Sharing a Little Wisdom

May 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By: Kerrie Olejarz

 

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!

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The First Few Days Home From India

April 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By: Kerrie Olejarz

 

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!

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Home!

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By: Kerrie Olejarz

We left the airport, tried to strap Cailyn into her car seat and realized at this point that we had absolutely no idea how to do this!! We fiddled with the straps and buckles and eventually got it all sorted, then snapped into the car seat base. Cailyn was asleep during all of this and was not bothered that she had been pushed and pulled by inexperienced parents into some sort of constraint apparatus.  We piled in our luggage, not so gingerly, and we were ready to go! The drive home from the airport was about 20 minutes and as we pulled into our driveway we were greeted by a beautiful stork sign!  It was kind of funny as this was now mid September and the birth date was August on the sign; I am sure our neighbours wondered what was going on!  It was great to be home, our home, with our daughter.

Waiting inside were family members anxious to finally meet Cailyn after four weeks of seeing her on skype.  After un-clicking the car seat we made our way inside to pure comfort.  Cailyn needed a change, so we offered this task up to any takers.  Gramma offered to do it, but was petrified she would hurt poor little Cailyn.  We spent the rest of the day sharing Cailyn with family, trying to unwind from the last 24 hours of travel and the whole craziness of the last five weeks.  Fortunately I acclimate quickly -Mark, not so much!  We had some food and coffee and soon everyone made their way home, leaving us to settle in as a family.  It felt beyond wonderful to have a baby in our home, our baby.  The nursery was ready for her and we could not wait to place her in her crib and just enjoy this moment!  It felt quite odd after all these years of losses and heartache to finally be in this position.  It was surreal, did not feel permanent, yet felt so overwhelmingly great!

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Home Sweet Home!

April 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By: Kerrie Olejarz

As we sat in the Brussels airport, sipping coffee and feeding Cailyn, we reflected a bit on the last few weeks.  It was now time to take a breath, a decompress.   We chatted about how we really took things in stride.  The going home process can be super stressful if you put unrealistic timelines on it and are not prepared for potential obstacles or hiccups along the way.  We felt proud of ourselves that we really paced ourselves, enjoyed every moment of it, and managed to actually depart earlier than those before us, all on a low stress diet.   I often tell people who ask about the going home process to expect it to be long, and make the very best of every moment.  I figure if you rush it, and there are any delays, you will more than likely lose your mind, so why not pace it out, even if that means an extra day or two in India.   Brussels aiport has very little to offer other than an expensive cup of coffee, bottle of water, or duty-free chocolate and fragrances.  We picked a spot to park ourselves that had nice leather sofas by a window.  Cailyn was such a joy, and made very little fuss about anything.  We tried very hard to keep her belly full and her bum dry, that’s really all a baby wants, and of course, sleep!  She was still colicky, or gassy, so we loaded her up on some homeopathies we brought from home.  About a half hour before boarding time we decided to change her clothes so that she was nice and fresh for the last leg home.  Fortunately, we had purchased that bag in New Delhi, so getting at all this stuff was super easy, and zero frustration.   The gate, if you can call it a gate, was basically a podium almost in the middle of the terminal walkway.  We barged our way to the front, taking advantage of having an infant!  We were nicely let into the front of the line, and then stood there for ten minutes; not sure why, but when the line started moving we were close to kicking our heels in the air with excitement of going home.  We had the same seats, and the same seat neighbours for this leg.  The Jet Airways crew came and refreshed our memory on ascending and descending, and soon, the captain welcomed us onto the flight and we started taxiing to take off! The flight from Brussels to Toronto was pretty much a replay of the first leg from India.  Cailyn again was an angel on the flight, and our main concern was ensuring she was warm, fed, and dry.   As we rounded Goose Bay Newfoundland we started to feel anxious, the journey was close to its end!  We fidgeted a lot, could not focus on any movie and just watched the onscreen interactive map counting down the kilometers to Toronto.  Two and a half hours later we descended into YYZ, Pearson International Airport!!!  What an amazing journey we had just completed, and now, finally, home.   As we walked towards customs, we knew there was potential for questioning of Cailyn’s passport -a temporary passport, with a glaringly obvious white cover unlike the standard issue blue cover.  We stood in the customs line, Cailyn slept, and within minutes we were called to the counter.  The gent behind the counter looked at our passports and scanned them along with our customs document, then, he looked at Cailyn’s passport, mentioned how weird it was to see a white one and when we said she was born out of country, he welcomed her home and we were on our way to baggage claim. Of course, our bags were the last to come off the plane.  Almost every other passenger had retrieved their bags and were long gone.  Finally all our bags arrived and we headed to the main departure door.   As we exited there was my sister, Mark’s brother, and very good friends.  Of course, there was a coffee for me!!! YAY!! The exhaustion and excitement was overwhelming!  Bo and Amy, our friends, were so gracious to get me a coffee and brought us a gift for Cailyn.  My sister, in her pure thoughtfulness, had a welcome home banner made!!  It was just awesome to show off our baby girl and be surrounded by amazing people!

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Up Up and Away..

April 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

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!

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Leaving on a Jet Plane!

April 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By: Kerrie Olejarz

Back from our hospital tour we had to get in high gear to sort through all our stuff and pack it all!  Cailyn napped nicely on the king sized bed as we went through all of our stuff.  Mark continued to cull, and Hariz continued to take away our garbage.  We had three large suitcases and two medium sized carry on bags to deal with.  Mid packing Mark walked over to M Block market to get the last of the cash we needed, and when he returned he brought some lattes and donuts.  We had discovered Mad Over Donuts on the main road, and this became a favourite place of ours to grab a latte after a day of outings or a day of just enjoying our baby.  We took a break to enjoy our coffees and looked at the chaos in the room with dread.  Packing up is actually quite easy, really, going home you can just shove everything in your suitcase and deal with it when you get home.  So, this is what we did.  We turned on the turbo and started making it all fit.  We had a few gifts that we needed to ensure were packed safely, and Rajesh, the BnB owner, gave us a bottle of whisky to take home, so we had to wrap this up and hope it didn’t break on the 24 hour trek home.  Around 9 pm we were good to go, and Rajesh offered us tea while we sorted through our billing and paid up our balance.  Our new friend from the UK could not bear to see us leave and she chose to stay in her room.   Rajesh was always full of stories, some we believed, but most we didn’t.   That was it, we were done!  We just had to wait for Rahul to pick us up and then make our way to the airport.  Around 11:30pm Rahul arrived with his “long” car to take us to the airport.  Mark, Hariz, Rama, and Rahul loaded the car with our luggage, and despite this being the “long” car, we were jammed!  We said our goodbyes, and our UK girl made her appearance to say good bye for now.  We were so fond of her, and she always called herself Cailyn’s Black Auntie!  This  cracked me up, yet made me oddly uncomfortable!  Finally, we were on the road!  It was surreal that we were starting the long trip home.  After about a 30 minute drive we arrived at DEL, Delhi International Airport.  We settled up our 5 week bill with Rahul and joked a lot about his driver Mishra losing some of our invoices!  Finally, into the airport we go, directly to Jet Airways baggage check.  It was just before midnight, and we were tired and running on adrenaline.  At the baggage check counter the associate reviewed our passports.  Cailyn’s temporary passport was white, and stood out as different than ours.  They reviewed it and looked at it for signs of authenticity.   After looking satisfied that this was a legitimate passport, they flipped to the page with her exit visa.  Calmly, the man behind the desk said ” You best get through security before midnight as this Visa will expire then”.  Holy shiza, we panicked!!! Can you imagine our anxiety, OMG, maybe we cannot leave India, how much will new flights cost us, where will we stay, on and on!  We motored our way over to security and the lines were super long.  We stood there, we waited, we waited some more, and finally at almost 1 am, we made it to the security desk.  The young man working it asked for the standard boarding passes and passports.  My heart was in my stomach.  We chose to have me deal with the secuirty check in; I had the advantage of being a blond woman with some charm.  The boy scanned my passport, then Mark’s, then opened Cailyn’s to see the expired Visa.  He looked at me in disbelief.  He asked if I knew it was expired, and I said “Yes, but, we stood in this line for a very long time…long enough for it to expire.  It’s not that big of deal, we can go home right?”  He smiled, nodded, scanned her passport and we walked through to the scanners.  Holy moly, thank god they did not require a blood pressure check at this point as we would have failed drastically!!!  Cailyn continued to be a quiet little angel in her cocoon.  Security had check points for women and for men.  I took Cailyn with me to the women’s check point.  The security people assumed her carrier was a duffel bag and were surprised to see a living baby in it.  I entered the pat down area, I was scanned for metal, and patted down.  The woman looked at Cailyn, asked how old she was.  When I told her four weeks, she was shocked that we would travel with such a young baby.  She looked into Cailyn’s cocoon to ensure we were not smuggling something illegal in via baby carrier.  Finally, I exited the pat down area to find Mark.  We both took a deep breath, smiled and headed to the food court to grab a quick bite to eat before our 2 am boarding.

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Almost Home!

March 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz

By: Kerrie Olejarz

The feeling of going home was very exciting! We could not wait to show off our little miracle to friends and family in person, not just on Skype!  We has just over 24 hours before we departed, but India was not complete.  We were getting ready to have dinner with intended parents and new parents from New Jersey, Denver, Canada, London, Ireland, and Australia.  The girls from Australia were not able to make it to dinner which was sad, but we had spent time with them and knew that they were super exhausted from all the day trips to the Delhi Newborn Centre, spending time with the preemie twins.  Everyone gathered at our BnB and we had planned to order in food.  After about a half hour of meet and greets, and everyone holding Cailyn and the baby from Ireland we decided to go to Hell.  Hell was an amazing restaurant, western style food, unusual atmosphere, like a western Goth style club, and great service!  Oh, and happy hour, buy one drink get one free!!!  Everyone was on board and we got ready to walk over.  I decided to give Cailyn a bottle and change her bum before we headed over.  The girl from Canada had twins in the Newborn Centre and spent time with me in our room, watching me feed Cailyn and change her.  She was obviously anxious about doing all of this when the twins were finally released from hospital.  And, on top of that, she had one more baby to come from a singleton surrogate pregnancy!!  Three, yes three babies to love and care for!!!  We all headed over to Hell; Cailyn was in her Phil and Ted’s cocoon, sound asleep.  Hell welcomed us with open arms, and knew us as “Mr Mark”…seems we ate there a lot and they got to know us!  The evening was full of sharing and bonding, good food and of course, we indulged in happy hour.  Something about a gin and tonic always puts me in a celebratory mood!  As the evening unwound we were sad to leave these wonderful folks.  The kinship is hard to explain, meeting perfect strangers who just happen to be going through the same thing as you creates an instant and unique bond.   After a long day we decided to start packing a bit as Cailyn slept so nicely in her cocoon.  OMG…did we accumulate a lot of garbage!  As we started chucking we felt bad for the boys at the BnB having to deal with all our crap.  Fortunately, Mark had lots of t-shirts he decided to leave for them so I think that lightened their pain, or at least we felt it did.  We chose to leave all the inexpensive toiletries in India and only pack up the good ones to take back home.  We had given the Aussies all our preemie clothes as they were to small for Cailyn, but somehow, our load was not that much lighter!  After a couple hours we hit the bed and were exhausted, just in time for Miss C to awake for a feed and change.  It was a privilege and pleasure to feed her.  Every precious moment was more than heartfelt for both of us.  She was an angel, our little girl.  In the morning after breakfast we decided to go visit Dr Shivani and say our goodbyes, until next time that is.  She asked us to meet her at her IVF hospital and so we did.  She was gracious enough to offer us a tour and we accepted.  We handed Cailyn off to one of the nurses knowing she was in good hands, scrubbed down and changed in to hospital scrubs to start our tour.  As we exited the general public area of the hospital and went through the double wide door into the surgical and lab part we were almost wisked away by the extreme ventilation system!  This was a pretty cool thing, no air transfer or dust would get into the surgical area as this ventilation system prevented any transfer.  Pretty wild!  The hospital was more than we expected.  State of the art equipment,  industrial HEPA filtration throughout, stainless steel everywhere and the highest quality equipment in the lab.   We were blown away at the facilities,  they were beyond our expectations, and actually stood out beyond what we had seen elsewhere in India and at home.  Dr Shivani gave us a thorough tour, explaining every detail with clarity.   At the end of the tour we talked to Dr Shivani about Baby Number Two, and she said “let’s do your blood test now”!  Haha doc, we are just about to board a plane, not doable, but tempting!!  We changed back into our street clothes and gathered up Cailyn.  The nurse really enjoyed Cailyn and wanted us to all have a picture together.  We settled into one of the patient rooms to feed Cailyn and give her some cuddles.  Being without her was not terrible, but being reunited with her was more than wonderful! We then met up with our friend from the UK who was at the hospital for her IVF shot.  It always felt comfortable, like family when we were around Dr Shivani.  We said our final goodbye to the doctor and were on our way.  I was a little bit sad, leaving Dr Shivani as she had become very important in our daily lives for the last 12 months.  Although we did not spend much time with her, we were going to miss her, just being close to her was really nice.   We decided to make a quick stop at the big mall to buy Cailyn some Indian bangles to have at home.  We decided to get small ones, as we would soon return to India and purchase her some more age appropriate ones at that time.  After the mall, we headed back to the BnB to finish packing and settle up our bill with the owner.  In less than 12 hours we would be on a plane, home!

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Thank you India!!

March 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By Kerrie Olejarz

The trip to and home from Agra was long and exhausting; we were hungry and tired.  We spent the evening relaxing at the BnB, watching old movies and enjoying Cailyn.  We ordered in some salads and yummy breads and just relaxed.   Fortunately at Cailyn’s mere 3.5 weeks of age, she didn’t notice how long the day was.  She was comfortable, had a full belly and a clean bum at all times.

Cailyn was still a bit gassy so there were random episodes of gas pain, crying and exhaustion, but nothing we couldn’t handle.   We only had three days left in Delhi, and as much as we wanted to return home, it was very sad to leave India.  Our time in India gave us our long awaited miracle so leaving was bittersweet.  Here we were with the most gorgeous little girl to treasure, 8,000 miles away from home, finally, we were complete. 

The last few days we had some struggles with diaper rash.  We figured out it was a combination of the wipes and diapers we had purchased in India after our home supply had run out.  Fortunately we had brought Calendula cream with us and this really helped to heal the sore bum of our sweet baby. 

We were looking forward to the next day as we were heading to the FRRO to obtain Cailyn’s visa and also had dinner plans with a whole group of IP’s and new parents.  After a lot of bad movies we called it a night.  Cailyn was sleeping so nicely in her little cocoon we had brought, it was cool and quiet in the room, just perfect!  The next morning we were ready to go get the visa.  The nights were not too bad as we took turns feeding and changing Cailyn, this also made me very aware of what a wonderful dad Mark was.  He never complained and he enjoyed learning about changing and feeding the baby; he was a great student! 

Feeling rested we packed up and headed to the FRRO.  Now the FRRO had been plagued with some pretty frustrating stories from parents before us, so we were not really sure what to expect. One of our immigration liaison’s assistants met us at the front entrance and guided us in to the waiting area.  It was like any government office to be found around the world, yet the obvious difference was the plethora of Afghan refugees, patiently waiting their turn.  We took a seat and were not really sure what we should expect.  Cailyn slept so nicely in her travel cocoon and we kept her covered up based on previous tales we had heard.  We were fortunate that no one even batted an eye at us; I guess it had to do with the fact that the cocoon looked like a duffle bag, and secondarily Cailyn never made a peep.  After about eight minutes we were called to one of the stalls and were asked for 3255 INR, about $75.00 CDN.  A senior officer came over and introduced himself, asked to see our passports, counted our money, and then asked for Cailyn’s passport.  He explained that he needed to keep Cailyn’s passport to process the visa, and that it would be ready in about three hours.  He took a quick peek at Cailyn, smiled, and walked away.  Hmm, that was it?  What about the drama, the stress?  It was a good experience and we were happy to share this on our blog.  The process had improved over time and we wanted to spread the good news.  We made our way out of the waiting area and found Sunil who explained to us that he would come back and get the passport and deliver it to us at the BnB.  Wow, this was awesome service! 

We walked outside to find our driver Mishra.  He was nowhere to be found so we called him and he said he would be there in about ten minutes.  When Mishra picked us up, he asked if we were hungry and did we want to stop for lunch.  This made us laugh, as every time we were with Mishra, which was a lot, he asked about lunch and always suggested McDonalds.  The catch for him was that we always bought him a veggie burger combo, with a coke.  He seemed to LOVE it, and we were happy to do it for him, although we were not big fans of the food. Mishra was a very interesting man, or should I say amusing.  He continually tried to get us to buy a (insert very high pitch voice with Indian accent) “a very fine Kashmiri carpet”.  We knew there was some sort of kick back for him if we bought one, but we were not in India to buy carpets.  We explained this to him, yet he continually asked us if we wanted to buy a carpet.  We decided to keep him happy with his veggie burger, fries and a coke instead.  He loved seeing Cailyn and was amazed at what a good baby she was.  He continually commented on it, and always noted “baby sleeping”.  His driving habits were a bit erratic, but he always got us where we needed to be on time and with no hassle.  His wife and children were back in a village, growing rice crops, and he came to the city to be a driver to support them.  He would go home to see them once every 6 weeks or so, depending on how well he had done financially.  He was a very proud Indian and also a proud father of a 9-year-old and a 2 ½-year-old.  We always tipped him at the end of the day, 100INR, about $2.00.  This does not seem like a lot of money to us, but for him it was a huge help for his family and we were more than happy to do so.  It had to be a tough life for him and his family, and we imagined that seeing Cailyn probably made him miss his children even more.  After our McD’s stop we headed back to the BnB.  Cailyn was due for a bum change and a bottle, and us, some relaxation.  We had to start thinking about packing to go home, but had dinner plans that night so that would have to wait until tomorrow.  We spent some time with the family from Ireland and the girl from the UK in the afternoon, but were always wondering when our passport would be returned.  The woman for the UK became Cailyn’s official Auntie over the last few weeks, and she was finding it hard knowing we were leaving soon.  Just before 5 pm, in walked Sunil with Cailyn’s passport!!! YAY! All was good; we could officially leave India with Cailyn!!  Tonight we could celebrate a bit with the others we arranged to have dinner with!

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To the Taj!

March 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By: Kerrie Olejarz

Mark and Rahul went to M Block Market after this long hot day to buy a car seat.  Rahul was taking us to Agra on Sunday and we discussed how he should have car seats for babies available.  He liked the idea and asked Mark to help him.  They ended up getting one for 5000INR, about $100.00 Canadian.  Mark quickly installed it with Rahul and came back inside to get ready for our evening out.   Rahul was coming back for us in about an hour to take us to Noida for the parents’ party hosted by Dr Shivani.  We were all very tired from the day, and knew that going out tonight meant tomorrow we would be super tired as we were leaving for Agra at 4 am.   It was great to try out the car seat.  All of us new parents met at Dr Shivani’s office then headed off to Noida.  We ended up at the Radisson Hotel where we really enjoyed a wonderful buffet style meal.  Joining us at the new parents’ party were a family from Ireland, Norway, and the Aussie gals.  We were a large group that included Dr Shivani’s husband, little boy, and nanny.  We ate and drank and enjoyed each other’s company!  It was such a wonderful evening, getting some one on one time with the doctor and the other families.  We took lots of photos of the kiddos together and asked one of the hotel staff to snap a few group shots.  By the time the evening ended it was almost midnight and we were due to get up and on the road for Agra by 4 am…yikes! On the drive back to the BnB we asked Rahul if he would be ok to make this trip on limited sleep and he assured us he was fine and we were still on.  Cailyn was an angel the whole evening as were the other babies.  Fortunately, she didn’t feel the effects of the whirlwind day like we did. She slept through most of it!  Four o’clock came quickly and in preparation for the 4-hour drive I made a thermos of coffee, brought some muffins and granola bars and plums.  Rahul showed up just after four, we packed Cailyn into the new car seat and we were off. It was pitch dark out and the air was moist with a slight drizzle.  We headed south (I think) and started our 253 km journey to see the Taj Mahal.  The first part of the trip was dark and boring.  We all had coffee and muffins and chatted a lot about the route as we were going to pass through the village where Rahul was raised called Mathura, which was about 3/4 of the way into the trip.  The highway was very busy with trucks; Rahul explained to us that trucks are only allowed to travel at night, and in the morning they will all pull over to a rest stop along the highway and await the night fall to get on the road again.  As the sun started to rise we could see the sights around us.  These were not the most beautiful sights, long stretches of highway took us from village to village.  We noticed an odd amount of people coming to the side of the road with a small silver vase in hand, and then figured out due to the lack of running water in the villages, the dwellers would come to the roadside for their morning “business”, and the silver jug contained a splash of water to clean them when complete.  It was a bit of a shocker, seeing the real India, a far cry from the posh environment of luxury that we resided within the city.  As the trucks pulled off at rest stations they were replaced with small vehicles, like our pick up trucks.  The cargo in the back was typically 25 women, being transported to the fields for work.  It was such a foreign site to see all these women in their colourful saris, sitting in the back of a rickety old truck.  It was oddly beautiful to see the array of colour, yet a real taste of village life reality.  About 2.5 hours into the trip there was a roadside McDonalds.  I was excited as I had to pee and looked forward to maybe having something to eat.  Well, disappointment slapped me in the face as the toilet was not working and they only served dinner foods for breakfast!  We ended up getting some fries and veggie burgers and of course a Coke, stretched our legs a bit, changed Cailyn’s bum, and were back on the road in about thirty minutes.  Cailyn fed so nicely in the car seat, and only got out of it for a burp.  The rest of the time she enjoyed the comfort of sleeping in the new seat.  We continued on and drove through more depressing villages.  The lack of running water was evident and the recent rains made for a muddy mess.  There were cows and goats, and gaggles of bulls on the streets.  Each village brought on more perspective, and we fully understood why Rahul was desperate to leave the village and get to the big city.  Finally, after four hours we reached Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.  The trip was exhausting, the sites even more exhausting.  We made a pit stop to pick up one of Rahul’s favoured guides and then headed to the main parking.  The guide, “Jack”, asked us how we wanted to go over to the Taj: by shuttle bus or camel.  We chose shuttle bus since we had Cailyn with us.  We paid our outrageous entrance fee, grabbed the shuttle, and handed over our video camera to security at the entrance as it was not allowed.  The Taj Mahal was indeed a breathtaking site and Jack yammered on about its history, and he yammered some more and some more.  We were harassed by the tourist photographers to have our pictures taken in the key spots and finally caved and paid one to take all the classic tourist shots.  He quickly hustled us from point to point, snapping the ten pics we paid for. Jack continued to yammer on about the history and yada yada.  It was hot, there were a million flies and a lot of people.  Surprisingly we were not eye candy for the Indians, even with the newborn baby in tow.   We walked the grounds a bit, and sat in the shade a bit, and Jack continued to yammer on.  We would have thought our obvious disinterest in the history might shut him up, but sadly, no.  After about one hour we had had enough. Jack was annoying and the heat and humidity were too much.  Jack seemed surprised that this was all we wanted. In truth, we just wanted to say we had been to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and we were satisfied with that.  We headed out to the main entrance to gather up our cheesy photos.  On the main road out as we walked, all the vendors tried to get our attention to buy their crap, and we were far from interested.   We grabbed a taxi back to the parking lot where we reconvened with Rahul.  We changed Cailyn’s bum and got her back into the air conditioned car.  Surprisingly, she did very well on this trip, no fuss at all. We asked Jack how much we owed him, and he said to give what we felt was fair.  Ugh, that is the worst thing to hear in India.  We ended up giving him 500 INR, about $10.00, and when we later asked Rahul if this was ok, he said yes, it was a fair pay for the one hour of service. Now we dreaded the long drive back to Delhi.  We dropped Jack off at the same point where we picked him up and headed to a famous bakery to buy sweets.  Rahul grabbed the sweets for us on our request as we thought it would be nice to bring these back to the boys who worked at the BnB.  Now we were on our way, another long four hours in the car with unbelievable sites to look forward to.  We loved India and were accustomed to the big cities. But this day trip was a real eye opener of the true village life in India, and the tough way of life.

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Exit Visa Process Started!

March 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kerrie Olejarz, Surrogacy

By: Kerrie Olejarz

The roads were now clear and we made it quickly to the MHA.  When we arrived there was the standard security check, but having our liaison with us made it a breeze.  As we entered building number one we were overcome with a somewhat musty, mouldy smell.  We were told to have a seat while our liaison checked us in.  Little did we know that being very late for our appointment would be quite an issue.  As it turns out, they told our liaison that they stopped taking people in after noon, and it was now almost one.  She told us to sit tight as she marched out of the building.  About ten minutes later she came in and said to us “come”.  As we walked to the main building she explained that the office was not willing to accept us due to our tardiness, but she made a phone call to a senior member in the office and managed to get us in.  What a relief!  We did not have any time to lose as we had paid for our tickets home on Tuesday.   Having read previous experiences from this office of others before us, we were not sure what to expect.  We took a seat and shortly after the government employee waved us over.  He was a lovely man who reviewed all our surrogacy documents provided by Dr Shivani.  He asked for a copy of our marriage certificate which of course I had left in the car in the bag…no bags allowed in the government offices!  I flashed my wedding rings and asked if this would satisfy the request.  The gentleman processing our exit file laughed at my rings and continued on.  We were with him for less than five minutes.  He gave us a file number to take record of for our next appointment at the FRRO.  That was it? Wow!  That was almost too easy! We were pleasantly shocked at the speed and efficiency of this part of the exit process.  We knew our money was well spent on our liaison after this! Our next appointment was on Monday at the dreaded FRRO.  We had heard that this was a challenging office with severe over crowding of Afghan refugees, but knowing we had our liaison to help us, we did not waste any time on stressing over it.  Up to this point she had helped us through the process, did all of our paperwork, and ensured we stayed on track to go home on time.  We headed back to our liaison’s office to settle up on our bill and of course snap a few pics of all of us together, and one with just her and Cailyn.  An interesting tid bit about her is that a lot of her family lives about 15 minutes away from us here in Canada!  Who knows, we may see her in the future for a social visit.   What a relief to have this day over with.  We sat back and enjoyed the rest of the evening making plans to enjoy our last few days in New Delhi.  These days were looking jam packed; Saturday we were going to Pahar Ganj market -not a place to take Cailyn, so we enlisted the Aussie girls to babysit for a few hours.  They were more than happy to babysit, as the twins were still in the newborn centre and I think they were all craving a little newborn time.  Cailyn was now just over three weeks old and had been through more than the average newborn!  We looked forward to Saturday night as Dr Shivani was hosting a new parents party in Noida, about 30 minutes out of the city, and Sunday, we were off to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.  The weekend was jammed, and Monday we were off to the FRRO to obtain Cailyn’s exit visa and then spend the evening with some other surrogacy clients.

Saturday morning we headed out to Pahar Ganj, making a pit stop to drop Cailyn off with the girls.  Rahul picked us up in his brand new car, and we were very honoured to be the first clients to ride in it.  Rahul said he managed to obtain this car with our blessing (I think he meant money), and wanted us to enjoy its first day on the road.  The car was adorned with red ribbons which the dealership had put on in celebration of the sale.   Oddly enough, I had no hesitation leaving Cailyn with the Aussie gals.  I wondered if I would be worried, or anxious, but I wasn’t and I was happy to see that we could do this with no drama.  I also questioned my mothering emotions: was it normal to be OK with dropping your baby off for a couple of hours?  We had nothing but confidence and trust in our Aussie friends, and I think that was what really put our minds at ease.  Pahar Ganj is quite the area in Delhi.  It is listed on Google as a backpacker’s haven.  At this market, you can get lost walking in-between the tall buildings overloaded with shops and cheap knock off merchandise.  And oh my, the overhead wires would be considered a major fire hazard anywhere else in the world.  We were on a mission to buy a small hand drum for Mark’s brother, and it was also a nice excuse to get out for a bit.  This was our second visit to this market so we knew what to expect.  It was a smouldering 55 Celsius and walking around the market caught up with me.  Mark was soaked with sweat and I over heated.  Finally, after many shops and haggling we found the right price for the drum and sealed the deal.  I was done; the heat kills me, and my inability to sweat was not a good recipe this day.  We called Rahul to pick us up and anxiously awaited the air conditioned car.  While we waited at the main entrance for Rahul, we saw many posters depicting an artist’s rendition of the wanted terrorist from the earlier attack.  It was a little creepy to see this, and really, the drawings could have been anyone! Rahul showed up and we were caught in Saturday afternoon traffic.  Rahul managed to do a three-point turn amongst the chaos and got us back en route to pick up our baby girl.  I was feeling wiped from the heat and needed a cool shower and some rest before we reunited that evening for the parents party.  The Aussie girls took the best of care of Cailyn and were sad to let her go.  Finally returning to the BnB, I was able to cool my core temperature down with a cold shower and relaxation in an air conditioned room.  I guzzled what felt like gallons of water and slowly I started to feel better, not great, but better.

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