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Monday, September 28, 2009

We Have A Water Baby!!

It's hard to believe, but our son Blaze is now 1 month old.  As each day passes, we both get to enjoy our beautiful boy more and more. We made the rounds to Rhonda's work this past week to introduce Blaze as everyone was chomping at the bit to see our newest family addition.  We stopped at Rhonda's current job and then headed over to her previous employer where she was the Director.  Everyone was so surprised and happy to see her...well maybe not her, but certainly Blaze!

Yesterday we met with the lady who will be Blaze's Nanny a couple of days a week when I am on shift.  We REALLY liked her and if things work out as planned she will hopefully be able to make a long term commitment until Blaze starts school in a few years.  We just really love the idea of him being able to stay in the comforts of his own home.

Blaze has his follow-up with the Pediatrician this week and we can't wait to see how much he has grown.  He is eating up to 5oz with each feeding and changing each day.

Last week I had my official swearing in/pinning ceremony with the Fire Dept.  We brought Blaze along and I had SO much fun showing him off to all my co-workers.  He definitely was the life of the party. 

Growing up as a child, I had a great love for the water.  I enjoyed swimming anytime I got the chance, and it continued on into my adult life.  My parents never had a swimming pool, which meant many trips to the public pool or to the lake at my Grandparents house.  Rhonda's family had a pool in their backyard and they enjoyed swimming as a family most every weekend in the summer. 

When Rhonda and I moved to Arizona from Florida and were looking for a house, one essential requirement was that we had to have a pool.  If you have ever been in Arizona in the summer you would definitely understand why.  We are relatively homebodies, and getting to spend the day around our pool cooling off and enjoying ourselves is our type of day.  So I couldn't wait to get Blaze home from India and into the pool to see if he would also enjoy it, and he sure did!! He just loves the water.  Right now he limits himself to floating around in the pool in Mommy or Daddy's arms, and occasionally splashing his feet or arms.  But I am certain that as we continue to expose him to the pool, it won't be long before he begins to take little steps (baby steps, I couldn't resist the pun!) towards learning how to swim, and Daddy will be there right beside him helping all the way.

Now, even though I have a love for the water, I am not a big fan of baths, too much work.  I am a shower guy.  I find it more enjoyable and relaxing having a nice hot shower and it is the best part of my day.  In India, we used an inflatable bath cradle to give Blaze his baths each day.  It was great and came in very handy.  When we got home we had a Primo Infant Bath waiting for our little guy.  We chose this particular one, after once again doing my homework and researching what was available and had good reviews.

A couple of nights ago after having Blaze in the pool, I thought it would be a great time to see if my boy enjoyed the shower as well.  Well, you know what they say "Like Father, Like son." He just loved it.  I held him tightly in my arms and let the water flow on his body and he just looked so relaxed.  I truly think that we have a water baby on our hands.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

We Just Want To Go Home

A special thank you to everyone who has sent us the multitude of kind words concerning the passing of my best friend, my Frankie.  This past week has been such a mix of emotions, with the celebration of a new life, our beautiful baby boy Blaze, and at the same time the mourning of the loss of our amazing companion of over 13 1/2 years.

I hope that my previous post concerning what to bring for your baby to Mumbai was or will be of some assistance. This post will go over our experience with the FRRO.  Your own experience may be similar or totally different, but this will give you some idea of what to expect.  Be prepared, it's a bit long.

The FRRO is all about paperwork. They are by far the least customer-service oriented department that we have had to deal with so far. The building is located in South Mumbai, near the VT Station. The traffic can be horrendous at times in that area, so definitely plan ahead and leave before the morning rush is in full swing. The office is located on the 3rd floor of the Police Headquarters and Administration building, directly behind Xavier College. Parking is at a premium around the building, so it is probably wise to use a taxi and then get the drivers number so that you can call them to be picked up once you are completed. Or if you are an SI client, Agit or Vikas will drive you to your appointment and then wait and pick you up to take you back to your hotel, this definitely helps to alleviate the stress of finding a taxi on your own, and trusting that they will get you there on time.

The FRRO office opens officially at 10 am, but if you are at the building at 930 am they will let you proceed up to the 3rd floor to get in line. There is a small, cramped elevator that you can take to the 3rd floor, or just take the stairs. A suggestion would be if at all possible be there early, it gets busy fast!! We didn't realize that there are that many foreigners in Mumbai. Officially, if you are staying longer than 14 days you are required to report to the FRRO. Fortunately this is done for most people by the security department at the hotel you are staying at, that is why they require a copy of your passport when you check in.

Ensure that you have all of the required paperwork ready prior to going to the FRRO. They want copies, not originals, so again if at all possible have them done prior to arriving. They do provide photocopying in the building, but it is on a different floor and the lineups can be quite long, which translates to a longer wait for you.

Well for the FRRO, both parents and the baby are required to attend. So this means packing a baby bag with all of the essentials to get your little one through 5 or 6 hours, while you are sitting around and waiting. Another of my recommendations would be to bring some snacks and a few drinks since there is nothing available. Oh yea, while I am thinking of it, bring some toilet paper and wet wipes for the bathroom, you will thank me for this. I am puzzled at why both parents and the baby are required to attend, since during our process, I handed in all of the paperwork, completed the online form, met with the interviewer, paid for the exit visa and then finally picked up the exit visa. At no time did Rhonda have to do anything and no one ever came and actually looked at Blaze in person. Just wondering...

Ok, so we arrived at the FRRO building at 945 am, a bit later than I wanted to due to the traffic. We signed in at the desk on the ground floor and then we proceeded to the 3rd floor. When you get off of the elevator, the area is very small. There is a large desk in front of you and on either side there are 4 chairs and you line up in the middle between the ropes, just like at the airport. Rhonda and Blaze went and sat down and I got in line and waited my turn. There was already 3 or 4 people in line ahead of me and it wasn't even 10 am.

Now to set the stage on our particular situation. It was Thursday, 10 am, we have tickets booked for our flight to Goa, leaving Thursday late afternoon and returning on Sunday afternoon, and our plane tickets for home are for Monday evening. So we need our exit visa today and as fast as possible so that we can get back to the hotel, checkout, get our bags and get to the airport. At least that's what I was hoping for.

So now I'm at the front of the line and it's my turn. I have all of my papers with me in my trusty binder and wait to hand them in. The girl behind the desk sticks her hand out to me without saying a thing. Not knowing what she wants, I ask. Well, I expected a bit of customer service, but that's where I went wrong. She abruptly asked "what are you here for?" and I said that I needed an exit visa for my baby that was recently born. She then wanted my documents: Letter from the US Consulate, copy of the Consular Report of Birth Abroad, copy of My Passport and Visa, copy of Rhonda's Passport and Visa, copy of Blaze's Passport, copy of our Return Airline Ticket Confirmation for Both Parents and Child, copy of the Letter from the Clinic, and a copy of the Letter from Hiranandani Hospital Confirming the Birth. I handed them to her one by one and she looked over each of them without saying a word. She then asked if my wife gave birth and I said that we used a surrogate. Well that's when it started to go downhill. The girls demeanor changed. She wanted a copy of the Surrogacy Agreement which I handed to her. I also explained to her that we have a flight to catch in the afternoon and were hoping that if at all possible we would greatly appreciate it of we could get the exit visa relatively quickly. She then, without batting an eye said that it would take at least a couple of days to review the paperwork and at the soonest we would get the exit visa would be the next day in the afternoon, but it could possibly be Monday. Well that's not what I wanted to hear. I knew that the visa could be issued the same day. Peter, whom we met at the hospital, just went to the FRRO the previous week and received the exit visa for his baby in only a few hours. I requested to speak with a supervisor. Another girl came over and the 2 spoke in Hindi and then she said to me that I should cancel my tickets since the paperwork needs to be reviewed and it will take time, so I need to make a decision. So I took back my paperwork and went and sat down with Rhonda who was unaware of what had happened. I explained it to her and then gave Parashar a call. He is very familiar with the FRRO process and said to give him a call if I needed his help (he has helped many others in the past). I explained to him what had transpired and he said that he was out of town but that there would be an associate of his coming to the FRRO shortly to help us, and also that he would contact an interviewer that he knew at the FRRO to help us try and get the visa quickly. And so we wait.........

After about 30 minutes, a young guy arrived and sat down next to Rhonda and I. He said that Parashar had sent him to help us. He went up to the desk and spoke with the girl. Being able to speak the language was a definite plus. After several minutes, he came back and asked for our paperwork. He then waited by the door that leads into the waiting area and a very tall gentleman came out and they briefly spoke and he took a look at our paperwork. The young guy then returned to us and gave me a token and said that the tall gentleman would see what he could do to get our visa processed quickly. Rhonda and Blaze continued to sit in the entrance area and I went into the waiting area to complete the online Exit Visa Application. Pretty simple to fill out, just one page. The form is completed as if you were the baby. Print it, and take the form and then proceed to the interviewer. The token you were given has a number on it and on the wall above the entrance door to the waiting room is an electronic board that lets you know what desk to go to. In my case, I disregarded the number and went directly to the desk of the tall gentleman that our assistant had spoken with. He took the form and all of my paperwork, including 1, 2x2 photo of Blaze and then said he would do his best. I then went and got Rhonda and Blaze from the congested and hot entrance area and brought them to the somewhat comfort of the air conditioned waiting room. And we wait.......

A half hour passed and the tall gentleman came out and said that we would get the exit visa by 1 pm. What a relief!!! It was now 11 am and he asked if we were going to leave and come back. If so, only one of us needed to come back with Blaze's Passport to get the visa. We said that we were going to wait since it was such a long way back to our hotel. As time passed, the number of people waiting also grew, and grew, and the waiting room became quite congested now too. About an hour passed, and I decided to go downstairs to speak with the young guy that was assisting us. he told me that some people look negatively at surrogacy and that is why I received such unfriendly treatment. This is also when I learned that the tall gentleman's help came with a price, RS 1500. Well, I guess it was worth it, we needed the exit visa and we needed it today, and that was a small price to pay to reduce our stress. So back up to the waiting room I went to sit with Rhonda and Blaze. At 1245, the tall gentleman called me in and asked for 2 more photos, this time 1x1. He then filled out a receipt for $80.00 USD for the exit visa and told me to go out and pay the cashier and return to him once I have paid. I paid the cashier. You have to pay in Rupies, and the rate was RS 50 to 1 USD which was very good. I returned with the paid receipt and a stamped yellow receipt and the tall gentleman collected the yellow receipt and completed the exit visa form and stuck on both 1x1 pictures of Blaze. He also took Blaze's passport and told me to go back out and wait in the waiting room. And we wait.....

Thankfully we only had to wait about 10 minutes. The tall gentleman came out and handed me Blaze's passport and the exit visa, WE WERE DONE!!

Next post, making it through the airport, the flights home and finally Home Sweet Home.  Stay tuned.........

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


It is always nice to come home no matter where you go. We missed our beautiful house, sunny and hot Arizona, our wonderful friends and most of all our incredible Frankie girl.

We are trying to get Blaze into a routine. Over 26 hours in airports and planes doesn't help much. He has been trying out all his new toys, his Rainforest vibrating chair, his Precious Planet travel swing, new Dutailer glider-rocking chair, change table, Peg Perego car seat and stroller and most of all his play yard for sleeping, located in Mommy and Daddy's room.

We are introducing him to the whole house. Room by room so he knows his surroundings (at least that's what the book says). He even has got to enjoy his big swimming pool in the backyard.

He did truly amazing the entire 2 flights. People barely knew we had an infant with us. We tried to give him his bottle during take off and landing, but he pretty much slept through it all. He had NO problems with the change in air pressure and continued to sleep.

I was extremely sad when I saw Frankie. It is just so darn hard. I feel like my heart is broke into a million pieces. I never knew it possible till Frankie to love an animal as much as I did her. She was like a human to me and such a huge part of our family. She had been apart of my every day for the last 13 years, and together we had been through so much (our miscarriage, surgeries, Gerry's deployment for 10 months) happy times and sad, she was always by my side to lick away my tears. I know that she is always here with us and she is watching over her little brother as his Guardian Angel and that comforts me. So, although I am very happy to be home and loving life with our new little fella. I am very, very sad about my Frankie girl and wish I could turn back time or have dogs live to be one hundred years old (not in dog years, but people years!). Thank you all for your outpouring of condolences Frankie touched every one she met and even some that only heard about what a special girl she was. She will forever be in our hearts.

Blaze did amazing post-circumcision. We had anticipated being up most of the night, but he slept like an angel. He is such a little Trooper! We applied the cream the Surgeon ordered with each diaper change. They had placed a tincture bandage around the base of his penis (kind of a gauze wrap with betadine solution) that fell off about 4 days post-op. After 24 hours he could resume baths and so we did them every night for comfort and cleansing as we really couldn't clean the area quite well. He sure likes bath-time. He really enjoys having the water poured on his body and looks so relaxed. The area is now completely healed, YAY!. On Thursday, Blaze saw his Pediatrician, Dr. Gentile here in AZ and he said the Surgeon did a great job.

The Pediatrician was VERY pleased with Blaze. He commented on how he acts and appears much older then 3 weeks old. His weight is now up to 7.10 lbs and he is eating a good 4 oz every 3 hours or so. He kept saying, what a beautiful boy you have. He gave Blaze a thorough check-up, went through the papers that we received when Blaze was discharged from Hiranandani hospital and asked a bunch of questions. He was extremely pleased with Blaze's appearance, activity, weight, eating habits, output, etc. He told us we couldn't have ordered a better baby even if we tried. I joked that every time I say how perfect he is in every way, that I touch wood. We have another appointment scheduled for 2 weeks time, and we can't wait to see how much more he has grown.

Gerry was back to work this week. After 22 days straight with his little boy Blaze, it was hard to go. He came to the Pediatrician appointment and then headed to work from there. He works for 48 hours straight at the fire house, so I promised that I would send pictures of his boy while he is at work. I got the low down before he left of 'are you sure you know how to work everything? and is there anything you need?' My heart goes out to Gerry, as I know I am going to hate it when its my turn in a month or so when I will return to work.

Did I mention that Goa was fantastic!! We stayed in the North, about 30 minutes from the capital on Baga Beach. Lots and lots of Sun, beach, shopping, and pure relaxation. It was just what the Doctor ordered. We highly recommend going if you get a chance, its only an hour flight from Mumbai, and not expensive at all. I promise that I will do a full post on the details of the flight, our beautiful hotel, all of the sightseeing, shopping and the wonderful restaurants, complete with pictures.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Today Dog Heaven Got Another Angel

Sadly we must announce that our beloved dog Frankie passed away quietly this morning in the shade of a tree in our backyard, she was 13 years, 8 months old.

She had been noticeably declining for the last few months. She slowed down and was not eating like she used to and started having 'episodes' suddenly. During the 3 weeks that we were in India to pick up our beautiful son Blaze, we were so blessed to have our wonderful neighbors Jack and Winnie and their Grand-Daughter Lauren take incredible care of her. She had been doing well, but then we received a phone call a few days before retuning home that Frankie had taken a turn for the worse, she had to be fed by hand in order to eat and appeared more lethargic. Rhonda couldn't get home fast enough to her girl. When we returned home from India on Tuesday, it was very noticeable that she was not herself. She had lost weight, she was having difficulty walking since her back legs were weak due to previous injuries, her breathing was a bit labored, and she was just laying around not doing much. But in her eyes I could see the spark. I knew that she was happy that we were home, I just knew it!! Rhonda spent the rest of the day laying beside her on the floor comforting her, telling her how much she was loved.

We took her to the vet the very next morning and she was checked out from head to toe. Everything seemed to be normal and the vet said her heart was strong. They thought that she may benefit from some pain medication for her legs and also suggested cooking her eggs, rice and boiled chicken to help her gain back some weight and some energy. When we got her home she seemed to pep up a bit and even more during the next few days. She was walking a bit better and even ate the cooked food we prepared for her. But she still wasn't herself. She was content with just laying around and we were just happy to have her with us.

Last night while we were changing Blaze after giving him a bath, Frankie came in and laid down on the floor of his room. She always liked to be with us wherever we went. She hadn't paid much attention to Blaze since we introduced him to her on Tuesday. The occasional sniff and even a little lick, but that was about the extent of it. She did though, lay on the floor right next to his play yard in our room when he slept during the day and night. I believe that she was there to protect and watch over him.

When I got up early this morning to feed our son, Frankie was laying on the floor in the living room. She usually makes her way to our bedroom to sleep but I thought that maybe she got up early or just slept there last night. After feeding Blaze and he fell fast asleep, I placed him in his play yard in our bedroom and came back out to the living room. Frankie was still laying in the same spot. I reached down and rubbed the top of her head and she looked up at me and I said to her 'you're a good girl Frankie, I love you."

I couldn't go back to sleep now, so I played around on the computer in the living room. Frankie got up and went outside through her doggy door. After a few moments, Rhonda went outside to check on her and noticed that Frankie had gone to the grassy area in our backyard. After a while she wandered back in on her own and then got up again and went back outside. Rhonda had been in getting ready for the day and kept peeking out the window to check on her in the backyard. After a few moments, she noticed Frankie lay over on her side like she does when she has an episode and so she once again went out to check on her and yelled in to me "Gerry come outside something is wrong with Frankie". I rushed outside to find Frankie over by the tree in our backyard, lying on her side and Rhonda cradling her head in her arms. Frankie took 2 deep breaths and then was still.

We both just broke down in tears, our girl was gone. I went in the house and got some sheets to cradle her as I brought her inside the house. I laid her gently on the floor by her basket of toys. I was crying so hard, I couldn't think straight. I was in shock. Frankie was not just a dog, she was a part of our family, and everyone that knows us, knows how much we loved her and treasured her. Rhonda laid down on the floor next to her and gently stroked her fur, she looked so peaceful. Frankie was Rhonda's world, She had been in her life for 13 years and 8 months, she meant everything to her, and to see her now lying on the floor having to deal with the loss of her beloved Frankie, just tore me up inside.

I called the vets office to tell them what happened. I needed to tell someone. They knew Frankie for the last 3 or so years and it broke their hearts to hear of the news. I asked them what I should do, I wasn't thinking straight. They gave me the contact information of a pet cremation service that they highly recommended if we decided to go that route. After a bit, Rhonda and I both decided that we would have our Frankie cremated and that we wanted to have her ashes returned to us. So I called the cremation service and told them that I needed their assistance. I got directions to their office as Rhonda and I wanted to drive Frankie there ourselves. Frankie always enjoyed going for drives in our vehicles and it was only fitting to give our precious girl one last drive.

I placed several sheets in the back of my truck and laid Frankie in the back along with her favorite toy, Hedgehog and 2 photos of Rhonda and I with Frankie. I then buckled Blaze into his car seat. Rhonda wanted to ride in the back with her, so she sat next to her and continued to stroke her fur as we proceeded to the cremation service. It was a very sad drive, all of the memories of our times with Frankie through the years rushed around inside my head, so many emotions, I was just so devastated.

We arrived at the cremation service and I went in to speak with one of the representatives. Rhonda wanted a few more minutes alone with her beloved Frankie. After a few moments, I came out to see how Rhonda was doing and you could see that her heart was truly broken, she was a mess. Shortly after, the representative from the cremation service came out to pick up our girl. We weren't ready to let her go, but we knew that we had to. I said to him to "please take good care of our girl" which he replied "yes sir I will". We both gave Frankie one last kiss on the side of her head. It is a truly sad day, we have lost a member of our family. And those of you that have a bond and a love for your pet like we have with ours, will totally understand us.

I believe that Frankie waited for us to return from India, so that she could see us and that she could let us know that she wasn't suffering, that she was just old, and she needed a rest. Our precious Frankie is in heaven now, looking down on us. All of her aches and pains are gone and she is running and jumping. We love you Frankie, thank you for being a part of our lives. We will miss you, and we will never, ever forget you. You are forever in our hearts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What We Bought, Brought...... And Forgot!!

As promised, I thought that while we have some time (Blaze is sleeping) I would like to reflect back on our preparations to travel to Mumbai for the birth of our baby, and especially what we thought was important to bring along with us.  Many IP's who came before us have generously compiled lists of items that they have brought, which has been of great benefit to us and others.  This list is by no means is an end-all of lists.  It is our list and what we thought was important.  As new parents it becomes sort of a trial and error process, unless you know exactly what you need or have used a particular item in the past.  For us in the US, there are numerous large department stores that cater solely to your beautiful baby.  They are designed so that when you walk in, you are immediately overwhelmed at how much there is available to take care of your precious little angel.  And rest assured, the sales people want to convince you that each and every item is not just a requirement, it is a necessity and without it, you will surely be putting your child in harms way, which we all know is so untrue.

The exact time that you decide to start to go shopping for your baby, varies greatly between IP's and their individual comfort levels.  For us, Rhonda wanted to wait until we reached the end of the first trimester before she started looking and purchasing any baby items.  This was due largely to the fact that in the past we suffered a miscarriage at 7 and 1/2 weeks and she wanted to get past this hurdle that was in her heart.  I definitely understood her, since I too suffered right alongside her with our loss...BUT,  for me, the moment that we found out that we were pregnant this time, I was so ecstatic, that I began to go and look at the countless baby items that were available.  I enjoy shopping (sorry ladies, I'm taken!) and have a fantastic work schedule which allows me a lot of time off.  So on many of my days off I would go and look and research what was good and what was not so good.  As a guy, we tend to want to see and touch everything before we commit to buying it, so that's what I did.  Remember that Rhonda was still waiting, so I had to be a bit secretive and hide my purchases.  I purchased clothes, toys, bottles, a child seat, baby books and countless other items for our little angel's nursery.  Luckily enough that we have a large home and I can hide stuff without her finding out and even had to resort to putting the larger items out in our garage and in a storage shed that I have on the side of the house.

Once we reached that glorious milestone, the end of the first trimester, Rhonda's comfort level began to increase, not anywhere close to 100%, but increasing.  So now was the time that we both could look and purchase.  It was so funny, that on one occasion while we were browsing in Babies R Us, Rhonda was looking at various items and would say to me "I think that this would be good" and my response to most of the items that she wanted was "honey, I already picked that up!" When we got home, I had to come clean and bring out all of the items that I had purchased over the passing weeks while she was waiting. How could you be mad at me? I was excited!!!

As IP's pursuing surrogacy in India, we are aware right from the start that in India it is the law that the sex of the child can not and will not be disclosed prior to the birth. Well this sucks! For those of us that want to know if it is a boy or a girl so that we can buy all of those nice gender specific outfits that we see on sale and to decorate the baby's nursery in colors and patterns that will announce to everyone what sex your child is.  But, we are left to buy all of the gender neutral clothes, which coincidentally are hard to find, and to also resort to the same gender neutral decorating in our little one's nursery.  Can we just have a bit of a hint? PLEASE!!

So with this, shopping for the trip to Mumbai, is not as easy as one thinks.  With the updates that you receive from the clinic from the scans that the surrogate gets routinely, you can guesstimate on what size clothing you will need, and remember it is gender neutral so you are probably going to wait to buy all of the real nice outfits once you actually get home from India and know what sex specific clothing to look for.  With sizing for the clothing, that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. I thought when looking at newborn clothing that it was very small and wouldn't fit for long or even not fit our baby at all.  Boy was I surprised! Newborn baby's are tiny.

So our recommendations for baby related items would be as follows:
  • Be prepared for at least 2 to 3 clothing changes each day, more if your child spits up frequently or dribbles milk excessively while feeding.
  • We brought an assortment of clothes with us.  Long/Short sleeve onsies, sleepers, t-shirts, one-piece outfits (jumpers). We chose to bring mostly NB (newborn) and some 0 - 3 months.
  • NB socks.
  • NB caps. 
  • Lots and lots of bibs and burp cloths (if you think you have enough, throw in a few more) (Chaya, Rhonda wanted me to thank you for this suggestion).
  • Small face cloths (also handy for wiping up milk dribbles) and a few hooded towels.
  • Huggies disposable wash cloths for bath-time.
  • A small portable Eddie Bauer Travel bed that is the perfect size for baby to sleep. (Thank you Danielle and Jay, this has been a life saver).
  • A small sleep positioner to eliminate the rolling up of towels or blankets to keep baby in position.
  • Several light weight blankets.
  • A Munchkin inflatable bath cradle.
  • Infant first aid kit complete with nail files (we have not used mitts, we just ensure his nails are filed since he enjoys sucking on his fingers to self-sooth).
  • Several Kiddopotamus swaddlers since we keep him swaddled most of the time, and while he is swaddled he sleeps like a baby (pardon the pun!).  We found these very easy to use and they stay nice and tight.
  • Diapers (we chose Pamper Sensitive, based solely on research.  Various brands are available in Mumbai, but we wanted to ensure that we had the brand we wanted and the correct size, and we just love these since he has had no blowouts and no diaper rash). We did try Huggies newborn diapers and we found that they leak on the sides and at the top (at least on little boys)
  • Formula (we chose Similac Advance with DHA and ARA, based solely on research and haven't seen it available in Mumbai, but it may be in select stores. The hospital uses Nestle formula which we successfully switched over from after Blaze's short stay in the NICU).
  • A lighted/musical Baby Einstein toy for activity time, Blaze is mesmorized by this thing.
  • A & D Original Ointment and A & D Zinc Oxide Cream for baby's bum, Aveeno Baby SPF 55 Sunblock Lotion, Neutragena Pure and Free Baby Sunblock Stick SPF 60+ for face and ears, Little Tummy's Gripe Water for hiccups and colic, Q-tips, Small Cotton Pads for wiping baby's face, alcohol swabs to clean around the cord, then some antibiotic ointment (Neosporin or Bacitracin are fine) once it falls off.  We also purchased from the pharmacy in Hiranandani hospital, Colimex Drops to help with Colic and Gas and Crocin Drops which are similar to Tylenol and are a mild pain reliever (used after Blaze's circumcision).
  • Bottles (we brought 10, and chose the Avent 4oz with size 1 nipples, based solely on research, these are available at the small store in Hiranandani hospital) also a whisk to stir the formula up with, we chose the Lionheart electric whisk which was very inexpensive but has been invaluable.
  • Disposable Bottle Liners (we originally purchased the Avent Tempo Bottle and Disposable Liners in the US to use during the return trip home on the plane) But we have used them several times so far and give it a big thumbs up!
  • A bottle brush (we waited and purchased a small bottle of dish detergent once we were in Mumbai).
  • An Eddie Bauer Sling (it allows Blaze to lay relatively flat and allows both of your hands free to move about) We love it, very comfortable!
  • Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes (several brands are available in Mumbai, but we haven't seen this particular brand, again they are personal choice).  We brought along 3 packages of 250 wipes.
  • A diaper bag (I chose to bring along a manly diaper bag which I purchased online from Diaper Dude.  I thought that if I was going to be carrying it, I at least wanted it to not look girly, check them out).
  • You definitely need a bag to carry items to your various appointments.  We used a large zippered beach bag which has an open top.  It has come in real handy to carry all of the extra items that don't fit in the diaper bag including all of the paperwork that is required for the Consulate and the FRRO, and is also great to stash snacks in when you are staying in the hospital and need to bring them from the store to your room undetected, trust me you will want to!
  • We brought along a set of small portable speakers and an IPOD to play soothing baby music.
  • Bottle Sterilizer/Bottle Warmer (as we mentioned in an earlier post, we brought with us an Avent bottle Sterilizer and an Avent Bottle Warmer which are 2 excellent products, but unfortunately even with a electrical converter they draw too much electricity and require a ground plug and therefore will not function properly.  Luckily enough we were able to purchase a combination unit at the store in Hiranandani hospital.  (Which has a huge array of baby items from clothes, to diapers to wipes, to bottles, to carriers to vibrating chairs. The store owner will gladly give you a pamphlet of ALL the items they carry at fairly reasonable prices) I am certain that you will be able to locate either an electric or microwaveable unit at one of the various baby stores in the city. To me this is a definite must have.
We are staying at the VITS hotel and speaking as someone who has spent 65 days at this hotel during the course of 4 trips to Mumbai, I definitely recommend it hands down.  The 1 bedroom suite, for the money is an excellent value and you will definitely appreciate the space when your new addition comes along.  As we mentioned earlier, they have also given us along with the room, free high-speed internet which can be very expensive if you have to pay for it, free breakfast and supper which helps alleviate the strain of going and carting your little one around each day in search of a meal,  now here is an important plus, they also have an excellent in-house laundry and give you each day 3 pieces of laundry free, and for baby clothes they have a flat rate of RS 25 per piece.  If you have ever been to Mumbai you will know that it is almost next to impossible to dry a piece of clothing in your hotel room due to the humidity.  They also have microwaves, hot plates and cribs available upon request which they will happily bring to your room (and when I say happily, I mean at no extra charge)

One very important piece of equipment that any new parent should not do without is a good digital camera with at least a 2GB memory for all of those pictures of your new beautiful baby.  Cameras are permitted at Hiranandani, so you will want to have it on hand to capture every memory possible.  The only place they frowned upon taking pictures was in the NICU, but I managed to get some shots through the glass windows in the doors.  We found an awesome photo studio to get prints made at right near the hospital, in an area called Hiranandani Gardens.  We are even in the process of getting several beautiful, custom made baby books made by them and at such an unbelievable price, we just couldn't resist. 

On the forgotten side, both Rhonda and I let it slip our minds when we were packing for our trip, that the time frame that we are in Mumbai is during Monsoon Season.  Coming from almost always hot, sunny and dry Arizona, you tend to forget that the weather isn't this beautiful everywhere.  So once we arrived in Mumbai to very heavy rains at times, we realized....OOOPS! guess what we forgot.  So a word to the wise, if your are travelling to Mumbai or India in general during Monsoon Season, don't forget to pack a light-weight waterproof jacket and a small compact umbrella or 2, you will definitely appreciate them on a rainy day.

So with this post, I hope in some way that it will help those of you that are venturing to India in the near future.  And to finish, a few more random pictures of cuteness.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bitter Sweet Good-bye.......For Now

We are back from our Goa get-away and ready to head home tomorrow night (Tuesday).  We are SO excited to get home to our Frankie girl and get Blaze into a routine, BUT we are so sad to leave Mumbai, the Doctors and all of the wonderful people who we have come to know and love through our amazing journey.  We will be back, that is a definite, but it certainly won't be for quite some time (4 trips in a year and a half). 

We will post more once we are home and settled, with the remainder of the details of our trip, post-op circumcision, Gerry's report on the FRRO process (the good, the bad and the ugly!!), and of course beautiful Goa. 

Those of you who follow our blog with love, thank you for your kind sentiments and encouraging words.  We hope and pray that each of you finds the happiness and joy we have found at this very moment.  This entire experience has been long, exhausting, emotional, and AMAZING in every way. 

As we close one chapter of our journey, we open another new and exciting one...THE LIFE OF BLAZE!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

OUCH...that smarts!

 What are you people doing???

Now its time to steal the computer away from my long-winded husband (Just wait for his post of items to bring, buy,etc. he is working on).  Can you tell he is a little passionate about all this stuff???

Today was Blaze's big surgery.  Thank God I am a nurse.  Poor Gerry wasn't prepared at all for the first diaper change, he hates to see his little man in any sort of pain.  Let's just say, that I know from experience that it always looks worse then it is.  Poor little fella, my heart broke for him.  Gerry donned a green gown and went in before the procedure, and again right after it into the recovery room to hold and comfort Blaze.  He was amazed at how calm and cool Blaze looked immediately after the surgery.  He even asked the Doctor if he did the procedure.  The Doctor smiled and said, "Oh, give it 10 minutes for the local anesthetic to wear off!"  And it did, every time he cried I felt like crying along side him.  The Doctor gave Gerry all of the post-op orders and told him that it was an uneventful procedure.  Good to know.  Dr. Nanavati was great, very informative, sweet and definitely an accomplished Pediatric Surgeon.  We had a quick discharge from the day care ward in the triage (emergency) room and then it was back to our hotel to rest.  All in all, it cost us a whopping $189.00 for the entire procedure (OR, Doctor, Medical Supplies, etc.)  I requested some Baby Acetaminophen (Indian version of Tylenol here in the US) at the hospital pharmacy while we picked up the topical ointment to apply with each diaper change.  Both of them together came to a grand total of less then $1.00.  You definitely can't beat the prices of health care here!

Pre-op Blaze in his mini hospital gown

 Post-op my poor little guy

We have been so fortunate to run into Dr.Soni each time we are at Hiranandani hospital.  She always asks,  "How's my baby?"  and she is always so full of big smiles and big hugs.  For those IP's who come after us, you will absolutely LOVE this woman.  Each and every IP from all of the various clinics in Mumbai cannot sing her praises enough.  She goes above and beyond for you, your surrogate, and your newborn child with pride.  Who could ask for more?

Prior to Blaze's surgery we had metabolic screening (Preventine New Born Screening) done since we were at the hospital.  It was recommended by the on-staff Pediatrician during Blaze's last check up.  It is to check multiple genetic disorders.  She gave us a pamphlet on the testing and it is quite a non-invasive test (Yah right, tell that to Blaze!).  It consists of a simple heel prick (like a blood glucose test) and a urine sample.  Gerry and I both had to laugh when the nurse brought in a urine specimen cup for us to give to Blaze, what did she expect from our 13 day old son, to be able to go on command?  I kindly asked her for a pediatric urine specimen bag, which seemed like a huge task as it took forever to get.  Both the Docs has a good chuckle over our story as well.  It takes 20 days for the results of the test and the hospital will email those to us as we will be back in Arizona.

Getting the 'heel prick'

Tomorrow we pick up Blaze's passport from the U.S Consulate, as it was just one day later then anticipated due to the Labor Day holiday.  Then Thursday we have an appointment with Parashar to go to the FRRO.  He has now starting to work with SI clients and the Docs feel confident in having him as a part of their team. 

After hopefully a relatively short day at the FRRO on Thursday, we all jet-set to Goa.  Once again Amit ROCKED and booked the entire vacation getaway for us at a outstanding price.  A 4 day/3 night, 4 star hotel, including breakfast every morning, 1 hour sunset cruise, half-day sightseeing tour, complimentary bottle of wine and 50% off all spa services (guess who's going to get a massage and who's baby sitting for that hour???)  We are excited to get-away and have a slight change in scenery and enjoy some quiet time on the beach before heading back to the States on Monday night.

Time here has really flown by (insert sad face here!!).  I can't WAIT to see our Frankie girl.  I miss her dearly, but I know that Lauren has been a gem and has kept me updated on Facebook and via phone, that Frankie is her usual self and doesn't really leave Lauren's side.  They have become quick friends.  I wonder if Frankie is even missing us, as I am sure Lauren is spoiling her rotten??? 

Well, its off to bed, it surely will be a long night with our little one fresh post-op. Please wish our little angel a speedy recovery.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thats my boy!

Everyone loves a baby, and especially a cute little boy.  Who can resist those beautiful blue eyes and that bald head? He's already a chick magnet, thank you son!! As most of you are aware, we are staying at the VITS hotel, and included with our 1 bedroom suite is a full buffet breakfast and also a full buffet supper.  If the 3 of us are not out on the town enjoying what Mumbai has to offer, we head down to the buffet for supper.  Tonight during supper, we had the opportunity to meet 2 beautiful young women who are from the Republic of Georgia, and are both in Medical Tourism.  They are aware of surrogacy and were fascinated with the ups and downs of our journey to have Blaze. They each had to have a turn at holding our precious little bundle of joy and marveled at how his features look just like his Dad.

As our son reaches 12 days old, we see him growing and changing each day, he is awesome in each and every way.  Rhonda and I often just sit and look at him as he sleeps and think how truly blessed we are.  Our journey hasn't always been a smooth road, as we know first hand the devastating feelings that a negative causes, and now looking back that seems so long ago.  But if we can offer any advice, it would be to never, never, never, give up.  It will happen!!

Tomorrow is a big day for our Blaze, he returns once again to the place of his birth, Hiranadani hospital.  He is having his circumcision surgery at 3 pm, which will be performed by a very highly recommended pediatric surgeon, Dr. Nanavati.  We are a little nervous for our little guy, but know that he is in great hands, and Dr. Yash and Dr. Sudhir will be there as well with us for support.

The onsie says it all!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We The People....

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

excerpt from the Declaration of Independence

As my beautiful wife Rhonda promised, I am going to try and paint a picture of what it was like for us to take our son Blaze to the US Consulate to receive his citizenship and passport. This is an all important and momentous time in the life of your child, and it's grandeur is a bit lost in the myriad of things that are required to do in order to get your child home. This almost gets to become just another checkoff on your list, but if you can, take just a moment to savor what it all means. Many, many lives have been laid down over time, so that we can enjoy our freedoms and the rights that come with that great honor, of being a United States Citizen.

I guess I will start from the beginning. In our particular case, we were told by Dr. Yash and Dr. Soni when we should arrive in Mumbai for the birth since it was their intention to remove KT's cervical stitch and then either allow her to go into labor naturally or to induce her, but bottom line was that we had a date that our child was to be born on. So with this, I called the US Consulate in Mumbai and spoke with Rachel Crawford, of the Citizen Services Unit, who has taken over from Marissa, whom others that have come before us are surely familiar with.

Her contact number from the US is 001 91 22 23633611, ext 4237. To call from Mumbai it would be 022 23633611. The Citizen Services Unit number is ext 4306.

I explained to her our situation, that we were having a child born in Mumbai via surrogacy and that I would like to schedule an appointment for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). I told her the approximate date of birth and was able to get an appointment at the end of the same week. The Consulate only has availability for CRBA appointments from 9 am to 12 pm, Monday to Thursday. And don't forget that it is closed during US holidays and some Indian holidays. A couple we know recently had to wait over a month and a half for an appointment, so that is the reason, if at all possible to get an appointment early. You don't want to wait that long!!! This may take some coordination with the Docs, and in the end you may not be able to know when the child will be born, but in that case, once your child arrives, call for an appointment ASAP.

So once you are given an appointment, the American Citizen Services Unit emails you a letter explaining the process and what documents are required. It also gives you the links to the various forms that need to be completed. Most of the information on the forms can be completed prior to the birth, and then once the sex of your child is known (and the all important name that you have been keeping a secret for so long!) and the date and time of birth as well, can all then be filled in the appropriate spots. Ensure that the date in the top right corner of each of the forms is still valid. The link to the passport form the Consulate sent me, had the form expired, but luckily the forms are available online.

So we were given a Thursday, 9 am appointment. Luckily for us it was the last day of the Ganesh Festival and the final immersions, so traffic at that hour of the morning was relatively light. But ensure that you plan ahead, you definitely don't want to be late and miss your appointment. The Consulate is in Breech Candy area in South Mumbai and very easy to get to, again ensure your driver knows exactly where to go. The building in itself is very unassuming and blends in with the other surrounding buildings. Space is at a premium in Mumbai, so it is not a stand alone structure that I definitely expected.

We arrived in plenty of time. There is no parking in front of the consulate on either side of the road, but luckily our taxi driver Hassan, found an open spot right next to the consulate in front of a few small shops. Since it was raining, and raining heavily I might add!, I went over to find out where the entrance was. There was a very long lineup of people waiting outside, and I hoped in my mind that this wasn't our line. I spoke with one of the Consulate security guards, they wear light blue uniforms that are very close to my air force uniform. He spoke English very well and directed me to the door just down from the one with the long lineup. I proceeded to that door and it is an entrance where you enter and come to a window with another of the Consulate security guards. I spoke with him and explained that I had an appointment for 9 am. I was instructed that they begin to allow people in at 845 am. Awesome, I was in the right place, and given a time that we could go in. I went back to our taxi and told Rhonda what I had found out. When it was time to head over to the Consulate, Hassan had an umbrella waiting for us, how nice was that. So a word to the wise, if you are in Mumbai during the Monsoon season, bring an umbrella, we didn't!

Once in front of the window, you hand them your passports and they fill in a small white slip of paper that they hand you back after reviewing your passports. The slip is then given to another security guard who opens the door to allow you into a screening area. No electronics are allowed, so we had to give up our cell phone which was logged onto that small piece of paper and he then placed the cell phone in a cabinet and locked it. Just like at the airport, everything out of your pockets, and our baby bag and bags containing our files was xray'd. We had 3 small baby bottles prefilled with water for feeding and they didn't have us remove them. Others have said that they weren't allowed to bring in any liquids, so be prepared. I think though that you will be safe with the small amounts that are in the baby bottles if you chose to follow our lead, your choice.

Now was the fun part, you pass through a large metal turnstile and then have to go from this building, across a courtyard to the main building, did I mention that now it was really, really, raining? Rhonda and Blaze took the umbrella, and I just ran trying to avoid getting totally soaked. We made it!! In through 2 big glass windowed wooden doors we went, through another metal detector and hand in that small piece of paper to the person sitting at the desk. They take it and you are directed to a small room on the right. As you enter this small, plain looking (DMVish looking room) there are rows of chairs and we went right up to the front row and sat down.

Deep breath! I make sure that all of my paperwork that I have brought with me is still intact. And we wait. There are 2 windows at the front of the room, just in front of where we are, and 2 women sitting at desks just behind them. to our surprise, the one lady called me up, early!! Wow, I like this place already. I told her that I had an appointment with Rachel for a CRBA. She then asked for my documents.

All originals are required, which they copy and return. She asked for: Doctors letter from the clinic, Marriage Certificate, Divorce Certificate if applicable, Baby's Birth Certificate, completed CRBA Application (if both parents are US Citizens, section 12, Precise Periods of Physical Presence in the United States can be left blank), completed Passport Application (photos can be taken at the Consulate for a fee of RS 200, and are ready in 10 minutes) we chose to do this, and you get 3, 2x2 photos, 1 for the Passport Application and 2 for the FFRO, completed Social Security Application, Surrogate Agreement (and 2 copies which we made beforehand to save time).

She took all of these documents and then collected the fee. You can pay in either Rupees or US dollars, but if paying in dollars you must have exact change. The total for us was RS 7500 or $150.00. If you use the in-house photographer, they will bring you the photos once they are printed and remember to save RS 200 to pay him. One photo is then given to the woman for your Passport application. You then take a seat and wait for your documents to be reviewed.

After a brief wait, a younger woman came to the window with all of our documents and introduced herself, we finally got to meet Rachel. She is a very nice lady and very eager to learn all about surrogacy. As a side note, something I am quite proud of, the US Consulate has requested and set up a meeting with Dr. Yash and Dr. Sudhir and will visit the SI clinic, Hiranandani hospital and as well Lilaviti hospital. They want to see the entire process of surrogacy from start to finish, since it is becoming so popular in India for American couples. This is quite an honor for SI, since the only other clinic in Mumbai to do this was Rotunda. Now back to where I was. Rachel then asked to see the paperwork from Rhonda's stimulation, EPU, Transfers, Medical Tests, Sperm Freezing and Testing and also the Surrogates Medical Tests (which SI ensures are downloaded to the Internet for each IP). Luckily I am very meticulous about all of this and had everything in order. I guess that's my military training kicking in, or is it just being a bit anal? Rhonda don't answer that!

Rachel then flipped through the stack of documents and asked us questions concerning the process. She was not asking questions in a dis-believing manner, but to truly understand surrogacy. She asked questions like 'what is the name of your surrogate?", "how did you find the clinic?" , "tell me a bit about the process", "how did you pick your surrogate?", "did you know if you were having a boy or a girl?" and she even looked at the dates of transfer and the corresponding Beta numbers to see if they went together. She even took the time to look at Blaze. All in all, she really liked the paper trail that we had created, which laid out the pregnancy from the start to the finish. So definitely keep copies of everything relating to the pregnancy including the medical reports from the Stimulation, EPU and Transfer. The more prepared that you are ahead of time, the faster you will get completed.

After she was satisfied with all of our submitted paperwork, she stamped and signed them and then had us both raise our right hands and swear that all of the information given was correct. And with that, Blaze Xennon Wile was a United States Citizen, YAY!!!

Since we did not need an Emergency Passport, and yes if you request it, you need to have a good reason, not just because you want to leave to go home early. Blaze's passport will be ready in 5 days which will be Tuesday morning. Monday is a holiday in the US, it's Labor Day so the Consulate is closed or we could have had his passport then, but Tuesday will do. We know when we are leaving to go home, we don't want to rush out of here just yet and don't plan on leaving any earlier. In order to pick up the passport, you do not all have to go in, just one of you will suffice. I will just need to call at 830 am to ensure that it is ready and then go down to the Consulate, show them the receipt that I received after payment and his passport is all mine, process complete.

At the same time that you pick up your child's passport, the Citizen Services Unit will also give you a letter that is required to be taken to the FFRO when you go to get your child's exit visa, which is another hurdle that everyone in this journey faces. We had the opportunity to meet Peter, who is a US Citizen living in Singapore. He just went to the FFRO and in a few short hours he had the exit visa with relatively little headaches. He passed on what he did during that process and I will do the same when I go through it this week. The Consulate recommends that you go to the FFRO as soon as you get your child's passport, to ensure that there are no hang-ups, which only makes sense.

So I am hoping that this lengthy post (sorry) will be possibly of some assistance to you. That truly was Rhonda and my goal throughout this whole journey, to be able to help others and to have others help us as well. I am also planning on an upcoming blog entry, a review of the good, the bad and the ugly of baby stuff that we have bought, brought, or forgot. Please stay tuned for that one.

And now some random pictures of cuteness brought to you by Blaze Xennon...

He was too cute to resist...