Saturday, January 30, 2010

Breaking the Ice

In my previous post I shared some of our initial impressions about India. In this post we'll get to the whole reason we flew these 7500 miles.

On Day One our surrogacy responsibility was to visit our doctors’ clinic for a meet and greet and then to perform some quick tests – me a blood test and Shannon a blood test & pelvic ultrasound.

The drive lived up to the billing I mentioned in the previous post, taking about 50 minutes to cover a mere 10 miles. Our hotel was selected due to its proximity to a hospital south of us in which Shannon’s eggs will be retrieved – Lilavati Hospital. The surrogacy clinic, on the other hand, is located north and placed in a location conducive to travel for the surrogates – the lower classes can reach it easily. This was a wise business decision as it ensures a high volunteer rate for our clinic while other surrogacy clinics, located in more posh parts of town, have greater recruitment difficulties because they’re hard to reach. (We had 16 surrogates to choose from on day one; in other clinics, new couples sometimes have to wait days to weeks before getting even one to choose from.) The side effect of this location is that it looks absolutely like the wrong place for our destination. The driver must be lost. This is where our wonderful, kind doctors commute to every day? This is where we’ve been sending our money and placing our hopes for building a family? We didn’t even want to get out of the car. Is this a scam?

I’m sure by Indian standards the location was perfectly fine and perhaps my characterization is a little insulting, but I’m judging it using my Western expectations of medical cleanliness. The building was cramped, three dingy stories lodged between other rickety shops and shoddy advertisements. We walked across the dusty second floor landing, led by our trusty driver Ajit, stepping over the discarded sandals of visitors as we approached a smoky glass door. Behind it – the comforting, warm smiles of Dr. Sudhir and Dr. Yash. Here was our second oasis in India. Assisting the doctors are Ghopa and Gia, two very well dressed Indian women also equipped with endless smiles and sensitivity to our plight. The drive, the location, were quickly forgotten.

We hugged, exchanged niceties and then caught each other up – how have the shots gone, how’s the jet lag, that sort of thing. We learned that other couples were in Mumbai, two of whom were here to pick up their newly born babies. Yes, the greatest affirmation we could hear – successful couples that have sat in the same office and driven the same streets have babies to take home. (Shannon will tell you more about them in the next post.) These couples certainly weren’t the first successes of our clinic but these were people we could see and touch. Even better, they were people we had met virtually, through the Internet and on the phone. It would be a family reunion!

Shannon was taken away for her pelvic ultrasound, that invasive probing you read so much about. Regrettably, the location for the ultrasound matched the surroundings and frankly it was not a good experience for Shannon. The cleanliness does not live up to Western standards nor does the level of formality as people came and went with little consideration for modesty. The machine was top notch, the instruments sterile, the skill beyond reproach. But try dropping your drawers and throwing your legs wide in the basement of a building in India one day after arrival, with virtual strangers putting you through a very uncomfortable test while your husband remains upstairs. Sorry, no sugar coating, this was rough for Shannon. Lesson for everyone, including us – there are sacrifices in going to India for surrogacy. The process absolutely works and works well, not in little part due to the professionalism and care of the two doctors and their staff. It is simply clear that one must be ready to compromise some of the little things to make the big thing possible.

[We were a little hesitant to speak of ill experiences such as these for fear of implying that the clinic itself is any less than everything one could ask for. In the end, we decided the blog is useless if not honest - we will just try to be specific so as not to indict through association. To date the doctors and their attention to our care have been superb. Frankly, much of the criticism really stems from cultural differences and is arguably the fault of our own perception and preconception more than anything else.]

Our blood was taken one at a time in what looked like a waiting room. Many very petite women sitting on a bench – prettily attired but definitely lower class – stared at you (the big, white guy) as the needle was inserted and blood drawn by another prettily attired, extremely tiny woman. Not knowing protocol I decided I should divert my eyes and not make eye contact. When it was over I smiled and attempted to say thank you – shukria – eliciting laughs from everyone in the room. Apparently, Indian humor gets a kick out of hearing ‘shukria’ pronounced with a New York accent. (Hey, it's everyone else with the accent - not us!) Shannon asked Ghopa how long she was to sit in this waiting room before being taken to the phlebotomy room to which Ghopa replied, “What’s a waiting room?” Ok, she didn’t say that but she might as well have. Ghopa was wonderful though, standing with each of us, holding Shannon's hand, and keeping things light.

That completed our first trip to our clinic's office. We were given cell phones so we could easily contact the doctors and the driver, as well as be contacted, without paying crazy international rates. (The doctors have thought of everything.) Tomorrow we would be visiting the birthing hospital for a tour and then returning to the clinic to sign the legal contract after meeting our surrogate. Wait, what? Holy crap, tomorrow we meet the woman who will be carrying our baby!

Ajit helped us across the street and to his car, then drove the 10 miles over 90 minutes back to our hotel. One full day in India – done. The process has begun.


  1. Yipee I have been checking daily waiting for the next posts. I feel like I am right next to you both hearing about what is going on. Step by step getting that much closer....ahhh.
    Glad to hear you are being taken care of well by the physicians and nurses that is a great comfort. Hugs to you both. xoxo

  2. Oh, you make me miss my second family in India. Gopa is such a dear! You will love Dr. Soni and seeing Hiranandani. It's a GREAT feeling to be in the place where your little one will be born. Have a wonderful time. Take is all in and just enjoy!

    BTW...The culture shock does eventually me.

  3. What an honest, informative post. Thank you for sharing!

    Good luck - I'm sending baby dust all the time.


  4. Sorry that I missed you guys! But your post sums up the experience so well.