kuldeep we realized that he brings clients to the MHA and FRRO on daily basis.  Tomorrow he will start the process all over again with another U.S. couple who just had twin girls this week.  He said that in all that time he has never had a problem with the process.  Wish he would have told us that at the outset. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Photos at last....

Last minute cramming before delivery - time was spent doing this and the good ol' fashioned pacing.

Our first view of Cornelia.
Making the "You're a Grandparent" calls.
Boy do they swaddle in India!

The trip to The Ministry, Dad was worried I was going to get too hot.

Class of 2029!
Something for Baby, something for Daddy.

Making bottles at 3 am.

Aftermath of making bottles at 3 am.

Cornelia's first dinner party - she was 48 hours old.
Our lovely host, Michael Aram.

The Ministry of Homeland Affairs

Today (Wednesday) we went to the Ministry of Homeland Affairs to start the process to secure a visa for Cornelia to leave the country.  Our job was to show up with all the correct documents and leave the rest to Mr. Chawla's assistant, Kuldeep.  Kuldeep met us outside the HMA building.  He walked us through security and to the correct office, then sat down with us and completed the necessary forms.  After that it was a matter of waiting, although it seemed to Mike that Kuldeep was making things happen via phone calls and text messages from the waiting room.  For example, he seemed to know when to take the documents to the appropriate person and seemed to know when everything was finished – and the only communications he was having was via his cell phone.  After about an hour he put us on the phone with Radhika who explained that this step in the process was completed and that one of us would have to come back at 5:00 p.m. to pick up a sealed envelop.  The envelope is to be delivered to the Foreign Regional Registration Office the following day – and cannot be opened.  It has to arrive at the FRRO still sealed.  All of this was expected so there were no surprises today – which is a good thing.
While sitting with Kuldeep Mike asked him if he helped our friends Jeff and Jeff.  He said he had and then started thumbing through his pocket-sized steno pad.  He had already jotted down on his little pad some information about Mike, Ken and Cornelia – names, birth dates, etc.  He thumbed through his pad until he found his notes about Jeff and Jeff from two months earlier.  And then, as he was thumbing through the pad, he mentioned things like, "This couple was from Finland.  This couple was from the UK.  This couple was from Australia and had three babies."  We realized that this little pad probably had the record of international surrogacy in Delhi for the past six months.  Incredible!
At 5:00 Mike returned to the office for the envelope and all went smoothly.  Tomorrow morning it's off to the FRRO. 

"Lawyers, Embassies and Doctors, oh my!"

(Apologies for the delay in posting.  We have had some technical difficulties.  The following posting was intended for Tuesday.)

So, there is much to report on our progress in the past twenty-four hours. 

Yesterday evening (Monday) we met with our Indian attorney, Mr. Chawla, and his associate, Ms. Bahl (Radhika), to confirm that all of our documents are ready for our meetings with the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Foreigner's Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in the coming days.  This is the process for securing Cornelia's Indian visa so she can leave the country.  Fortunately, and with the tremendous assistance of SCI, Mr. Chawla and Radhika, our paperwork is in order.  Now we just hope that the process will go smoothly with both agencies.  Our first meeting is with MHA tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. 

It's our impression that the international surrogacy process in India is still a relatively new process from the Indian government's perspective.  Although the medical services and the private firms providing them (like SCI) have been growing by leaps and bounds, the government seems to have not kept pace.  Apparently, there aren't yet detailed guidelines, regulations or administrative codes for the process.  So, much is left to the discretion of the agencies and the individual bureaucrats involved in the visa process for example.  That of course makes surrogacy clients from abroad uncomfortable.  However, our attorney Mr. Chawla has become the expert in the field and seemingly is largely guiding the involved agencies on the appropriate processes and steps.  Even our contact at the US Embassy commented on Mr. Chawla's influence.

Today (Tuesday) we went to the U.S. Embassy to get Cornelia's passport.  (Three days old and she already has a passport.  I sense a lifetime of international travel . . ..)  The process was pretty painless.  The embassy is in a grand neighborhood in the city where most embassies are located.  They boast large buildings, landscaped grounds, and wide boulevards.  However, as you approach the U.S. Embassy, you're presented with a jam of honking horns, taxis, tuk tuks and private cars dropping passengers, throngs of people milling about, and lots and lots of security gaurds.  Noticing the serenity of the Swiss embassy across the street we realized that having the US embassy as a neighbor is like living next to a frat house - lots of commotion all day every day

We were dropped in the middle of the crowd milling about (perhaps there was some order to it all, but it was lost on us), Cornelia bundled up in her traveling bassinette.  Mike spotted the American Citizens Services line and we made our way in that direction.  Fortunately, the guards must be accustomed to finding bewildered and confused U.S. citizens in the crowd and pointing them in the right direction.  Once the first guard spotted us and put us on the right path, all was good.  The best part?  No line for US citizens.  Other than moving through multiple security checkpoints (no electronic devices at all on the premises - laptops, cell phones, cameras and even iPods had to be checked outside the compound), we essentially strolled into the embassy and made our way to the American Citizens Services (ACS) office.

There we met Nancy Hamilton who handles process for getting passports for US citizens' babies born in India.  She was wonderful. Really, the biggest challenge was getting Cornelia's passport picture. The picture has to include open eyes, and Cornelia was fast asleep when it was picture time. We did everything we could to get her to open her eyes – jostling, bouncing, talking, and even stripping her down hoping the cool air might rouse her a bit.  ("Cool air" in India.  Now that's funny.) After twenty minutes we finally got a shot with her eyes wide open.  Cute!

After finishing at the embassy, we dashed back to the hospital for Cornelia's two-day check-up with Dr. Tandon. She passed with flying colors. We were most excited that she maintained her birth weight, losing only .025 grams. (Mike had warned her beforehand, "Girrrl, don't make you papas look bad.") Babies can lose up to ten percent of their birth weight in the week or so following their arrival. Given the skepticism we sensed among some at the hospital that two men could adequately care for a baby, we didn't want to show up with an undernourished three-day-old baby. Her color was good too, i.e., no jaundice. We go back at the end of the week for her next check up.

We also chatted with Dr. Tandon about surrogacy in India generally. Dr. Tandon said it's a huge business now and the government is very supportive. We mentioned that we had heard some concerns that the government might start to restrict it if it gets too big. He said the hurdle won't be the Indian government; it will be be the lack of visibility in the US and the perceptions – or frankly, the lack of knowledge – American's have of India. He said that Indian surrogacy really needs advocates in the US. He asked about our decision to consider India, and we told him that we had heard about a lot of good experiences and it helped that Ken is very familiar and comfortable with the country.

After that appointment Ken retired to the house with Cornelia and Mike zipped back to the embassy to pick up her final passport.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Quick Hello

Hello Everyone, this is Ken writing.  It's Wednesday morning, we had a very civilized evening - dinner in around 9 pm, gave Cornelia a bottle at 11pm, slept until 3 am when we gave her a second bottle and then slept until 7 this morning at which point we had coffee in bed with our daughter and watched CNN.  Not so bad for day 3.  I'm not kidding myself that this will be the norm, I'm just reveling in a nearly full night of sleep.

 Mike is not feeling well (a little Delhi Belly), so is resting.  Our Internet is down, so I'm writing this from the neighboring hotel as I'm getting the remainder of the documents ready for our meeting with the Visa people.  Mike feels the demand of his public, so wanted to make sure I made a quick post letting people know that he will be back at it later today and is also planning on getting some photos up as well.   In the meantime, I wanted to give credit where credit is do and let everyone know that all of these posts are coming from my ever dutiful spouse. Mike.  I merely review them and criticize - a daunting task in itself I know, but it must be done.

Farewell for now and your regularly scheduled programmer will be back this evening.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Where did the names come from?

Many of you know that we picked the baby's names many, many months ago but did not reveal them before Cornelia's arrival.  Cornelia's name honors both her grandmothers and their families.  Cornelia is Ken's mom's name, and the names Cornelia and Cornelius have been in Ken's mom's family for many generations.  The name originally comes from Cornelius Jackson who was one of the few free black landowners in Virginia before the Civil War.  Walsh is Mike's mom's maiden name and is a nod to Mike's mom, the Walsh family history (we recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Cornelia's great grandfather, Edward T. Walsh), and the Irish branch of the family. 

"That was a long night." (Sunday night / Monday morning)

So, we finally managed to break Cornelia out of the hospital yesterday.  More on that story later. 

We just finished our first night alone with Cornelia; just her two dads and our wits to make it through the night intact.  It went pretty smoothly.  There were not a lot of tears.  Mike only broke down once.  (Just kidding.)  We (and by "We," I mean Cornelia.)  had bottles at 9:00 p.m., 11:30 p.m., 2:30 a.m., 5:00 a.m., 7:00 a.m.  The times are all approximate because although we had a schedule - one bottle every three hours - Cornelia pretty much set the schedule.  In addition to bottles, there was good pooping.  But there wasn't a lot of sleep.  In fact, pretty much none.  Mike has firmly established himself in the "panicked and paranoid" dad role, jumpinng up every time Cornelia even squeaked just to be sure she was okay, and sometimes even when she wasn't making a sound just to be sure she was okay.  Ken handled it all like a pro - calm and fearless the entire time.  We just finished breakfast (thank goodness for Michael's wonderful housekeeping staff Rima and Biru) and are now back to bed hoping for a bit of shut-eye before Cornelia gives us the high sign for her next bottle.

Birthday Day

We arrived at the hospital shortly before 8:00 a.m. and waited a bit anxiously in the lobby for news of the baby's arrival. Ken paced – literally. While we waited, the neighborhood Hindu priest dropped by to light the candle in the lobby shrine and provide morning chanting. We don't know what he was chanting about, but we took it as a blessing and with appreciation. The small lobby was bustling with staff and patients coming and going, with only passing glances for the two foreigners sitting with computer bags, a diaper bag and a traveling bassinette.

At 8:50 a.m. we were sent up to the nursery. The receptionist just said, "You're requested in the nursery" and pointed us upstairs. So we didn't know anything until we saw Cornelia on the other side of the nursery window: a naked, squirming, blinking, fussing, pink and precious little baby girl. It was nothing less than amazing. After much "oohing" and "aahing" we called our families with the news of their new granddaughter and niece.

And then we started the business of the day. Shilpi – who is essentially our case manager at SCI – arrived at about 9:30 to check on us and to begin shepherding us through the business of the day. Also, since we were the first SCI clients sent to this particular hospital, she wanted to be sure everything was running smoothly. It was. The day's primary objective was to secure Cornelia's birth certificate. After Shilpi talked with hospital staff about the process at this particular hospital we went to the SCI offices to complete the necessary forms. We then went back to the hospital so that they could input and submit the information from those forms online. At the hospital at that point we met with the pediatrician who explained to us that the baby was doing very well, and explained the various tests and vaccinations she would be getting. After that meeting it was back again to the SCI office to settle our accounts.

Then back again to the hospital for Cornelia's afternoon bottle – and our first lesson in feeding a baby. We definitely have the impression that a lot of people are skeptical about whether two men can care for a baby. We chalked this up to the likelihood that Indian men likely do little in the care and feeding of their newborns. The pediatrician – who was very kind – told us that Cornelia would stay in the hospital until we were comfortable – and they were comfortable – that we were ready to take her home. So, on the first afternoon we learned how to measure formula, add water and shake it in the bottle, and the importance of sterilizing the bottles. And then we watched the nurse feed her behind the glass window. We didn't get to hold Cornelia at all the first day. While we might chalk that up to local custom – keeping babies in a sterile environment for 24 hours or so –we also know that other babies were going from the nursery to see their mothers for breast milk. Yet we spent more time waiting outside the nursery than anyone else.

After Cornelia's 5:00 p.m. bottle, we returned to Michael's home (where we are staying) and enjoyed a wonderful evening with a group of his friends.

Welcome Cornelia Walsh Gotham Wingard

Born Saturday, April 23, 2011 at 8:42 am local time. Weighed 5 pounds eight ounces and measured 20 inches long.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Vacation Husband"

So, today Mike left the office for a six-week leave.  This is the first time he has had more than a two-week break from work in 16 years and there's been only one two-week break in those sixteen years - our honeymoon nearly two years ago.  Ken is giddy with the prospect of having his husband undistracted by work for six weeks.  "Vacation husband" - as Ken has dubbed the person Mike becomes when he fully disengages from work - is a rare and special visitor.  Of course "vacation husband" will be visiting along with "daddy husband."  Hopefully they'll get along just fine.

Today was a special day in the Gotham family for a reason unrelated to the baby.  Mike's parents retired today.  They closed their retail store in Port Angeles today for the last time.  Apparently many friends joined them for wine and much toasting after the doors closed this afternoon.  Now they will be able to enjoy time with their first grandchild.  We know they will be waiting for the baby to arrive in San Francisco and then to get the "green light" to jump in the car and race down to meet their new "grandbaby."  Let retirement and grandparenthood officially begin.

Thanks to Ken's planning and organization, we are packed for our flight tomorrow morning.  The birth is now rescheduled for Saturday morning local time, following our arrival on Friday night.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Counting Down - Less than 72 hours to departure

The countdown to departure (ours for India) and arrival (the baby's into the world) has begun.  We leave San Francisco this Thursday morning (4/21) at 9:00 a.m.  Ken thought we arrived in India on Thursday evening local time, so SCI planned to induce labor on Friday, (4/22).  However, when Mike checked our itinerary we realized we arrive on Friday evening, not Thursday.  We're hoping the birth can be delayed until Saturday and are waiting to hear from SCI about rescheduling. 

SCI reports that all is well with the baby.  At this point the baby will be considered full term, although it's likely to be a bit on the small side.  The birth will likely be cesarean since the latest ultra sound revealed a "single nuchal loop."  That means the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck.  It's not a big problem, but usually leads to a cesarean birth. 

Of course we still don't know if the baby will be a boy or a girl -- and the suspense is killing us.  But maybe not as much as the suspense about the names we've chosen is killing some of our family members.  Mike's mom and her sisters are anxiously awaiting the birth of the child and the news of the name -- and not necessarily in that order.