When toddlers attack

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Bon nadal

The morning is done... the gifts are open.  Last night's tamales are vanished and the turkey is preparing to go in the oven.
All baby-themed gifts.
Last night we told two more friends, our neighbors -- they also said they were thrilled, but didn't offer to babysit.  Pity, and they live so close...

My half-sister spent Christmas Eve and morning with us and just headed to LAX to fly to the Bay Area to spend the rest of the holiday with my other half-sister.  She knew about our India adventure and the purpose behind it, but didn't know we were expecting twins.  She said she's excited at the prospect of being an aunt again (my other sister's kids are just four years younger than me).  I offered to send the twins to stay with her in Manhattan for, oh, the next five years or so.  She said she doesn't want to be an aunt THAT badly.

Someone's had enough of the holidays...

Argos is quiet and subdued this morning.  We think he has a bread hangover after eating an entire loaf of sourdough destined for the turkey dressing.  Or maybe it's just that he knows I'm posting un-dobermanly photos of him.

Note the Californian touches
Wherever you're celebrating and whatever your celebrating, I hope this has been a happy and fulfilling holiday season, and I wish you the best for 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

חלק שני - The reveal

I'll tell you a dirty little secret.  Keep it quiet, okay? 

Here it is:  I love Christmas. 

My internal Yuletide alarm starts clanging as the days get shorter, and I battle with myself to not break out the Christmas CDs in October.  I could probably get away with it, since my tastes run to weird medieval and renaissance disks that don't sound very Christmas-y to most around me and that they find only slightly more enjoyable than being drawn and quartered.  I've tried to get my husband involved by buying albums like "Navidad Renacentista" or "Navidad Ibérica," but that only resulted in my knowing the words to songs like "Riu riu chiu" and "E la don don," that nobody knows even in Spain.  Okay, I know all the words to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" too.  Just don't force me to sit through "My Grown Up Christmas Wish."

Only in Santa Monica -- fair trade chocolate Hanukkah gelt and artisanal dreidels
Know why it's a dirty little secret?  I'm technically Jewish.  Yep, Jewish mom (from whom I ironically inherited the Christmas gene) and WASP dad (who hated Christmas), whiter than the snows of Maine from which he sprang.  No religion.  Not even an effusive Jewish grandmother.  And a big-ass noble fir in our living room every December. Jewish identity in our home was always expressed through food, mainly a weekly or so trip to the deli.  And maybe about a dozen dirty words in Yiddish. I can speak a passable Hebrew, but that's thanks to four years in the university preparing for a career in archaeology that never materialized, not anything my parents did.

So I was pleased last night to assuage my annual twinge of ethnic guilt by attending an impromptu Hanukkah party at the home of some very good friends of ours.  Conveniently, they invited most of our remaining good friends who are still in the dark about our impending event.

Four thousand years of calories on one plate
It's not as though we've kept our mouths completely shut -- a select group of friends has known what we've been up to from the start.  Mostly, they're people who either already have kids or are investigating the process.  And while it occasionally resulted in a revealing post that I hurridly had to delete from my Facebook page, for the most part everyone has kept his or her mouth shut.

The best reaction was from our friend Patrick, whose jaw dropped and whose hands flew to the sides of his face and hovered there for half a minute.  He then offered to babysit.  We were pretty sure they already knew -- I thought I remembered someone telling me that so and so had asked about our trip to India last April -- but no, they all assured us our news came as an enormous surprise. 

Ninety percent of the friends are now in the loop.  That leaves work.

My boss is back in the office on the 27th.

חג שמח לכולם! (For the Hebraically impaired...it says "chag sameach l'kulam," that is "a happy holiday to everyone!")

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The first reveal

For the past ten years or so, we make an annual pilgrimage to visit two separate sets of friends in San Francisco, who (conveniently for us) tend to have parties on the same weekend in December.

This year, of course, we brought with us a secret so closely guarded, it's known only to my mother, her sister, about a dozen friends in L.A. and the throngs that flock to this blog.  We were a little worried at what the reaction would be to the big 12th Week reveal -- one of our friends is notorious for loving dogs but finding children about as pleasant as listening to Mariah Carey and Celine Dion sing a duet of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."

We spent most of Saturday helping one of our friends get his beautiful house atop Potrero Hill ready for his big holiday bash on Sunday.  That evening, fortified on the evening's first glass of wine, we took a big breath and broke the news to three of our best friends.

"I KNEW it!" our host shouted.  "Didn't I tell you guys that's why they went to India?"   Turns out he has another set of friends in San Francisco who are also doing surrogacy in India.  He demanded we move back to San Francisco so he can be a proper uncle. 

Mmm... tastes like jamón serrano
At the small party thrown later Saturday by our other friends, while Adrián entertained their dog by allowing him to lick the back of his neck for 15 minutes straight... well...

"Wha... no, really?" said she of the child aversion.  "Um... WHY?"  But her husband was delighted at our news and promised to make up for any her slack in the auntie-uncle relationship.

And a funny thing happened at the party the next day -- right when I was getting a little sad thinking that this was the last year we'd be able to all be together pre-holidays, for the first time, the party was filled with children: toddlers, first-graders, a lesbian couple nursing their two-month-old in the bedroom.  A new chapter begins.

While we were still in SF, our latest ultrasound arrived -- everything looking good and the babies looking more like babies, though Adrián thinks one of them looks a bit evil, as if rubbing palms together planning world domination.  At least the clown nose has disappeared...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nose news is good news

Any resemblance to this child is purely coincidental
One summer, when I was about seven and staying with my grandparents in L.A. on my annual visit from Hawaii, my grandfather caught me picking my nose.  We were watching TV on the sofa and my finger absent-mindedly found its way into my nostril. 

My grandfather looked over and casually said "You know what's going to happen, right?  You're going to stretch out your nostrils and they'll never go back to the way they were."

"Nuh uh," I said, lowering my finger uncertainly.

"It's true.  I used to have a nose like yours.  Then I picked it, and look at it now."

I was horrified.  My grandfather surely had one of the largest probosci ever to light on a human face.  Each of his nostrils was cavernous. As a child, it looked to me as if I could run the tracks of my electric train (a big Lionel, not one of those wimpy Tyco things) up one nostril and out the other, which would have been a lot more fun than that stupid styrafoam mountain that came with the train set, though similar in size and shape.   His nose jutted from his face in a magnificent arc that would have made a macaw proud.

My point is that, while I didn't inherit the Nathan nose, I know it's lurking in my genes, preparing to enthusiastically assert itself in a new generation (my mom got it, but I promised I wouldn't talk about why she no longer has it.  All I'll say is that it also was a rite of passage for a lot of girls at my high school).  And our donor appears to have a healthy schnoz.

Now, look what appeared in my inbox this morning:

 Is that baby wearing a clown nose? 

Okay, okay, I know it's likely what's left of the yolk sac.  And other nose-news is quite good -- Dr. Jolly noted nasal bones on both on this morning's report.

Bicho 1:
Approx. gestational age: 12 weeks 0 days
BPD - 14mm (help me out here, is that a little small?)
CRL - 53mm
Nuchal translucency - 0.9mm
No obvious gross transgenital anomaly (nuchal translucency and the presence of a nasal bone suggest a lower risk of Down's Syndrome and other genetic abnormalities -- normal is up to 2.0mm at 11 weeks)

Bicho 2:
Approx. gestational age:  11 weeks 4 days
BPD- 13mm (will we have children with very small heads but very large noses?)
CRL - 47mm
Nuchal lucency: 1.1mm

By the way, I'm trying to comment on all your blogs, but for some reason, Blogger keeps telling me I don't have access.  Not even to comment on my own.  But I am reading...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wayward texts

Mystery texter in the 510:  Sorry, a little scattered.  Stopped for a couple of beers with buddies on way home and haven't had din yet.  For sure let's catch up off line and check out your works.  :)

Mystery texter in the 510:  So funny I still know ur number by heart.  Probably the only one I do.

Me:  Awww... that's sweet.

Me:  But... um... who is this?

Mystery texter: 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Training children

Ho ho.. yeah, whatever.
She wants the Trader Joe's cat-shaped ginger cookies, and without a word,  the clear plastic mini-tub joins a similar package of mini-chocolate chip cookies in the cart.

"No, honey," I say with strained patience.  "Today's not a day for that."

She is not amused.

"Okay, if you want the ginger cookies, you have to put the chocolate chip cookies back," I say.  You're supposed to give them choices.  The chocolate chip cookies stay; ginger cats go back on the shelf.

A few steps and, before I can intervene, she's grabbed a package of puff pastry twists.  Into the cart they go.

"Those are yucky," I say.  "They're not good for you."

She purses her lips.  I worry a tantrum may follow.  She looks at the new package of cookies and reaches for it.  Then she looks at the label on the front.

"It says no animal fats and no high fructose corn syrup," she reads.  "What's wrong with that?"

Shopping with your mother is like being out with a daughter who won't allow you to tell her "no."

We are what you might call a multi-generational household.  Adrián and I have lived with my mother since moving back to Los Angeles in 2007, at first out of housing-bubble-induced necessity, then out of a growing sense of horror at how the woman feeds herself.  The woman never met a saturated fat she didn't like, never turns down a processed food product, practically weeps if a meal doesn't include red meat.  We plan to break ground soon on an addition that will allow us to house three generations (four will have lived in it, since it was my grandparent's house when I was a kid) and let us reward my mom's hospitality by allowing her to babysit two squalling twins.

Say we make a tasty chicken stew with fresh vegetables from the back yard -- "nothing for me dear, I already ate," she says.  If we're lucky, she'll eat a few spoonfuls.  Or if we serve her a small bowl of Greek yogurt with honey and fresh berries for breakfast:  "I can't eat that much," she'll say, staring at the three tablespoons of yogurt and half-dozen raspberries.  But let us place before her a plate of cha siu pork at Sam Woo's Barbecue and she develops the appetite of a 300 pound man who hasn't eaten in a week.  I wonder how this woman ever encouraged my taste for fruits and vegetables.  Hell, sometimes I wonder how I survived to adulthood if this is how she fed me.

Incredibly, the woman is surprisingly healthy, in spite of what we hope was a brief encounter with breast cancer over the summer (she's fine, knock wood).

"Look at the back," I say.  "It's made with palm oil.  Palm oil is saturated.  You'd be better off eating a stick of butter."

That would actually suit her just fine.  Palm oil doesn't.  She puts the pastry twists back on the shelf.

Parents are children with training wheels.  But I've won this one, for now.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Now we can call them twins

Don't spook the rednecks!  They might stampede!
While shopping fans across the US pushed, pulled and pepper-sprayed each other in the annual orgy of pre-Christmas consumerism known as Black Friday, we were opening our latest scan -- the first one that shows something that may be vaguely human:
According to Dr. Jolly, our remaining fetuses look healthy -- Twin One is 36 mm, gestational age of 10 weeks four days, with a heart rate of 160 beats per minute.  Twin Two is 29 mm, gestational age of 9 weeks five days, with a heart rate of 156 beats per minute.  

And if it's not too late for a Thanksgiving posting -- my cousin spent the holiday at Plymouth, where the native Wampanoag gave the Pilgrims food and in return the Pilgrims gave the Wampanoag... smallpox.  She took a photo of this cringe-worthy plaque, because you know that if they had to spell it out, people have actually said this stuff:

Actually,  "hey you!" works fine, too.
I suppose that after 400 years, one gets weary.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

That Thing No One Likes to Talk About

And then there were two.

Our surrogate had the selective reduction yesterday. We got the news this morning, and, truth be told, we're both very glad it's out of the way, hoping the procedure wasn't frightening or painful for the sweet, cheerful-looking woman who's carrying our children.  The email from SCI says she's doing fine, and so are our twins.

Both of us are firmly in support of a woman's right to choose what she does with her body -- and hey, in spite of what some opponents of surrogacy would say, isn't choosing to become a surrogate another expression of that freedom?

I've read about couples feeling a sense of loss after the procedure.  Nope, not here. While the shots of KCL stopped two heartbeats, I don't feel they were quite human yet -- soon, too uncomfortably soon to feel nothing, but not yet people.  Since we found out we were pregnant, we've never thought of ourselves as having four... just two.  According to this 2007 article from the Washington Post (which is great article if you want all the gory details):

Selective reduction is one of the most unpleasant facts of fertility medicine, which has helped hundreds of thousands of couples have children but has also produced a sharp rise in high-risk multiple pregnancies. There is no way to know how many pregnancies achieved by fertility treatment start out as triplets or quadruplets and are quietly reduced to something more manageable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which publishes an annual report on fertility clinic outcomes, does not include selective-reduction figures because of the reluctance to report them.

 We understand there was never any real possibility of bringing four babies to term.  It radically increases the risk to both surrogate and baby:

Triplets pregnancies are far riskier than most people realize: Carrying three babies to term would more than double the woman's risk of developing the most severe diseases of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia. The average triplet is born two months premature, significantly raising the risk of disabilities such as cerebral palsy and of lifelong damage to the infant's lungs, eyes, brain and other organs. By reducing the pregnancy to twins, the woman and her husband would decrease the risk of severe prematurity. And the risk of losing her entire pregnancy would fall from 15 percent to 4 percent.
 We wouldn't have the resources to raise four children, anyway.  And while they're beginning to take on a human form, they're still more potential than human, the size of a lima bean.  At this stage, they look more like these things than a baby:
A potato bug...
...an alien...
...or la Duquesa de Alba.

Alive, but human? 

And yet... there's the profound awareness of having passed one of those points where fate pivots:  you will be this, not that.  This one survives, that one doesn't.  What just happened will affect the rest of our lives in every way.

I'm still waiting for a full report, so I'm not sure why the two eliminated embryos were chosen.  For now, I'm assuming all were healthy and normal and that the procedure targeted the two easiest to reach .   So I keep thinking... if that nearly random needle had chosen another, who would they have become?  What was lost? And what will we tell our kids if they ever ask "what, you mean it could have been me?"

Well, yes.  It could have.  But we all only exist because of a lucky string of accidents... my mom's family left Europe in the 1880s rather than stick around for the Holocaust... my dad's family were lucky enough not to starve those first few winters in 17th century New England... I wasn't flattened by a truck crossing Wilshire Boulevard last year.

It's all luck, all where the ball on the roulette wheel stops.

But I do know the most important thing I'll tell our children:  "we got exactly the kids we were meant to have."

Monday, November 21, 2011

The whisker vote

So over the past few weeks, Adrián once again decided to grow a beard:

I think it makes him look like a hot professor (which he is).  But even though he claims immunity, he too is susceptible to vanity.  He doesn't like the white part that insists on erupting on his chin, like the greying muzzle of a weary, faithful dog (which I have, too, and is the whole reason I no longer experiment with facial hair, but at least I admit my motives) and announced a few days ago he planned to shave it off.  That's something he didn't do when even he was compared to this man:

But this time, he claimed, his resolve was cold and steely.  The reason:  he felt his facial adornment is uncomfortably similar to this man's:

Mariano Rajoy is Spain's new prime minister. 

No hace falta meter el dedo con Rajoy en el buzón.

 There was much gnashing of teeth in our household as the elections approached and poll after poll showed the conservative party, the Partido Popular, surfing to victory on the crest of a wave of economic misery.  Somehow, the PP is much better at getting campaign literature all the way to California than the socialists, PSOE, the party that generally gets Adrián's vote.  The PP now has 186 out of 350 seats in parliament and faces the task of convincing the world that Spain won't follow Greece, Ireland and Portugal down the financial toilet.

"There will be no miracles," Rajoy said. "We haven't promised any."  But besides promising austerity measures that are hoped will help the country right its economic ship and convince Angela Merkel not to spank them, the PP certainly has suggested many things, among them undoing Spain's tough new law prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places (which makes our visits much more pleasant and aligns Spain with, well, the rest of the developed world) to annul Spain's law granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, which conceivably would undo our marriage.  Rajoy has said he'll hold his tongue until the Consitutional Court rules on a challenged filed to the law by the PP.  One family law expert predicts that the court will uphold the law.  If not, couples who married since 2005 would be likely to stay married while new same-sex couples would be unable to marry... which is exactly the situation we face in California, though in this case the interviewer wrongly says Californian couples are in legal limbo.

Here's a BBC story about the election:

Despite his indignation, Adrián never found time to go to the consulate to vote.  But when I woke up this morning, his beard was gone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nuestros cuatro bichitos

Is it just me, or would this go well with cocktail sauce?

My breasts are increasing in size, looking bigger and feeling heavier. They have become quite tender to touch.

The nipples have changed, the areola (the darker skin around the nipple) darker in color and tingling.

I feel a bit low and irritable at times; this is largely due to the changing levels of hormones in my body.

I become very emotional or irrational at times and suffer from mood swings. I cry at things that had previously not affected me.

Okay.  Not really.
But maybe that's why I teared up watching "How to Train Your Dragon" on a recent flight.  Hey, along with all the above changes, that's what websites like familyeducation.com would have me believe, so that's the story I'll stick to. 

In general, I like that website -- it gives us a "Hey!  What are they doing NOW?" day-by-day look at our developing progeny.  But I have to ask:  do these websites not have any male readers?  Do straight dads not care about this stuff?  Couldn't they be a little more inclusive to their readers -- male and female -- who are going through surrogacy?  Oh well... I suppose we're still a tiny minority of the reproducing public.

In other news, according to these websites, our embies have gone from looking like shrimp or sea slugs, to lizards, and now look something like tiny aliens (with shrimp-like tails that make me think of olive oil and garlic).  They're about 12mm long, and Adrián has christened them "los bichos;" the bugs.

The results of our second scan were waiting when I opened the laptop this morning, before even getting out of bed.  We still have four bichos, all doing well:

The heartrates clock in at 150, 158, 160 and 160 -- like last time, three seem more or less the same and one lags a bit behind, but all seem strong.  Selective reduction in two weeks.  Yuck.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The first scan

We're pregnant.  Very pregnant.  Very, very, very very pregnant.  Like, having puppies pregnant.
 The day after Diwali, we had our first scan.  Here's what arrived at 7:00 this morning (I was up at 6:00, compulsively refreshing my inbox):


We hope you are doing fine.

We would like to inform you that as per our schedule we have done USG scan for R.

Kindly find the enclosed report for the same dated 27th October, 2011.

Please note that this scan was done a little bit late due to Diwali holidays. 

We are very happy to inform you that four heartbeats have been seen during the scan.

Dr. Shivani has reviewed the report and found everything within normal limit.

We would also like to inform you that R's next scan will be done within two weeks.

We will keep you updated with her progress & new status.

Four.  With heartbeats, yet (90, 98, 104 and 110 bpm).  See for yourself:

 Mixed emotions:  We're very happy that this means a very good probability of taking home at least one baby.  But it also means that in a month, unless two of the embryos decide to disappear, we'll have to confront fetal reduction, turning the four into two.  Not a pleasant thought.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Compartint l'alegria?

El Jason em demana que escriga alguna cosa al blog ara, en aquest precís moment, quan són quasi dos quarts d´una de la matinada. La veritat és que estic cansat i en tinc molta, de son però ho intentaré. N'hi ha una cosa que m'agradaria comentar: l'assumpte de quan anunciar la notícia a la gent que estimes, a la teua família. Imagine que el millor moment és aquell en que saps de debò que l'arribada del teu fill és inminent; quan saps que en realitat el fet d'anunciar-ho no té ni mitja ni cap d'importància i que tan sols vols compartir l'alegria que suposa el tenir aquest element que estaba faltant per a que la teua vida fos redona, completa. El procés ja está escomençat i no hi ha volta enrera. El moment de la generositat ha arribat tot plegat i dintre de ben poc vull compartir la bona nova amb tothom. Xarico, les meues nebodes i nebot, mon pare i Cati...Tots ells estaran ben contents d'allò que ens aguarda al Jason i a mi..., especialment si eixa alegria es multiplica per dos. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And the survey says....

India is quite literally on the other side of the world from California -- 13 hours difference, and I became intimately acquainted with every minute of every one of those hours as the jetlag slowly wore off on our return from Delhi last April.  So given the time difference, I spent most of yesterday evening compulsively checking my email, as if the results of the first hCG test would be done and sent by 8:00 am Delhi time.

Naturally, the first thing I did after waking up this morning was to pull the laptop from under the bed -- here's what was waiting for me:

We would like to inform you that as per our schedule we have done a Beta HCG test for R.

We are happy to inform you that her beta value is 548.63, which is very good.

 Please find the attached file for the same.

We would like to congratulate you as you are pregnant now.

We will now do a USG scan for her within a week to check the pregnancy sacs.

Once her scan will be done, we will get back to you at the earliest.

SCI wishing you good luck for this beautiful journey ahead.

Er... should we be thinking about adding TWO extra bedrooms to the house...?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Killing time at DEL

Delhi, April 12 -- “No, I don’t have a ticket printout!” exclaimed the annoyed passenger. Fifty-five-ish. Apparently Chinese by birth, as I could tell from his accent and the name on his passport. Apparently American by naturalization, as I could see from the passport itself.

We were already behind the counter at the Delhi International Airport “Visitor Centre,” waiting as the glacially slow airport internet connection loaded the American Airlines webpage so we could print our own ticket. “I’ve been all over the world,” he continued. “No airport makes you do this.” I gave him a resigned smile from behind the counter and told him that, well, it’s just the way it was here. The agent had let me sit there to print my ticket. He had the patience of a sadhu. He needed it, because his English wasn’t up to handling the simultaneous complaints of a dozen annoyed Western travelers. I’m now checked through to LAX, but the system wouldn’t let me print Adrian’s boarding pass as it has somehow suddenly decided that the name on his passport doesn’t match the name on his ticket. At 9:30, when the AA check-in counter opens, I’m told I need to enter with my boarding pass, my passport and Adrian’s passport – without Adrian – because, of course, having a second party present your passport and get your boarding pass makes us all much safer from terrorists.

While the maelstrom of humanity and aggressive touts that once greeted arrivals at Indira Gandhi International Airport are long gone, Delhi must be the only airport to penalize travelers for arriving early. We got to the airport shortly before seven. As two Argentines were refused entry to the terminal just ahead of us, I remembered with a sinking feeling in my stomach reading somewhere that you needed a paper ticket to enter. Who travels with that anymore?

“What time your flight?” asked the security guard. “Midnight,” I told him. He motioned us towards the Visitors Center, a glass-walled ghetto of foreign early arrivals. If you tire of sitting in the crowded, fluorescent-lit box, a narrow chute leads to an elevator down to the arrivals level of the airport, so Adrian and I now sit at the sad but convenient little coffee concession where we began our day following our arrival from Udaipur. Sad, because India is not a coffee-drinking culture and so any coffee concession there is by definition bound to be sad, frequented by Westerners tired of masala chai yet desperate for a caffeine fix (have I mentioned how sick I am of masala chai?). Convenient because – hallelujah! – there’s a mobile and laptop charging station with a universal outlet!

7:30 pm… one more hour before I attempt to win my husband his boarding pass. Amazing how tranquil Indian airports are compared to train stations. Actually, there are six universal outlets on the pillar next to our table. Only one works. Get away.  It’s ours.

A Westerner of Indian origin approaches the battery of outlets and pulls out the charger for his mobile. “They’re all broken,” I warn him.

“You have the only one in the whole terminal that works,” he says. “I’ve looked!” Turns out he’s Aussie and was heading back after two weeks in India for a relative’s wedding. I let him plug his phone into my laptop as he calls to give a status report to his ride back home in Sydney.

“The way things work in this country stretch belief,” he tells us. “I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.” We did, but somehow it seems that the Indian Westerners I’ve talked to on this trip have less patience for the chaos, inefficiency and disorder of Indian cities than others who grew up in Chicago, Paris or Oslo.

His call completed, he heads up to the departures level tourist ghetto to await his flight. A hefty man in shorts, Japanese passport and mobile in hand, is now squatting next to the battery of outlets, futilely trying each as the plug falls impotently out.

“India,” he sighs in exasperation.

At 8:30 p.m., I go upstairs to get Adrián his boarding pass.  They're perfectly happy to let me enter departures with someone else's passport and to print me a boarding pass in someone else's name.

At nine p.m., we finally rouse ourselves from our quiet corner and head back upstairs, triumphantly entering the terminal with our printed boarding passes. We pass through security without issue, have a long, leisurely dinner surrounded by drunken Western businessmen at a fancy buffet, only to encounter another x-ray machine and metal scan at our gate. The young, portly woman at this security checkpoint has a perfect American accent and the soft, delightful demeanor of a Bronx cab driver. She says I have to get rid of the three liters of water that I bought beyond the first security check to take on the flight.

“I don’t know why you bought it,” she sneers. “Everyone knows you can’t take water on a flight. You have to throw it away.”

“I’ve been all over the world,” I begin. “No airport makes you…”

I stop, remembering the man back at the entrance of the Visitors Centre. Instead, I guzzle three of the half-liter bottles, defiantly fixing my eyes on her as I gulp. I stop to breathe.

“Gonna drink any more or do you want to toss them now?” she asks.

Chin high, I slowly take one more bottle, holding it up as I screw off the plastic top. I drink it in one go, replace the empty bottle with its three empty and two full brethren in the plastic bag from whence it came, set the bag on the table in front of her, and woozily turn to board our flight.

Halfway down the jetway, we’re patted down in a final security check. Just in case water girl missed something.  Could've been worse; it could have BEEN water girl doing the groping.  We settle into our seats on the 777 -- bulkheads!  Bliss! -- exhausted and feeling lucky to have made it aboard.


Three weeks later we’d already be missing it.

Burying the lead

Our heroes at ISIS with the wonderful Dr. Shivani
Okay, so it's been a long, dreary summer -- my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, had surgery and radiation (she's fine, thanks, they caught it extremely early), and a new job that keeps me very busy.

But the news is this:  we did our transfer yesterday; four grade 1 embryos.  So we're in our two-week wait.  We also are proud parents of 12 more grade 1 and 2 embryos, safely on ice.

Holy shit.  This is happening.

Oh, and a final joke para los hispanoparlantes.  We saw this vehicle, called a "Montero" in the States and in Spanish-speaking countries but "Pajero" in India and in countries without a large Spanish-speaking population, on the way to the airport.  If you google its meaning, you'll see why it's funny -- not to mention relevant to the whole male IVF perspective.  I couldn't help feel it was directed at me:

And the end of the trip

And to think, we skipped Jodhpur and Jaisalmer to come here.
Pushkar sounds good on paper... a small, holy city surrounded by mountaintop temples, a holy lake at its center where Brahma dropped a lotus.

What the guidebooks don't tell you is that Pushkar is dirty and filled with aggressive fake priests who try to press flowers in your hand, then demand money.  It caters to backpackers and stoners in search of bhang lassis.  The holy lake is strangling, its water supply cut to a trickle, filled with thick algae, the slimy back of some unwholesome, black, five foot long fish occasionally breaking the surface.  Lucky for us we only booked one day here.

The highlight of our visit was a hike to the temple of Savitri, on a beautiful triangular peak just outside town.  Just at the base of the hill, we met Indra, who served us the best masala chai we had on the whole trip.  She had set up shop in a lean-to made of sticks and worked from a propane stove and a battered aluminum pot.  We watched as she pounded cardamom and fresh ginger with a rock, then dropped it into the boiling milk.  We sat on stumps and talked a little with Indra while we drank the chai.  She was an Adivasi woman who made from the trek to Pushkar every day from a village about five miles away.  She was illiterate, but her English was good; it always amazes me when someone picks up a language just from chatting with tourists.

The view from the peaceful temple at the top almost made the trip to grimy Pushkar worthwhile.  The temple belongs to the goddess Savitri, a wife of Brahma.  It seems that once, Brahma was in a hurry to perform a ritual sacrifice for which he needed his wife present.  Savitri was nowhere to be found, so he married a handy milkmaid.  The ritual was performed on time, but Savitri was not pleased.  She cursed Brahma, saying that Pushkar would be the only place in India where he would be worshipped.  To this day, Savitri has her temple on one peak, Gayatri, the milkmaid-cum-goddess, has hers on another, and Brahma gets the slimy lake in the middle.

We took a night train to Udaipur, the city with the palace on the lake made famous by the James Bond movie "Octopussy."  It's also the most beautiful city in the world, at least according to the Khan family, whom we met on the platform in Ajmer.

Given our experience in Bharatpur, when we noticed people staring at us and heard "where are you from," we wanted to go into "no entiendo" mode. But this time was different -- an extended family traveling back from visiting relatives in Ajmer, and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by all ages of Khan children, stumbling over each other to practice their perfect English on us. We had told them we were from Spain (I don't really think it was necessary to maintain the charade... I didn't run into any anti-American sentiments in India), but at least this time we admitted to speaking English.

They peppered us with questions about life in Europe.  They asked us to sing.  And howled with laughter when we sang "Asereje," the annoying re-do of "Rappers Delight" that almost metastasized a few summers ago into another worldwide "Macarena."  Seems the song was a big hit in India.  They made us promise to come by their house in Udaipur for dinner the next evening.  We wanted to, but decided that somehow, explaining why two forty-something men were still "single" and traveling together would be too much to explain.  I'm sorry now we didn't take them up on their invitation.

Udaipur may or may not be the world's most beautiful city, but it was the prettiest place we visited in India -- and the cleanest.  It's located on a series of hills surrounding a series of lakes, palaces and private homes crowding the lakeshore.  This was another splurge for us -- while there was no way on earth we could afford the famous Lake Palace (it's now a hotel), we stayed at the Jagat Niwas Palace -- an old haveli (villa) right on the lake.  It was furnished with Indian antiques and the rooftop restaurant was fantastic.

View from the City Palace
But you know what happened?  After more than a week of eating heavy curries and greasy ghee, our entrails finally rebelled.  One final meal at the hotel restaurant, one final masala chai, and that was it.  I don't mean barfing or desperate sprints for the toilet -- only that the thought of another big meal or the merest hint of masala chai made our throats seize up and our stomachs clench into tight little balls.  For the rest of the trip we ate grilled chicken, a chapati or two, and yogurt.  There was so much I wanted to try on that menu, too...  I think it took me two months before I dared drink masala chai again.

Besides the lake, one of Udaipur's main attractions is the City Palace, still home to the Maharaja of Mewar.  It's a hodgepodge of architectural styles; the oldest parts date to the 16th century, the newest to the 20th. Not all of it works, but it's an interesting look at Rajasthan's recent past.  And the views are spectacular.

Ach, ja, ich liebe mein Octopussy!

Octopussy may have come out in the 1980s, but it's still a blockbuster here.  Restaurants here out-do each other in using the movie to promote themselves:  "Rooftop restaurant - Octopussy show!"  "German bakery - Octopussy viewing nightly at 8:30" (not sure what the connection is there), "Best tandoori - best Octopussy show."  In Udaipur, Roger Moore is forever young.

We saved one of the best parts of the trip for our second-to-last day.  One of the things that attracted us to Udaipur was the concentration of interesting sights in the area -- massive forts, temples and tribal villages.  So we hired a driver who took us out of the city, far from anything that ever would have interested James Bond, and plunged into the Aravali Hills.

It was here that we truly felt we'd arrived from another planet.  We drove through villages without electricity, past women in bright Rajasthani skirts harvesting wheat with massive sheaves on their heads, at one point stopping where a man was sitting driving oxen to turn a water wheel.  He gave A his crop so we could have a photo op -- it was clear we weren't the first tourists he'd done this with, but it was good to be out of an environment where people live from tourism and get a look at the real rural India.  There aren't many places I've traveled that felt as profoundly different as this did.

Our first stop was Kumbhalgarh Fort, which looked like something out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which I thought was a really stupid movie, in case you're wondering)(though I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark).  It was a breathlessly hot day, but we still enjoyed the hike up to the top of the fort -- and again, after the crowds of tourists in Delhi and the hordes at the Taj, we marvelled that there weren't more people here -- a handful of Westerners, slightly more numerous Indian tourists, but in general, we often had corridors and ramparts to ourselves.  Kumbhalgarh was built by Mewari maharajahs in the 15th century and has a wildlife sanctuary nearby where you can go on Ranthambore-style safaris (minus the tigers... not that we saw any at Ranthambore).

The final stop was the Jain temple at Ranakpur, which was spectacular.  The next day we flew back to Delhi, and back to L.A. that night.  So I leave you with photos of beautiful Ranakpur, and of the spectacular Gangaur festival, celebrating the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, that awaited us when we got back to Udaipur.  And in short, here's what didn't happen to us: 
  • We didn't get blown up.
  • We didn't get sick.
  • We didn't get robbed.
  • We didn't get lost.
  • We didn't (insert your own India travel fear here)
Okay, we didn't expect any of those things to happen anyway.  My point is, if you're considering surrogacy in India, don't let the distance or foreign travel dissuade you.  Do your due diligence, but don't be afraid.  India is an exhausting, exasperating experience -- but it's also deeply rewarding and often, heartbreakingly beautiful. 

Now off you go.

View of Lake Pichola from our hotel