When toddlers attack

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