By: Kerrie Olejarz
Cailyn was now 11 weeks old and started to laugh, a real hearty melt-my-heart-kind of laugh! Every new parent looks forward to the firsts, and the first laugh was just so enjoyable for Mark and me. The days started to become challenging as Miss Cailyn decided she was a girl who did not need naps. Some days I wished she would nap for at least an hour so I could either nap with her or get some things done around the house. No such luck with our busy and growing girl, she never napped yet continued to sleep through the night, so how could I complain! We finally purchased the new vehicle which would accommodate the car seat and all our baby gear with comfort -unlike my original car. Every day we tried to work on tummy time which was always fun for us and sometimes frustrating for Cailyn. She was magically able to throw her legs in the air at this age and roll over. We were noticing that she seemed quite long in length and that the typical 3-6 month sized jammies were a bit snug in length. At around week 13 Cailyn discovered television and this became her new obsession; if the tv was on she would contort herself in whatever way needed to look at it. Our new parent insecurities kicked in worrying about too much television and the effects on children, then, we decided to not worry about this and that in some way it provided visual and audio stimulation for her. It is so easy to get caught up in the must and must not do’s of parenting, and I think the best approach is to do what feels right in the moment, or figure out what works for you and your new baby and just go with it. We continued to be bombarded with unwanted advice but had gotten much better at laughing it off. We often joked about some of the crazy advice we were given which I think actually helped keep us sane! It was mid November and starting to get cold here, not cold like most Novembers, which was great as it allowed us to go out for a walk every day. Cailyn was still very young but seemed to enjoy the great outdoors, the cool winds and the sunny days. Every day was the same, but different. The same routine stuck around and it seemed to work. Cailyn continued to have gas and fussiness and spit up after every feed. The differences in the routine were where she would spit up in the house and what part of my body was splattered with semi digested formula. My two least favourite landing spots were 1. down my v-neck t-shirt into the cups of my bra and 2. smack dab into my crotch – nothing like warm formula puddled into your crotch as you continue to pat and rock a gassy baby! Not a day went by where my wardrobe was safe – every day I was covered in dried up spit up in some not so appealing spots! Between my spit up on clothes, Cailyn’s 10 outfit changes a day and Mark’s daily clothing plus his spit up clothes we seemed to have a fair bit more laundry than life before baby. I prayed for these days and as much as I hate doing laundry, it was always a pleasure to pull out tiny little socks or undershirts from a hot dryer. By the end of November Cailyn was finally starting to take a power nap during the day. It was 20 minutes on the dot; no less, no more. Barely enough time for me to pee or shower! These days are looked back upon with great fondness and love. As stressful as the gas and spitting up were, we would not change a thing. Christmas was fast approaching and I wondered how I would finally feel, being a mom at Christmas? Most Christmases for me in the past felt empty and dreaded. I typically hate the holidays and I was anxious to see how this one would play out emotionally. To circumvent any old feelings we decided to actually put up a tree and add some lights to our gardens outside. If getting into the spirit needed a push then we were on it , hoping and praying it would help break the painful memories of the past. The weeks were flying by at this point and we were enjoying every moment of having Cailyn in our lives. It was hard to believe that Cailyn was almost 14 weeks! Being home with her was not about surrogacy anymore, it was about enjoying her and our days as a family. It is hard for me to disconnect from the world of Indian surrogacy as I had spent almost 4 years engrossed in it. Everyday I would get up before Cailyn, make a coffee and catch up on all the surrogacy in India blogs and forums. I continued to cheer on the ever hopefuls, console the folks who had received negative betas, and congratulate those who finally met their firstborn. I chose to stay connected and others choose to close this chapter of their life and not look back. For me, I wanted to continue to share my experiences and knowledge and also enjoy watching all these international babies growing in India.
By: Kerrie Olejarz
Being at home with Cailyn felt like a temporary adventure. The fact that she was with us was surreal and the thought that she was with us for life was difficult to wrap our heads around. It is very difficult to explain this, but others who have struggled for years and finally had a baby understand this all too well. As we continued to share our story on our personal blog, some of our readers shared these feelings. By the mid two-month point Cailyn was almost sleeping through the night, and the tick tick tick of our Angel Care monitor was the best sound ever to hear through the quiet nights. Cailyn rarely woke during the night and when she did it was usually for a midnight snack or a spat of colic. The poor lamb really struggled with gas and abdominal fussiness. We tried switching formulas, we tried all the colic remedies available, and we always kept her upright after a feed for as long as we could. Any parent who deals with a colicky baby knows how exhausting this can be, and we were coupled with crazy moments of spitting up on top of this. Cailyn had a bout of constipation and this was quickly resolved with the addition of flax oil and probiotics to her bottles. Our daily routine included the typical new baby stuff with the addition of dance time. I would lay Cailyn down on a blanket on the floor and put on some good grooving tunes and she would pump her legs and fists and smile a lot. I was typically exhausted after this dancing and baby entertaining episode! Mid October we went to a free car seat clinic sponsored by GM Canada. The program is great; they have coffee and treats and give you 4 litres of windshield washer fluid then install your car seat -or reinstall, in our case. As the guy worked hard on our install and explained in detail the why’s and how’s of the install it became evident that the seat took up a lot of space when installed correctly. By the time it was installed, the front passenger seat was rendered unusable. Oh no, now what!! We asked if the seat could be moved to the centre of the back seat, and the answer was no as there was not enough room. Oh no…looks like we need a new car. We were on the GM lot and I guess part of the program hopes you will walk the lot and maybe find a new car, but, I am not a GM fan so we left with me hunched over in the passenger seat declaring that this cannot be, and we must find a new car! Mark agreed and we set out to start our research. It was close to Halloween and I was inspired by a pic on Face-book, and poor Cailyn became a model in a pumpkin. Mark’s brother came over with his super nice camera and we set up for the first seasonal shoot of our little girl. At first, things did not go too well as you can see from the picture, but after a nice warm bottle and some cuddle time, we captured our sweet pumpkin for her first Halloween. She was definitely our little pumpkin!
By: Kerrie Olejarz
We had been home for a few weeks and it was time for Cailyn’s two-month check up at the doctor. We chose to stay with our family doctor and avoid a pediatrician unless absolutely necessary. We are fortunate that our family doctor does infant care, and that we really like her. I was excited to see Cailyn’s weight and length gains, but petrified of following through on vaccinations. Anyone who knows me knows that I always go to my naturopath for treatments: getting a cold – I go for a vitamin and homepathic IV; feeling sluggish – I go for blood ozone treatments. So, needless to say, I feared vaccinating and Mark and I laboured over what to do. We spent many a night discussing both the pros and cons of vaccinations, and at the end of it we were inconclusive. Before we had left for India I spoke with the doctor about my hesitations and she made it clear that she would support our decision, whichever way we went. After a week home, I packed up Cailyn and headed to the doctor with some anxiety. The appointment went well; we had a general discussion on how she eats, sleeps, and poops. Then we stripped her down to weigh her and I was pleasantly surprised to see Cailyn weigh in at 8.08lbs, up from her birth weight of 6.37lbs. This was a perfect weight gain and put Cailyn in the fiftieth percentile. She had also grown a whopping 4 cm in length, which also landed her in the fiftieth percentile. The doctor did a thorough physical exam on Cailyn who did not make any fuss. After the exam, Dr P asked me what we had decided to do with the whole vaccine drama. She said it was her job to explain to me WHY we should vaccinate, but it was ultimately the parents’ decision on whether or not to do it. I loved her understanding and support! I told her we were still on the fence and needed more time. Fortunately, Dr P totally understood and welcomed my/our hesitation. She told me to take time to consider it further, and if we decided to vaccinate that we would use the standard vaccine schedule, just at later dates than recommended. I felt a huge sense of relief having not been pressured into doing it right there and then. We also discussed the craziness of Cailyn’s spitting up, and as we did so, Cailyn showed off her wonderful spitting up abilities right there in the exam room. I was so happy she did it as she did not normally spit up a just a little bit, it was a lot. The volume that would come out at one time was alarming , yet, not too worrisome. The end result of the discussion was that Cailyn was gaining weight at a good pace and therefore the spitting up, at this point, was more of a laundry problem than anything. At the end of the visit I asked about the Neonatatl heel prick test as this is not standard in India. I felt it was important to have this test to look for any rare genetic or metabolic issues. Dr P was happy to oblige and told me she would find out where we go to do this and get back to me within a few days. Over all the first appointment at home went well, Cailyn was healthy and this is what was most important.
During our pregnancy we had people tell us that they would “help” us when we got home, that we would indeed need help. I took this personally, as in “you are not carrying the baby so how can you care for it?” Maybe taking it personally was my own insecurities and emotional challenges, but, regardless, I was quite fed up of being told we would most definitely need help. I could understand these comments if we were expecting multiples, but we had a singleton pregnancy! As we did it all on our own, with our simpleton minds and lack of uterine ability, in India we were proud and enjoyed every moment of it…then we came home. Despite the fact that we had spent four weeks alone in India and brought home a healthy and unscathed baby, we were still considered by some unable to do the task. It was infuriating to me, and I know all new parents get unwanted advice, but for me, I waited and suffered 15 years, watching all my friends rear and raise perfectly healthy and normal children; therefore, I could do it. The onslaught was like a machine gun, firing at full throttle. It was emotionally exhausting, and to this day I am angry that I had been treated like a preteen mom who could not grasp the common sense of caring for a newborn. Of course I have wonderful friends who I could lean on for advice, or to swap experiences with, and these are the friends that did not bombard me with advice -harsh “you must do this” advice. The worst of it came from Mark’s side of the family, and at some point I assumed it was a cultural thing, and after many times addressing it and being ignored I threw in the towel. I think in their minds they were doing it for the good of us and Cailyn, yet my emotionally damaged brain and heart were in complete and utter chaos. How do you politely tell someone to stay the fuck out of your business when it comes to your child? Thankfully this phase is over and we are on to a whole new phase, but this one is easier to deal with. I think as new parents we should all have the right to do what we think is best for our baby, our child. Before we had Cailyn, I never told people what to do with their children, and I would never bombard them with a flurry of “you are doing this wrong” crap! If a parent chooses to discuss child raising issues with me, I feel this is an opportunity to have a civilized conversation and hopefully spitball some ideas and most importantly, walk away having learned something, or at least understanding where s/he is coming from. I hope that our parenting skills have proven that we are indeed capable of doing this, despite having a faulty uterus. I guess when baby number two comes along we will find out! And to answer the title of this post; for DAMN sure we are!
After having been home for a while we started to be pleasantly bombarded with enquiries from local couples looking to see if this was indeed real. We spent our weekends proudly showing off our baby, meeting perfect strangers for coffee, brunch, and inviting them into our home. It was a true pleasure to share our success with these hopeful infertiles. We were more than happy to give a glowing recommendation of the clinic and Dr Shivani, after all we had been through, it was a pleasure. Besides these couples seeing our success and checking out if it was indeed real, the constant end to our visits was always the question “was it hard to get the baby out of the country?”
This leads me into this week’s blog post, as I think it is important to share our knowledge based on our experience. As Canadians, we knew that it would take approximately four weeks to take all the necessary steps to bring our baby home. Knowing an approximate timeline in advance of baby pick up is critical! We highly suggest that you reach out to others from your own country to find out how their experience was, how long it took, and what would they recommend changing to improve or expedite the process. We often read blog posts and forum updates of new parents who are frustrated with the going home process, and this is unfortunate. Because the joy of the experience is lost if it is spent in a flurry of frustration and anger. When in India, you are on Indian time. The critical services that you will require may not work at the speed you expect; there are also a million public holidays in India which can also slow down the exit process, and also remember that holidays at home can put a damper on your ideal time line. BUT if you are prepared for this, and plan for this, the experience can and will be wonderful. Your clinic or doctor’s team should have an exit package ready for you. When you receive it, review it carefully; look for correct spelling of names, correct dates, and check for accuracy as best you can. Your clinic will put their best effort into preparing it, and will be accommodating in fixing any errors, this may just take a day or two extra. If your clinic offers a lawyer or liaison at a charge, we recommend you use it. Pay the cost and enjoy the experience. Dr Shivani offered up an immigration liaison, and although the cost was not cheap, the process was a breeze and we would not change a thing about it! There were additional costs to consider as well at the end so be prepared! We ended up paying for our surrogate’s c-section and her hospital stay, as expected. Also, we paid for Cailyn’s hospital stay, photos for our DNA procedure, handling fees at all government offices etc. Our full cost breakdown can be found here: http://surrogacy.ca/intendedparents/markkerrie.html. Picking up your baby should be a joyful experience, and I know that babies born early requiring NICU services add an extra challenge to this and also a financial burden. We all know going into this program that there are potential costs at the end and we would be stupid to firstly have not asked for a price list and secondly, have not prepared ourselves for these costs. The final cost that may impact your budget is changing your flights home. More than likely you will have to change your return flight, and also get your baby a ticket. For us, we were able to change our flight home saving us 5 extra days in India, and adding on our baby at a cost of $1000.00, worth every penny! Best advice is to be prepared to go with the flow, know that the monsoon rains may make you three hours late for a government appointment and most importantly, learn to laugh at the absurdity of the chaos! You will get home and when you do, the stress of the exit process is soon forgotten!
The first night home was great. Clean water, clean clothes, and a proper nursery for our little girl. We spent most of the evening just staring at her in awe, like most new parents would. We received phone calls and a drop in visit from friends. They wanted to see Cailyn but she was asleep in her crib. They could not get over how little she was, and this was surprising as they had a five-month-old little girl! Cailyn slept through their visit, and they promised to see her again really soon when she was awake. That night was a normal Cailyn night; she fed every couple of hours, we burped her, she would spit up a bit, we could change her bum and her clothes, then do it all over again a couple hours later. The one item we had on our registry and received as a gift was the Angel Care monitor, and we were so happy to have that. While in India, we checked Cailyn frequently as she slept, for fear that she might have stopped breathing, but here at home we had the Angel Care which ticks with her breathing. We could now sit and relax a bit as she slept, knowing that if god forbid she stopped breathing the alarm would go off right away. The next morning we all were up an at em’, just kicking our heels with JOY that we were home, as a family. We were expecting a visit from my girlfriend who was super anxious to meet Cailyn after almost daily chats on skype. I was lucky to have her on skype speed dial to answer any of my questions, or just talk about ideas when it came to me being a new mom. After we fed Cailyn I decided to tackle some laundry. Yuck, it would seem that we brought home a pound of dust from India, and every time I moved clothing from the luggage, more dirt and dust appeared. It was great to get the laundry going, but man oh man, did we have a lot of it! My first load was baby clothes. We had so many items that were fitting Cailyn and they all needed to be washed, and since she was a spitter upper, it was important to have lots of clean dry clothes handy for her. We decided to put Cailyn in her swing, and despite the fact that it seemed to gobble up her tiny body, she seemed to enjoy the soothing motion, all bundled up in cozy blankets. Mid-day my girlfriend dropped by with her five-month-old daughter, and the obligatory coffee from Tim Horton’s. It was great to see her and her always warm and bubbly personality. She was shocked at how small Cailyn was, and totally thought she would see a bigger baby, like she saw on skype. Turns out skpye adds ten pounds!! She enjoyed cuddling Cailyn and chatting about our trip. Her little girl sat so nicely on the couch and enjoyed our adult company. Of course my friend brought a large bag of adorable hand-me-downs from her daughter, which was just so generous! She has great taste so we knew the bag would be full of the ultimate in cuteness for a baby girl. We had a great gab, fed the babies, enjoyed our coffee, and soon our visit ended and we were again just Mom, Dad and Baby. We had noticed that Cailyn seemed to be very alert from birth, and this was reinforced by both friends and family. She not only was alert, but strong! Cailyn was able to hold her neck up from birth, and when not sleeping, always had her eyes open. The rest of the day was just spent enjoying our little girl and introducing her to the cats. It was mid September and the weather was still great so we were able to take Cailyn for a walk in her new hypo stroller. We were very excited to go to a christening on Saturday and see a lot of people who we could share our little girl with. Saturday ended up being somewhat cool, so we drove to the christening even though it was less than a 15-minute walk. We arrived just in time for the outdoor ceremony to begin. The guest of honor looked adorable in her white christening gown, and her big brother dressed in his best apparel. The ceremony was short and sweet, just perfect. We all headed inside for some food and drinks, and were now able to unwrap our little bundle to show her off a bit. We were worried that she would steal the show that day as many people were waiting in anticipation to see our little miracle; I expressed this to the host mom, and she said not to worry, she was equally excited to have Cailyn with them on this special day. Cailyn was held by many that day and admired. It was wonderful to share Cailyn with friends. Most people were quite surprised that I was that mom saying “do you want to hold her?” I had promised myself I would not be the possessive new mom and so far so good!
By: Kerrie Olejarz
We were quite surprised that no one at security batted an eye at our thermos of water, but I guess when travelling with a newborn that is to be expected. As we stumbled through the annoying backpack-style baby bag to make Cailyn a bottle before we boarded, I said to Mark how much I dreaded dealing with this bag on both legs of the flight. I headed off in the airport on a quest, to find a larger, open top -bag. Fortunately I found one, and it was a typical airport rip off, but at this point I couldn’t care less. I ended up buying a beautiful cotton bag with two straps, a magnet closure on the top, and had a beautiful India style colourful pattern on the outside. We sat and transferred all the baby stuff into it in advance of heading to our gate. Cailyn had a nice feed of two ounces and was back, sleeping sound in her cocoon. The New Delhi airport is a large one, lots of walking to get to our gate. As we waited at the gate, we feared that Cailyn would freak out on the plane, and our fellow passengers would give us the eye, you know the one you give the parents with the annoying crying baby! Our travel agent did well, she managed to reserve us the bulk head, or bassinet rows. The team on the Jet Airways flight came and explained to us what we needed to do for take off and landing, and also offered us what ever we needed during the flight for the baby. Finally, take off! I held Cailyn close to me as instructed earlier. The incline up to 41,000 feet altitude was smooth, and quick. Once the seat belt sign went off, the staff came and installed a bassinet for Cailyn. Mark lined the bassinet with warm blankets, then we placed Cailyn inside of it, and wrapped her in more warm blankets. Considering the outside temperature was -52 Celsius, we figured we best keep our precious cargo warm. As you can see in the picture, she looks quite cozy in the bassinet. First major fly over was Islamabad, then Kabul, then Ashkhabad. Deep inside there was always a twinge of fear as we flew over these heavily armed nations. We were en route to Brussels Belgium, and once we flew over Turkmenistan, my nerves of potential terrorist activities started to ease. Cailyn was a dream on the flight. She slept, she ate, we changed her bumb, we cuddled her, and this sequence played out about three times in our eight-hour flight. What a joy it was to sit in the bassinet row! The leg room was awesome and the only thing in front of us was our baby girl. It was all very surreal, sitting on this plane with 300 strangers who probably thought we were nuts to travel with such a young baby; if only they knew our story. We took turns catching 15-20 minutes of sleep, and because I have a clotting issue, I would get up and walk around a lot to ensure good blood flow. I had my compression stockings on, but it is never worth risking it out of laziness, especially now that there was this little 6lb passenger who needed me. A short 8 hours later we descended into Belgium. Mark held Cailyn for the descent as she slept in his arms. We were half way there! Now we had a two-hour layover in Belgium, then 7.5 hour flight, then HOME!!! Oh ya, and the bag was awesome, well worth the fortune I paid at New Delhi aiport!
By: Kerrie Olejarz
February 20, 2008 is a date that changed our lives. It was this day that we lost our little girl at 20 weeks gestation. The devastation was immense and the feel of finality was overwhelming.
Over ten years had passed since our last loss at 32 weeks, a boy, whom we buried at a local Presbyterian cemetery. The analysis from the doctors at the Special Pregnancy Unit came a few days before the 20th. As a result of my inability to produce the protein necessary to support its growth, the placenta was not functioning properly.
Hearing this made it so painful and so final. That was the end of my optimism. The future looked very dark, knowing that my body was not capable to support a pregnancy, ever. There was nothing that could be done to fix this, nothing synthetic to substitute, no help; we were just numb. Knowing this sent me into weeks of uncontrollable sobbing. I was angry with myself for not being able to control my tears; the conscious part of my brain was telling me how ridiculous this was, yet the rest of me became so vulnerable and weak.
During this time, I also received news that the company I worked for was closing down my division and my last day would be some time in July. My now husband unfortunately had to return to work and I was left sobbing the days away until I finally decided to go back to work for the last few weeks and get some normality back. There is nothing like returning to work after this devastation! Some people were slinking around trying to avoid me, and others came over and gave me a big hug (but no words) in an effort to acknowledge what had happened. Normal was far from normal, but I am strong and forced everyone into a quick chat about the impending job loss. I know one of my strengths is helping others feel comfortable, so this was me –taking control of the situation. The second day back at work was normal; my tragedy was forgotten and everyone wallowed in self pity about losing their employment and having to look for new opportunities. I had been successful in making everyone feel comfortable and self absorbed!
Within a few weeks, I had contacted Canada’s leading expert in surrogacy. I can get pregnant in a snap but cannot carry, so working with a surrogate seemed to be the next best option. Working on solving the problem is what I do. I rarely give up on problems and am persistent in finding solutions for the tough ones. “So, good, I have a solution” I thought. Then the package arrived about surrogacy in Canada and within ten minutes of opening it we were back to ground zero. Immediately we did the cost analysis. Yikes, this is not doable; this is the cost of buying a small condo in the suburbs!! So we put the package back in the envelope and filed it away, out of sight out of mind.
I was still determined to work with a surrogate but wondered how we could ever afford it without taking out a second mortgage. Thanks to the internet, I was able to start my research. I spent the bulk of my day at work simultaneously job hunting and researching surrogacy. I continued to come across stories of Dr. Patel in Anand, India, not aware that she had recently outted India and its surrogacy boom on Oprah. Ugh, I cannot stand Oprah and her self righteous blabber. Overlooking my disdain for Oprah, I dug deeper into Dr. Patel’s story and opened up a can of optimism. I continued to find articles on surrogacy in India and the constant in all of them was the financial gain for these women who carry international babies. The other interesting thing I found in my research was that this was an affordable option for Westerners. I thought about this long and hard. I was at first over the moon with excitement that we may have an option here, and then the concern set in. Is this legitimate? Are the surrogates treated fairly? Are the surrogates of poor health, slum dwellers or run and owned by the mafia?
You can imagine that my excitement about this opportunity quickly went away as I started to wonder if this was indeed an option for us that would allow us to sleep at night. I needed to find out more. I needed to be sure that this was ethically sound, morally stable, and ultimately not a scam for our hard earned money.
Fast-forward a few weeks. We were driving down Ford Drive, a two-lane country road between Mississauga and Oakville. We had our Tim Horton’s coffee (a staple here in Canada) and I needed to tell Mark about our possible next option. It is not like me to keep a secret but this was so huge and I wanted to be sure before I said anything to him so I first took a few weeks of reading and research. I sipped my coffee and casually told him thad I’d found an option – an exciting opportunity for us to try and have a baby…in INDIA. Gulp. He turned to me and said “Let’s do it!” I started rambling on at the speed of light about everything I knew so far and he listened and asked questions and I could see a glimmer of hope in him. He was as excited as I was. We had an option and this was going to be so easy!!! We can get pregnant no problem so this option was the best, and to do it out of country made the story a little bit more enticing. We talked non-stop about how we would have a baby next year and the dreaming started.
I committed to Mark that I would start contacting clinics in India that day. Let the emails begin!! When we got home, I showed him a few websites for clinics and then he got nervous. He was scared to death that this was a scam. We needed to work through all of this, the emotional fear and the optimism. Over the next few weeks we contacted, and heard back from, many clinics. Most were very professional and forthcoming with information. Only one (out of ten) seemed sketchy, with an email that read, “Send me twenty thousand dollars today and I am going to Mumbai to get you surrogate soon.” Hmm, it is not often that we give all the money upfront. When we work with contractors, they get a deposit and we pay them as the project progresses. Most of the clinics had a pay-by-progress plan in place and to us this felt fairly transparent. One appealing detail of working with India is that English, our mother tongue, is also their national language for business, so communication was going to be easy.
After a few weeks of communications back and forth with various clinics in India, we decided on one. We were thrilled to have locked down the first of many choices and get rolling…