Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mission "Twin Retrieval": Passports and visas secured.

It’s Thursday and our last day in India.  And we’re really excited to be heading home tonight.

Tuesday was a busy day wrapping up passports and exit visas.  The DNA results arrived at the U.S. embassy on Tuesday morning and the passports were ready within a couple of hours.  Ken jumped into a tuk-tuk and dashed over to the embassy to pick them up.  Then we all headed out to finish the exit visa process.  The first stop was Ms. Poonam’s office to get the paperwork to take with us to the FRRO.  Unfortunately, we forgot the photos we needed in our room but Ms. Poonam was able to contact the photographer who delivered new copies to her office within an hour.  We then went to the FRRO for the exit visas. 

The FRRO (“Foreigner Registration Regional Office”) is an interesting place; it’s where all foreigners in Delhi get their visas so it’s a busy place and a bit of a parade of nations.  We met a nice woman from Africa (who of course asked us “Where’s the mother?”), two women from Australia who helped a bit with the babies, and a young African man studying in Delhi.  The FRRO process has changed a bit since we were here two years ago.  For example, now only applicants for visas can enter the building (unlike last time when our lawyer sent someone from his staff with us to walk us through the process) and the babies have to be present (unlike last time when Cornelia was in the car outside just in case she had to be seen).  Overall, the FRRO is a bit like the San Francisco DMV:  really big, bureaucratic, seemingly disorganized, and slow.  (The San Francisco DMV, however, doesn’t have an open fire burning in the parking lot.  I’m not sure if it was a cook fire or for burning rubbish.)  After two hours we were done and on our way.

Lattes.  I'm happy.
High Tea at the Imperial Hotel
Despite running around Delhi for babies, passports and visas, and the every-three-hours bottle feedings, we have managed to have some social time and some very nice meals during our stay.  On our first day in India we met an Australian couple in the waiting room at the hospital who were picking up their newborn daughter.  We met them out several times, including for high tea at the Imperial Hotel and for dinner.  A friend was in Delhi for several days to meet with SCI and we met him for high tea and for lunch.  Last night we went out to dinner with another friend who works for Alliance India, a nonprofit organization working with people with HIV and AIDS.  He brought along a friend who works for the Gates Foundation’s India office.  And, yes, every time we had two infants strapped to our chests.

Margot after one of our outings
Our journey home starts tonight.  We'll leave our hotel at midnight for our 3:00 a.m. flight.  We fly from Delhi to Amsterdam and then, after a short layover, from Amsterdam to Portland, Oregon.  We have several hours in the Portland airport before our flight to San Francisco.  We land at 5:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, about 30 hours after we leave our room here.

The babies are doing well.  They are getting pretty good at lifting their heads and starting to grab fingers.  

Cornelia and Grandma Connie in Savannah

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mision "Twin Retrieval": A visit with Dr. Shivani

Yesterday we dropped by the SCI offices and had the chance to visit Dr. Shivani.  We think Dr. Shivani is absolutely terrific.  She has created an amazing agency full of wonderful people, and she seems to work 24-7.  Even though she must have lots and lots of clients, she is always responsive to our emails or at least monitoring our communications with everyone at SCI.  We just can't say enough good things about her!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mission "Twin Retrieval": A Busy 24 Hours

Well, the past 24 hours have been very busy and productive for us here in Delhi!  It's Tuesday night here as I write this.

One Indian Tuk Tuk
Yesterday (Monday) Ken spent the afternoon darting around Delhi running errands. Now, you should understand that Ken is quite happy darting around a foreign city seeing what he can see.  And if he has the excuse of “running errands”, why, that’s even better!  And better still?  Darting around a foreign city running errands in an Indian tuk-tuk!  So, off he went, to "run his errands."  

The first stop was the bank at the GK-2 M-Block
Many Indian Tuk Tuks
market (which is just down the street from our hotel) to get a cashier’s check to pay for the DNA tests at the US embassy on Tuesday.  It actually turned out to be stops at three different banks before Ken successfully completed the transaction.  He  mentioned to me later that standing in line at the last bank was like standing in line for a drink at a bar: you elbow your way up to the counter along with everyone else until the teller gets around to you and then it’s your turn.  

The next stop was SCI to
pick up the twins’ birth
M Block Market
certificates.  Then Ken dashed off to the M-Block market in GK-1 for baby formula and a couple of extra bottles.  While there -- and  because he had some time before he had to be anywhere else -- he did a bit of shopping for baby clothes.  And, wouldn’t you know it?!  Baby clothes in India are both cute and inexpensive!  I think he bought about six pairs of leggings for Cornelia for $1.50 each.  He came home with two shopping bags and quite happy with his purchases (although then I reminded him that we would have to fit his purchases into our luggage).

After shopping, Ken was off to meet with Ms. Poonam, the woman who will help us through the process to get the twins’ Indian exit visas through the FRRO.  Fortunately, she worked at the US embassy here in Delhi for 22 years and knows all the ins and outs of the SCI surrogacy / DNA testing / US passport / FRRO visa process. 

Ken made it home just in time for us to leave for our “five-days-after-discharge-from-the-hospital-to-make-sure-you-can-keep-your-babies-alive” appointment with the pediatrician.  (No, we did not take a tuk-tuk to this appointment.)  The twins are doing great.  They've both put on more weight; Flynn is now 6lb 3oz and Margot is now 5lb 15 oz.  Yes, Flynn has caught up to Margot and is even slightly bigger (or his diaper was heavier at the time . . . ).

Finally, we wrapped up the day with the passport photographer.  It was great.  He came to our hotel, took the necessary pictures and was back within a couple hours with all the copies we needed.  Flynn’s and Margot’s passport pictures are pretty funny.

 Today (Tuesday) we were off to the U.S. embassy for our 10:00 a.m. appointment for the twins' DNA tests.  When we arrived, the folks at the embassy told us they would go ahead and complete the additional steps and paperwork necessary to issue the passports as soon as the DNA test results are returned.  In other words, we would not have to go back again tomorrow (Wednesday) for our second appointment.  Hallelujah!  So, after swabbing lots of cheeks for DNA samples (four swabs for everyone!), filling out a lot of multi-page forms (including, for each twin, an application for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, an application for a U.S. passport, an affidavit of support (i.e., we promise to take care of these two until they are are at least 18), and an application for a social security number), attaching a lot of passport pictures, and signing a lot of documents in a lot of places - and two hours later -- we were done!
U.S. Embassy in Delhi

Now we wait for the DNA results so that we can get the passports and then complete the exit visa process. At this point I'm optimistic that we will fly home as scheduled.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A glimpse into our new normal . . . .

Papa, Flynn and Margot

Mission “Twin Retrieval”: No updates, really.

"I’m so tired of being tired . . . ." - Ken

"Hmmm . . . I'm not tired.  Are you tired, Flynn?"
"No, I'm feeling quite well rested actually."

It’s now Saturday night in India and we don’t have any news to report.  It’s all about bottles and sleeping at this point.  

We did make a brief venture outside yesterday with the babies, for a bit of a stroll and a quick bite to eat.  Now, I fully admit that I don’t like to venture out in India.  It’s hot here.  Like, really hot.  And I just don’t like the heat.  I step outside and immediately start sweating profusely.  It’s not a pretty sight.  And then of course I’m not keen on getting stared at - and I mean outright stares.  Two foreign men walking around with infants strapped to their chests . . . and the big white guy sweating profusely.  Ken, of course, is not fazed at all.  “Hey, honey, let’s pop into this coffee shop for lunch and give the babies their bottles.”  Uh, okay.

Unfortunately I got quite ill after our outing yesterday and spent the next 24 hours recovering.  Ken had to take care of the twins and me for about 12 hours.  

Tonight we Skyped with Coco, Grandma and Grandad.  They seem to be having a very nice time, and Coco's potty training is coming along nicely too.  

Skyping via iPhone


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mission "Twin Retrieval": Flynn and Margot discharged.

It’s after midnight on Thursday, our second day in India, and I’m finally writing the first blog post of our trip.

We landed in Delhi at about 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday and reached our room at about 3:00 a.m.  After some sleep we got to the hospital about mid-morning on Wednesday where we finally got to see and hold Flynn and Margot.  Both of them are doing great.  Since their birth two and a half weeks ago they’ve put on some weight.  Flynn is now 5 lbs. 5 oz. and Margot is now 5 lbs. 13 oz.  So they’re now about the same size as Coco when she was born.  Both have very good appetites and are taking a bottle about every three hours.  Neither has been very fussy, although Flynn has managed to both poop and pee on me already.

Since we still had to pay a visit to SCI to complete some paperwork on Wednesday, including the forms necessary to finalize the twins’ birth certificates, we decided to leave the twins in the NICU for a few more hours.  Still, we were back to the hospital from SCI and then back to our room with the Flynn and Margot by mid-afternoon. 

Papa and Flynn
Daddy and Margot

All four of us are pretty tired at this point.  Since yesterday afternoon Ken and I have been mostly sleeping along with the twins between their bottles.  The two of us hope to be on a more normal sleeping schedule starting tomorrow.

Bottle time - every three hours at this point.
The process to secure the twins’ passports and visas so that we can leave the country has been a bit confusing and frustrating.  We realized on Sunday before we left that we needed to order the DNA test kits from an approved U.S. provider before leaving for India.  We got that done on Monday morning before our flight and the kits arrived at the embassy today.  There’s been some confusing messages about when the embassy will administer the tests for us, and it looks like we can’t get the tests done until next Tuesday (9/17).  We’ll then have to go back the following day to complete the rest of the paperwork for the passports.  Our hope is that the embassy will have the DNA test results and then issue the passports by Friday (9/20) or Monday (9/23).

SCI did secure the birth certificates today, but they still have to be stamped with the necessary apostille.  That should be done by next Wednesday when we have to present all the necessary documents to the U.S. embassy. 

After the passports are issued - hopefully by Monday, 9/23 - we’ll then get the necessary exit visas from the Indian government.  That process includes only one agency now; two agencies were involved when we completed the process with Coco two years ago.  At this point I hope the entire process will be done by Tuesday, 9/24, or Wednesday, 9/25.  We have to be done by the end of the day on Thursday, 9/26, if we want to leave on our currently-scheduled flight on Friday morning at 3:00 a.m.  Keep your fingers crossed! 



Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mission "Twin Retrieval": Cornelia delivery completed.

On Thursday this week Cornelia and I flew to Atlanta to rendezvous with her grandparents and the Kennesaw Wingards.  We arrived on Thursday evening and I spent Friday with Cornelia and Grandma Connie and Granddad Roy.  I flew back to San Francisco on Friday evening.

Friday included a trip to the nearby playground and then lunch at a McDonalds Playland.  Cornelia demonstrated for Grandma and Granddad her expectations for play.  At the playground she led Granddad around -- and over, and under, and across -- the really quite impressive play structure.  (Where were these play structures when I was a kid??)  She made sure that he understood that she generally likes to try out at least two or three different swings before she finds the right one. 

At the McDonald’s Playland she made sure that Grandma and Granddad would not be fooled by her age.  Even though the Playland signs said that it was for four-year-olds and older, Cornelia immediately climbed into those big tubes to investigate.  Silly me.  I worried at first about the possibility that she might get scared once she was inside those tubes and out of sight or once she got too high, and then I’d have to figure out how to extract her from the “Habitrail for Toddlers”  Nope.  Her only point of frustration was figuring out which climbing tube led to the top of the big slide tube.

Thanks to Grandma, Granddad and the Kennesaw Wingards for a fun - albeit short - visit!

The Wingard Cousins: Kamryn, Cornelia and Kourtney

Sunday, September 1, 2013

We Have a Plan; Coco's Antics

So, I think we finally have a plan to get to India to get Flynn and Margot.  Ken made arrangements to finish filming in Los Angeles this Friday, a week earlier than originally planned.  He’ll be home on Saturday.  In the meantime, my last day in the office will be this Wednesday.  On Thursday, I’ll fly with Cornelia to Atlanta where I will rendezvous with Grandma Connie, Grandpa Roy and the Kennesaw Wingards.  I’ll stay in Atlanta on Thursday night and then fly back to San Francisco on Friday night.  Ken and I will have the weekend to get ready for the trip to India.  We’ll leave on Monday afternoon and arrive in India at 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning (about 24 hours after we leave).

On Wednesday morning, we’ll pick up Flynn and Margot from the hospital and get them settled into where we are staying.  (Okay, where we’re staying isn’t figured out yet, but Ken is working on it.)  We’ll also immediately start the process to get Flynn and Margot home.  The first step will be the DNA test required by the U.S. government to prove the kids have a parent who is a U.S. citizen.  This takes about a week.  Once that’s done, Flynn and Margot will be issued their U.S. passports at the U.S. embassy.  Then we’ll have to get the necessary visas from the Indian government to leave the country.  That requires a two-step process and visits to two different agencies..  If everything goes smoothly we could be ready to leave on or around Wednesday, September 25th.  We’re scheduled to fly home on Friday, September 27th, so everything really has to go smoothly. 

A lot of people have asked if Cornelia knows what’s coming.  No, she doesn’t.  Sure, we’ve been telling her for a few months that she’s going to have two little siblings, and we’ve watched the episodes of Dora the Explorer with Dora’s twin little brother and little sister countless times.  And we showed her pictures of Flynn and Margot when they were born last weekend.  But I don’t think at her age she really understands the abstract concept of siblings -- or the enormous upheaval that is about to occur in her life.  I fear she will not be pleased.

What's better than the refreshing feeling of cool water
dripping on your tummy from the planter on the deck above?
Meanwhile, she’s having fun just being Coco.  She’s fully embracing her two-year-old-ness.  Her vocabulary and language skills are really amazing (although I have nothing to compare it to).  She is now using lots of fun expressions like “I’m fine” (which clearly she learned from me) and “I be right back.”  A week or so ago she turned to me and said, “I have idea.”  I was amazed and waited with great anticipation for her to reveal this idea to me.  However, no idea was forthcoming.  No sooner had she uttered the sentence than she immediately turned her attention to something else.  She said it a few more times the following week, again without sharing with me any of her mysterious ideas.  Fortunately this week she started saying it and actually sharing an idea too, usually her directive for our next game.

A passion for Play-Doh.
And that’s what Coco and I do; we play a lot of games.  She likes to play scenes from Dora the Explorer.  Sometimes she’s Dora and I’m Boots, and sometimes I’m Dora and she’s Boots.  (She decides of course.)  On occasion we are Super Babies, which involves capes and running.  We’re Diego and Baby Jaguar a lot, and that usually involves rescuing Baby Jaguar from some imaginary emergency - like falling off a cliff (the bed) and/or falling into a body of water (the floor).  We are also quite often Little Blue Truck and Big Dump (not affiliated with Dora) and that involves imaginary mud and a lot of pushing.  Sometimes she decides that she’s Daddy and I’m Coco.  Like the other night in the bathtub she was Daddy and put the shampoo in my (Coco’s) hands.  That night she also dumped water on her own head after weeks of dumping it on my head.  “Close your eyes, Daddy!”

One of her new activities is jumping off the stools in her room and off the stairs in the entry hall.  First she jumps off, then I have to catch her jumping off.  Then all of her stuffed furry friends have to take their turns jumping off (she throws them off the stools) and then her friends have to catch her.  (I’ll just say that it’s a tricky maneuver to catch a jumping two-year-old while holding a stuffed panda . . ..)  She also likes to wave her wand and say some jumbled form of “abracadabra” usually turning someone (me) into a duck.  For some reason it’s always a duck.

 Her playground manners are coming along nicely as well.  She knows how to share sandbox toys (most of the time), and how to take her turn on the slide (most of the time) and when to say she’s sorry (whenever Daddy says so). 

While all this sounds lovely, she has her share of fits and tantrum like any two-year-old (who just spent four weeks with her grandparents) does.  Sometimes it feels to me like no one has ever said “no” to her.  So Daddy is saying “no” a lot these days.  “No, you can’t eat peanut butter with your fingers.”  “No you can’t wear your pajamas outside.” “No, you can’t put toothpaste on your toothbrush a third time.”   “No, you can’t roam around the house with ink pens and markers.”  “No, if you don’t eat your Cheerios (which you chose over the scrambled egg sandwich, Greek yogurt and fresh strawberries I made for you for breakfast), you cannot watch Dora the Explorer, or play with your Play-Doh, or go outside.”  (She still didn’t eat her Cheerios which resulted in a rather unpleasant morning for the both of us.)