By: Kerrie Olejarz
The ever-looming fourth vial of embryos weighed on us heavily, but India offered up a great distraction. The next morning our cell phone rang and it was Dr. Sudhir advising us of plans for the day. As we prepared, we opened the blinds and curtains to our view of India –slums. At first sight my heart broke; how can I be staying in this hotel with an all-marble lobby, delicious food, and clean sheets while these people live in the streets with aluminum walls and blue tarps for ceilings? We had very little time to absorb our view as our cell phone rang again. It was our driver letting us know he was downstairs waiting. We ended up heading to Hirandani Hospital in the Powai Lake area of Mumbai. This hospital is where all the surrogates undergo prenatal care, labor, and delivery. After the security check and screening at the front entrance, we made our way through the hospital to find the doctors (who were excited to see us) and the couple from Colorado. Their surrogate was just going in for an ultrasound and they were invited in to witness it. As they did this, we sat with the doctors and chatted. Shortly after, we learned that the surrogate’s ultrasound and exam showed that she was dilated 2.5cm and that she would be admitted to the hospital for observation until delivery. It was so exciting, so surreal, and yet it did not feel like we were in India. It felt like home, and we were all now anxious for the upcoming birth.
We were then taken to meet the OB/GYN that cares for the SI surrogates. This was a real treat –what a woman! A tall and outspoken doctor with a firm handshake got right down to business with us. She gabbed about recent events and what she expects from us when we are expecting. She made it very clear that her job was to ensure that the surrogate and baby were doing well, and that we were not to contact her directly. All communication was to go through SI, which made total sense to us.
The next surprise of the day came to Mark and me when Dr. Sudhir asked if we would like to meet our surrogate. A little shocked (and clearly not dressed for the occasion); we agreed nonetheless. We felt as though we looked a mess –we were less than 48 hours in India, exhausted and, at the moment, far from mentally prepared to meet our angel. Our driver Ajit picked us up from the hospital and took us to the doctor’s office, which was not too far away. He parked and escorted us down the narrow street and up the two flights of stairs. The second floor entry was a sea of sandals. Custom means removing one’s shoes, and by the look of it there were over 20 pairs of sandals there. There were two doors, one for the doctor’s office and one for the surrogate space. Trying really hard not to stare at the surrogates, we entered the office and met up with the doctors and some of their staff. The walls were lined with a large map and pin markers detailing homes of intended parents. As we sat with the SI team and drank our lichi fruit juice boxes, the door opened and there she was. Our surrogate entered the room and we froze. Her profile picture showed her in a beautiful pink sari, but today, she had on jeans and a sheer black top. This surprised us, as I suppose we expected a traditional Indian woman. Her hair was tied back in a western style and she looked just as shocked as we. Dr Sudhir spoke to her and we learned then that she understood some English. We had heard the stories of others who had met their surrogates and had experienced tears and immediate love. For us though, it was shock –unreal, and probably the first time in my life I had lost all words. We thanked her immensely for signing up to help us and told her we have some gifts for her and her children. When we started the day we had no idea we would meet her, otherwise we would have brought our gifts. We took a few group pictures and had a tour of the other half of the building where the surrogates rested after embryo transfer. We said hello to the lovely surrogates and met a few caregivers and a nurse.
Still in shock, we headed back to the hotel with Ajit as our driver. We made plans with Ajit to do some sightseeing the next day and headed back to our room to catch some rest and eat a little. Shortly after arriving, our phone rang. It was the couple from New York, inviting us to have a visit with them that evening. Prior to the trip they had asked us to bring Oreo cookies; now we could finally deliver them. We headed up to their room and gazed at their perfect baby girl, all cozied up on the bed. They downloaded the last weeks to us in short form and were now just anxious to head home. Unfortunately our visit was cut short when Dr. Sudhir called them to arrange immediate pick-up of missing paperwork. The paperwork for exiting India is in-depth, and we understood that they had to leave immediately to get the missing documents so they could follow through on their consulate appointment in the morning.
The next day we traveled around in full tourist apparel. Mark was draped with both his video and digital cameras. We went north to a national park and took in the historic caves and enjoyed the monkeys that hang out there. It was a breath of fresh air to say the least. Mumbai is heavily populated and the infrastructure is not designed to support the growth. The air in Mumbai is thick and tastes of exhaust. In contrast, the national park was lush and had a natural spring and stream running through it. The air was clean, and there was no noise, no horns, and no exhaust.
I was dying for a coffee so Ajit drove us to Bandra where we sat on an open patio facing the sea. Not much was said as we people watched. Sadly, most of the people were homeless and lived on the rocks at the sea front. We watched one man take a bath in some seawater that had pooled in the larger crevice of the rocky beach. Afterwards, another man came sauntering by to wash his clothes in the soapy seawater previously just used for a human bath. That was an emotional afternoon, watching the impoverished, as we drank our fancy coffees at the seaside, also knowing that we were heading back soon to our hotel to gaze out the window at the slum dwellers. While drinking our coffee, Mark strolled the waterfront and received a phone call that our embryos transfer would be the very next day. Our surrogate was ready and our embryos…well, we would only know tomorrow.