Saturday, February 12, 2011

Out of India

Well, we made it home.  So, here's the scoop that we did not want to discuss until we were safely home with the Twinkies.  We had great legal advisors, worked with very helpful government officials at the US Embassy, and got very lucky.  This is why it took only three business days to get our paper work done.

Over the last 6-9 months, the exit process got progressively longer.  When we started working on surrogacy in India, the exit process was taking ~2-3 weeks from hospital discharge.  Then, we started hearing horror stories of it taking 6 weeks to 3 months for some families to return home.  After not requiring DNA testing for awhile, the US Embassy began requiring testing again (which took 10-14 days without an expedited process, plus extra time for the passports themselves).  And the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and Foreign Regional Registry Office (which jointly are responsible for issuing exit visas) started "inquiries" for children born through surrogacy.  Initially, this added another 14-21 days to the process.

Fortunately, after the initial implementation of these new procedures, the time for completing the process started dropping again, with DNA testing available on an expedited basis and the inquiries more streamlined.  As a result, we expected it to take 2-3 weeks from discharge.

But, then, we got very lucky.  The US Embassy exercised its discretion not to require DNA testing where there was sufficient evidence of paternity, which our clinic provided in volumes.  And, our lawyers were able to work with the Indian government to provide a report in lieu of an inquiry (same information, but supplied by the lawyers with documentary evidence, rather than having the government having to gather the information on its own).  The result?  A three day exit process.  We hope that other new parents are equally lucky.

Other than two last minute surprises and two very long flights, the physical process of getting home was easier than expected.  We got to the airport early and breezed through the check-in process (having new born babies in tow helps grease the skids a bit).

And then we went through security where we got more stamps on more documents.  Sadly, however, of the eight airline tickets (four each for the Delhi-Munich flight and the Munich-SFO flight), the stamped the wrong ticket for Jeff A.

So, while he held the babies and all of our carry-on luggage (not insubstantial when you are carrying 18 sterilized baby bottles, baby clothes, diapers, wipes, burp cloths, formula, changing pads, documents, etc., etc., etc.), I went back through security to get his ticket re-stamped.  Unfortunately, the person who initially did the stamp was on break, so I had to explain the whole process to someone entirely new.  I'll be nice and leave it at that.  He eventually stamped the right ticket for Jeff A. and I worked my way back through security again.  Only to find out that they had also stamped my ticket incorrectly.

So, back through security all over again and back to yet another official to explain the mix up.  By this time, they were over me and just stamped it and told me to go.  So, for a third time, I worked my way back through security (where they patted me down a third time) only to have one of the guards (all with large guns) tell me that I would need new Munich-SFO tickets for Jeff A. and me, since those were accidentally stamped when they should not have been.  At this point, the senior guard, who was watching the whole process, came over, looked at all eight tickets, and told us to go.  My guess is that he figured it was Germany's issue, not his; plus, he was probably taking pity on me since the entire process made me start to sweat from head to toe.  Basically, I got to begin our long trip home soaked to the skin.

After some time in the airport lounge (where we got to change the babies on a changing pad on the floor since there were no changing tables in any of the bathrooms; thankfully, they were just wet), we boarded the plane.  I know that the large airlines get bad raps, many times well deserved.  United is generally very helpful to Jeff and me as travelers, but this time they screwed up over and over again.  But, thankfully, Lufthansa came to our rescue.  On both flights, they gave us the entire bulkhead row (six business class seats across) with two bassinets.  Granted, the flights were empty, but Lufthansa got extra credit across the board with wonderful flight attendants who did everything that they could to help us, including washing the babies' bottles.

You see, that was the second surprise.  I still can't figure out how it happened, but on our eight hour flight from Delhi to Munich, the babies managed to eat almost all of their formula and went through 15 of their 18 bottles.  Give it to babies (especially Jenny who was a fussy eater until the flight) to wait until the the most inopportune time to get cravings.

In addition to having only three bottles left for the layover and entire flight from Germany home, we were quickly running out of formula.  You have to understand that, up to this point, there are only two times when the babies cry: first, when they are naked (they really hate being cold) and, second, when they are hungry.  If we miss a feeding by only a few short minutes, Kaden goes from sweet, adorable baby to the devil child.  No warning, just sudden screaming.  The idea of running out of formula (notwithstanding Daddies' secret stash) had me breaking out in a sweat all over again (this, of course, is on top of the sweating fit I had in the plane bathroom while trying to change a screaming, squirming, naked Kaden's poopy diaper while not letting him touch anything -- quite a feat, I might add).  As a result, with the boarding announcement for our Munich-SFO flight and a very, very long trek to the gate, I had to take a detour throughout the airport to try to find formula.

Thankfully, albeit in the complete opposite direction of our gate, there was a pharmacy and, even more thankfully, they had ready-to-feed formula.  At this point, I would have gladly served the kids raw steak if they would have eaten it.  So, with new formula in hand and laden down with babies and bags (which multiplied exponentially as we collected empty bottles and dirty clothes), we trudged to our gate.

I can tell that the babies are not very discerning yet (or at least their noses are not fully functioning), because on this flight, they wanted to be held almost the whole time. While I loved every minute, I have no idea how they tolerated being near me.  I offended myself.

Eventually, however, we made it home and zipped through immigration and customs to find our friend Steve waiting with camera in hand.  It was a great treat seeing him.  And the bottle of Fernet was equally appreciated.

Jay and Eric also met us with the car and car seats. Thank you, Jay; we could not have made it without your help!  An even bigger surprise was coming home to a completely redecorated nursery.  Again, Jay (and Neil) out did themselves.  Thank you, guys.

But more about that and Glorious Gloria when we return.

No comments:

Post a Comment