Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hospital Survival Info

As a follow up to Geoff's last post, I wanted to share some very important information - "Shannon & Geoff's Hiranandani Hospital Survival Guide" - for other intended parents that will soon be staying at the this birthing hospital.

For those that don't know, Hiranandani Hospital is not a shabby place and has an excellent reputation.  It's known as an upscale hospital throughout Asia and although we refer to it as a birthing hospital, it is in fact a full service hospital.  This happens to be the hospital that our agency - along with several other surrogacy agencies - works with as it accepts the legality and morality of surrogacy (unlike Lilavati Hospital, for example).  There are different grades of rooms from which we were able to choose at check in. It's pretty straight forward - they shared a chart showing the type of room, what floor it's located on and the associated cost.  We were able to visit any empty rooms/suites with security and I'd highly recommend doing so.  We opted for a deluxe suite on the 12th floor, which is a newly renovated floor.  Once we made our room selection, a full deposit was required upon check in and included in that fee is a guesstimate of medical costs as well as three meals a day.  The nightly cost for this suite is currently 7,500 Rupees - the equivalent to $165.17 USD.  Outstanding balances must be paid in full upon discharge.

Our suite had two rooms separated by pocket doors. On one side was a sitting area, kitchenette and full bathroom while, on the other, a second full bathroom, a hospital bed and a chaise lounge we easily used as a second bed.  Flat screen TVs and DVD players were located on both sides of the suite. Finally, this room came with a microwave, refrigerator, sink and a very sweet nursing staff who took excellent care of Archer.  See pictures below...

Just like our last trip to India, we packed some food and snacks, but this time we packed a little differently for obvious reasons.  Not that any hospital has good food service but I can honestly say the food service was horrific and sparse - and that's sugarcoating. (please keep in mind that this is our experience and others may very well disagree!)  There was no rhyme or reason when meals were delivered and when they were, they were often minimal and inedible.  Geoff can choke down anything whereas there was not one meal that I ate even 50% of.  I mostly ate microwave popcorn, peanut butter crackers and stale toast.  The meals of champions!

Without further ado - Shannon & Geoff's Hiranandani Hospital Survival Guide. (Apologies to those for whom this does not apply!)  Aside from clothes and everything baby....
  • Snacks - lots of them! Microwave popcorn especially!
  • Nuts, peanut butter and anything with protein that you can travel with
  • We'd recommend stopping at a local grocery store and picking up some bread and jelly to make PB&Js
  • Juice boxes and/or powdered gatorade/lemonade
  • All toiletries
  • Outlet converters for each plug
  • Hair dryer (for those that need one)
  • Slippers/flip flops
  • Hand soap
  • Disinfectant wipes and spray
  • Room air freshener
  • Bottle brushes, antibacterial soap, sponge
  • Antibacterial gel 
  • DVDs (there were only 3 channels that had English language movies/shows and they repeat them over and over and over and over and over)
  • Medela micro-steam bags for sanitizing baby bottles and bottle parts (I love these things and each bag gets 20 uses)
  • Diapers (the hospital only uses a padded hospital chuck)
  • Swaddling and receiving blankets (the hospital only has sheets and they're rough)
  • Pacifiers or soothies (the hospital does not provide any)
  • Formula - only if you do not want to use the hospital's formula or you are not breast feeding (the hospital provides an Indian brand of formula called NAN)
Things to expect & things to do - 
  • The nursing staff are truly great and will assist you in anyway - either fully hands-on or second to the parents, but you should set the tone
  • There will be a parade of people who come through your room each day at all hours regardless of whether or not they're invited (nurses, residents, pediatricians, senior level management, housekeeping, nursing assistants, food service...)
  • A variety of hospital staff will be picking up your child, so get used to it
  • If your child is in the NICU, it is a very sterile environment and there are always nurses in the NICU.  You will need passports to get in and out of the NICU each time
  • If interested in having Internet access, ask for a user name and password right away
  • Construction is taking place all over the hospital and can be disruptive at times
  • When in doubt or if you don't understand exactly, ask to have it explained
  • Security is at each outside exit and is present in the lobby, on each floor, at each elevator and especially more visible at high risk areas, such as the NICU
  • It's not necessary, but we'd recommend bringing a gift to give the nurses at the end of your stay (chocolates or candy or something small)  Note, flowers and balloons are not allowed in the hospital.
Any questions on what you should/shouldn't be packing, feel free to email us and we're happy to help!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

And.... We're Back

Lack of Internet access at the hospital and lack of sleep kind of puts a damper on blog posting. As you can imagine, we've got a lot to talk about. Most importantly, Archer has done extremely well since his release from the NICU - well, aside from some constipation that's par for the course. He's already taken to a routine quite well (or tricked us nicely) and has only gone through one scare-the-hell-out-of-mom-and-dad crying jag. (It occurred while Archer was in our care at the hospital. In retrospect it was probably a bout of gas but at the time we were convinced something life threatening had descended to take him away.)

Babies are required to remain in the hospital for a minimum of three days for jaundice observation. Archer spent two nights in the NICU so Shannon and I anticipated one full day with him in the hospital suite we would move into until his discharge. The timing of our move into the hospital was lousy. Although Archer was available to us Saturday morning, we delayed pickup to the afternoon so Shannon could have a few more nap-time hours to kill off her lousy cold. After checking in, settling down and taking possession of our beautiful baby, the clock had moved past 5pm, leaving us without an IT department to provide us with network access. Worse, the same IT department was closed Sunday.

Come Monday we figured we'd just wait until our return to the hotel. Unfortunately, our local pediatrician asked that we stay in the hospital an additional day to monitor Archer as his antibiotics were finally discontinued. To keep our family from thinking the worst - all we'd done since moving into the hospital was spend a few expensive minutes on our mobile phones - we finally got ourselves access to the Internet and Skyped. Once we returned to our hotel room on Tuesday we did what we could to get photos up for all of you to see. Actually writing complete sentences and coherent thoughts had to wait as we adjusted to life with an infant.

The big picture of our life with Archer has been pretty much by the book - you know, baby setting the schedule, no sleep for anyone but the baby, excitement about all poop found in a diaper, etc. (It's true. Shannon and I have actually cheered when opening a diaper and finding something that, a week ago, would have given me nightmares.) What's special are the little idiosyncrasies that make Archer who he is. Like how frequently he lifts his legs really high and bends them when swaddled. Or how he's a champion hiccupper and sneezer. (We witnessed eight sneezes in a row the other day. It's something we track now. "Let's go Archer. Eight is the high score!") Or how he loves to be carried very upright, pressed to our chest. Shannon's so in love that she has to keep stopping herself from kissing his face off.

Earlier today - Thursday - we were told that R has recovered extremely well and may, in fact, be going home. This is amazingly good news as things looked dire soon after delivery. Officially, Hiranandani no longer permits intended parents to visit their carriers and surrogates so we've yet to see R. What we'll end up doing is see her at the Surrogacy India clinic as we wrap up loose ends. The clinic won't permit her to see the baby so during the visit one of us will stay with Archer in a separate room. We have so much to thank R for.... We brought her a few tokens of our appreciation including a necklace with two charms, each printed with the name of one of her sons. We'll know more about this upcoming visit later this evening as Drs. Yash and Sudhir are coming to the Marriott to finally meet Archer.

In my original draft of this entry I'd put down a few more paragraphs. When my wife/editor saw the length of this entry she advised I split it into more than one to spare our audience blog fatigue. Consider it done. I'll see you in a later entry.

Archer says hello!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Recovery Time

Seems we've all needed a little recovery this day after Archer's birth. Born at 11pm on Thursday the 17th, he was kept in the NICU throughout Friday for further observation. Hospital rules dictate that Shannon ("the mother") is able to visit Archer throughout the day while I ("the father") am only permitted a visit in the afternoon between 5pm and 7pm. During the morning visit Shannon found the oxygen hood in place, a feeding tube through his nose and an IV; this afternoon visit found the hood removed - good sign - but with the tubes still in place. We're told all is going to plan and that tomorrow - Saturday - the pediatrician will begin to wean Archer onto a bottle.

You can blame me for no pictures. I just don't care to distribute photos of our baby hooded, tubed and IV'd. That said, we're hopeful that by tomorrow afternoon we can give folks an unimpeded view of our little one. All I can objectively relate is that he is easily the cutest baby born in the last century. Objectively speaking. He's certainly looking healthy enough. Surrounded by premature Indian babies struggling to achieve three pounds, Archer stands out like a very pink giant. Upon walking into the NICU for the first time I couldn't help but turn to Shannon, point to the huge Caucasian baby and say, "I'm guessing that one is ours."

Shannon and I hardly slept Thursday night. I got away with it but Shannon's cold relapsed and she struggled to finish the day. We're going to play Saturday morning's visit be ear. I may go alone and take on the role of  mother so Shannon has additional time to recover while sparing the NICU a cold flown over from Boston. Our hope is that Archer is deemed ready to leave the NICU by Saturday afternoon so he can shack up with mom and dad full time. If so, Shannon will join us and we'll move into a hospital room until Archer finishes the observation required by India law. (We were told the law requires three days of observation before release. What's not clear is if days in the NICU count. I'm guessing not; we'll know tomorrow.)

Regrettably, no word about R today. We'll assume no news is good news but that'll be solace for only so long. We didn't have a translator with us during visiting hours so even if we could have seen her we'd have had no way to communicate. Very frustrating.

There's more to relate from that packed Thursday night but it'll have to wait for a later post. Shannon's snoring away and I'm fading fast. Our last night of uninterrupted sleep? Let's hope so!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen - Archer Shay!

We had just pushed the Publish button for our previous post when the hotel phone rang and Drs. Sudhir and Yash informed us that R had started to bleed again due to the previa. A C-section was underway and we were to expect a car in 15 minutes.

R managed to hold on for many weeks after the first bleed and for that we will be forever grateful. She remains in the hospital recovering from a significant amount of blood loss; her husband met us there, handling his own personal stress and concern gracefully as he congratulated us on our little one.

Archer Shay is 7.25 pounds and a "male boy" according to the birthing doctor. We still don't know his length, time of birth, etc. for various reasons - some serious, some funny - but we'll fill you in on details tomorrow. He's staying in the NICU overnight with oxygen and an IV but we were told there's no reason he shouldn't be able to leave the NICU and join us full time by tomorrow afternoon. He was wide awake when we finally saw him, calm as a cucumber and - can you believe it - his name suits him!

No pictures yet. We were only able to see him for about five minutes and that was while wearing a full gown, hairnet and mask. We'll go back at 9am and we can't wait!  I'll be able to sleep tonight - YEAH RIGHT!

We did it!

Settled In

After watching three movies (four for Geoff), catching up on some reading and snoozing a bit, our 14 hour flight was over before we knew it and our arrival Tuesday evening was a-okay. It was as if we never left - the city was lit up like a Christmas tree, the air was warm and muggy, tiny cars, motorcycles and tuks tuks zoomed in all directions and everywhere you looked the streets and sidewalks were filled with loads of people and animals.

I had high hopes for the Courtyard Marriott and our first impression was very good. The lobby and main restaurant are quite lovely, but once beyond the lobby, the hallways and rooms are average at best and - as a clean freak (and expectant mother!) - it's hard to believe this hotel is only two years old. I completely forgot to pack disinfectant cleaner and a diffuser or air-freshener, definitely needed to fight that unpleasant smell constantly wafting throughout the city air. Higher end hotels here in Mumbai pipe in some kind of refreshing aromatic (cucumber water, lavender, incense, citrus....) so guests can quickly forget about the city smell. It appears the Courtyard Marriott does not. Every now and then I can't help but pine for the Novotel, which I loved, but I understand it is much more expensive and we'd be burning through money during this multi-week stay. Our fingers have been crossed that we'd be in and out of India within 2-3 weeks max; however, we are now a bit concerned that might be impossible. While at Hiranandani Hospital yesterday, Geoff met another Surrogacy India couple who, having just welcomed twins into the world, discovered that the waiting list for an appointment at the U.S. Consulate was four weeks long.  This sure wasn't news I wanted to hear. Agh!

Our stay thus far has been fairly boring and uneventful.  I managed to pick up a cold the day before leaving Boston and, combined with jet lag, it did its worst to me on Wednesday. I was in no shape to be out and about so I spent the day in bed pumping myself with cold meds and vitamin C. Geoff went off without me to the birthing hospital for an appointment with a hospital social worker. Aside from learning about the Consulate waiting list, he gained little from the meeting. We'd hoped to begin preparation of all the necessary paperwork but Geoff learned only upon arrival that this could only be done on the day of the birth. As during our first trip to India, this process hasn't come off as a well-oiled machine.

If you need further proof - today (Thursday), we were scheduled to visit R with one of the SI staff. Awaiting a taxi to take us to the hospital at 4:30pm, we received a call at 1:30pm telling us the visit was cancelled.  The birthing hospital just developed the policy that intended parents are no longer allowed to visit their carriers except on the day of delivery. SI told us that we still had an opportunity to visit R by not telling anyone at the hospital who we were actually visiting, but it didn't seem sensible to risk rule breaking and angering the staff. We made sure R was told that we were here and wanted to see her, but were kept away.

The silver lining for us - tomorrow is delivery day!!! We've just found out (7:15pm our time) that we are to be at the hospital tomorrow at 2pm (or 3:30am back in Boston) for R's C-section. (The actual timing of the C-section is TBD, of course). We're given our room at the hospital following our baby's birth so we'll be bringing some of our belongings with us. If the baby is healthy and needs minimal time (if any) in the NICU, we could be back at the Marriott in just a couple days.

The next time you hear from us, we hope to have wonderful news to share!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Mumbai Bound

It's Monday, about 6:30pm, and we're back in Newark International Airport, killing time 'til our flight to Mumbai. Seated in the exact same area as during our first trip, Shannon and I have made the requisite phone calls and are now just tidying loose ends before grabbing a bite.

In situations like these, when the long awaited, long hoped for whatever is actually happening, one tends to think, wow, it was only yesterday that we first started down this path. Well we've got news for you. It seems like FOREVER ago that we made our first trip to India. Waking up this morning with an 'it's about time' moment, Shannon and I couldn't help but feel this trip has been a long time coming. Then reality hits. Life didn't owe us a baby. This whole experience has been a privilege that appears to be ending on the ultimate of high notes. We should be forever grateful. We absolutely are.

As we've told our nieces and nephews, the stork doesn't always make it to a mommy and daddy's house. Sometime the stork is diverted to India. We're off to meet him.

See you in India. And happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Month of Lasts

After years of hearing others say it - "Wait 'til you have your own children. Your life will change!" - Shannon and I are less than one week from the change. We still don't know the sex of our baby and have no assurances of his/her general health and well being, but one way or the other we've got a baby on our hands in less time than it takes to send a letter to Mumbai by regular post.

Yesterday was our last work day without a child. Thursday night was our last American Idol while seated on our own couch without a child. We're currently in the midst of our last weekend without a child. Sunday is the last 24 hours I'll ever have to goof off irresponsibly without consideration for a child. And so on....

We've been spared another scare as R has gone above and beyond, confined to bed in a hospital for over three weeks now, bearing up with the discomfort and dislocation. This bonus time has allowed us to reach the point where we don't fear being unprepared. Like Santa before his big day, we've checked our lists twice and feel fairly confident that we're ready for the predictable and unpredictable.

Folks have asked how long we think we'll be out there. Heck, even Shannon's asked about twenty or so times! The fact is there's just no way to know; there's too many assumings. Assuming the baby is born on the 18th and assuming he/she is healthy and requires minimal if any stay in the NICU and assuming all of our paperwork is in order and assuming we hit no red tape speed bumps THEN we're thinking ten days to two weeks would be the optimistic ideal. Don't tell this to anybody from Europe or elsewhere because their hurdles are much steeper than for us US-based folks. UK-based blogosphere friends of ours required over EIGHT WEEKS to get things in order. We keep telling ourselves ten days to two weeks but have mentally prepared ourselves for up to a month. Beyond that .... well, like it makes a difference. We're going to hang around as long as is necessary. As Shannon jokes, if the expenses keep mounting, we'll just have to work a corner. What do politicians say? Do it for the children!

For the sake of sanity over such an extended stay - and in anticipation of sleepless days and nights - we've focused on addressing two issues: comfort food and tv/movie entertainment. On the food front we're packing nutritious essentials such as, for Geoff, Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls & Peanut M&Ms / for Shannon, microwave popcorn & gummi bears. For tv/movies it's trickier. US sites like Neflix and Hulu prevent overseas video streaming, meaning that attempts to access those sites from India will fail with a "Sorry but you're not allowed to watch" rejection. I believe I've found a workaround but I can't tell for sure until we're actually out there. If it works, I'll let you know.

Our destination is the Marriott Courtyard, a supposed hotspot for intended parents nestled in the heart of Mumbai. In India, such nestling pretty much means we're not taking our little one out for any walks beyond the perimeter. The hotel does have a pool, however, so we'll be able to escape the confines without having to dodge tuk-tuks. This fairly new hotel has made itself amenable to expectant parents - e.g. microwaves and cribs are available - and is closely situated to the birthing hospital. Interestingly, like most intended parents, Shannon and I will actually be spending a night or two in the hospital itself following our baby's birth. It's a nice perk allowing us to stay close by until our little one is ready to leave. We'll just hang on to our Mariott room, going back-and-forth if (heaven forbid) our hospital stay stretches a bit.

We're ready for this all to be over but can't shake the nerves that come from dealing with the unknown. Look, it's just odd to have never actually seen or felt the pregnancy in person. It's all been emails and photographs. We're pregnant but haven't had the slow dawning realization of this fact provided by a patiently growing belly standing at your side - or above your belt - for nine months. No morning sickness, no kicks, no strangers putting their hands all over Shannon. Well, not that I know of..... It's still a little academic so we can't help but ask - are we really ready?

Less than one week from now we'll be asking ourselves that question for the last time. Slowly but surely, we're running out of lasts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Almost Packed, Almost There

I know, I know, I haven't been very good at blogging lately and for that, I apologize.  Time is simply flying by and the past few months have been filled with the holidays, settling into our new place, prepping for the baby's arrival, work and spending time with family and friends.  My baby shower was a wonderful day and I promise to post soon about that.  Until then, I have some happy things to report....

1.  We leave Monday for Mumbai
2.  R is stable and hanging in there like a champ
3.  Baby is doing well and growing by the second
4.  Unless things change (you never know!), we are having a baby on Friday, February 18th!

I know one thing is for sure when we leave on Monday, that will be one heavy plane...
  • 1 lillebaby Eurotote
  • 12 short sleeve onesies
  • 2 long sleeve onesies
  • 4 long sleeve shirts
  • 8 gowns
  • 9 one piece sleep & play outfits
  • 7 hats
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of mittens
  • 2 cotton swaddlers
  • 5 swaddling blankets
  • 3 fluffy cuddling blankets
  • 273 diapers
  • 360 wipes (and all of the fixins)
  • 1 flannel changing pad
  • 26 hospital chux
  • 6 pacifiers
  • 6 bottles
  • 5 sterilizing bags
  • 2 bottle brushes
  • 1 formula dispenser
  • 3  2.5lb. formula containers
  • 18 burb cloths
I told Geoff he could bring A toothbrush     :)