Meeting our Surrogates, Sumita and Sunita

The Next Family

By: Kerrie Olejarz

I grabbed my bag and went to the lobby to find my driver. I never knew who my driver would be and to my delight it was Rahul! As we drove to the airport Rahul told me about his lost love, a girl who worked at a hotel. He wants so desperately to have a girlfriend and was asking me for all kinds of advice. I have been with Mark for 18 years and it has been a very long time since I thought about pick up lines and dating. Combined with the cultural differences, I was of absolutely no help to Rahul.

We also chatted about the surrogacy clients he had seen, most of whom I was familiar with. He shares such joy in being part of the process. Getting into the airport was slow; most of the international flights land at this time and it was busy. We found a good parking spot and Rahul escorted me to the terminal. He told me to stand back out of sight as he went and bought me an entrance ticket to the terminal. It is very strange that you have to pay to go inside to meet your loved one as they come off the plane! There were two types of entrance fees, Indian and non-Indian. Rahul grabbed me an Indian entrance ticket, which was a quarter of the non-Indian fee. He crumpled the ticket up and told me to hand it to the machine gun-wearing guard at the entrance door. He crumpled it so it was not obvious that I had an Indian entrance ticket…clever guy!

I checked the digital terminal board and Mark’s flight had landed. I waited, and waited, and waited. I got a coffee at the busy coffee bar. I waited. I waited some more and some more and some more. It had been over an hour now, and as I turned around to look outside I saw Mark. He had been outside the whole time! When I finally met up with him, he was none too happy about how long he had to wait. He thought I had forgotten him and was getting ready to hire a car to make his way to the hotel. We found Rahul and walked to the car park. In no time we were back on the highway to New Delhi. Mark was gracious in thanking Rahul for helping me on my first night with all the drama. I could see how exhausted Mark was and when we finally got to the hotel he hit the bed and it was lights out.

The next morning Mark awoke feeling rested –well, as rested as you can after traveling 24 hours then sleeping in a strange bed. We had a lazy morning and eventually made our way downstairs to breakfast. I introduced Mark to my new favorite omelette concoction: green chili, onion, and mushroom. We sat and enjoyed our breakfast and caught up on all that happened over the past six days. Since the sun was shining we decided to go for a walk and see a bit of New Delhi together on foot. I was excited for him to see the differences between Mumbai and Delhi. We headed out towards the hospital and enjoyed seeing the people, the beautiful homes, and the scaled-down chaos. We made our way over to the hospital after about a ten-minute walk and after a quick look we decided to keep going onwards to M Block market. It was starting to get quite warm so we decided to have an iced tea. As we sat in the Coffee Bean drinking our iced tea, we laughed about what travel sin we had just committed. We would never turn on the tap and drink the water, yet here we were doing just that; we highly doubted the iced tea was made with filtered water. A local woman engaged in conversation with us as she waited for her husband to order their coffee. When you envision India you see spice markets and historic buildings, not trendy coffee shops packed to the gills on a Saturday. The new reality of India was smack dab in our face; what was once antiquated is now evolving, emerging into a global metropolis of trend and industry rivalry.

This was Day Ten of my stimulation and I was really starting to feel it. The walk to the market had done me in and I had hit a point of massive fatigue. Before going to the airport the night before I had to take my first shot of HMG. HMG comes with a dilutant and vials of powdered medication. The process is simple enough: withdraw 1cc of dilutant and mix with vial no. 1 of powder; withdraw the mixed solution and add to vial no. 2 or powdered medication and do again one more time. I have taken this medication in the past. Those vials had little metal flip-off lids, but the meds in India were old style vials that require you to snap off the glass cap and hope and pray you do not shatter it in the process. Well, I shattered one and of course it was the powdered medication. Fortunately I had two days’ worth so I could tap into the second day’s supply and plan to get more from Dr Shivani on Saturday. This should have been administered intra-muscular and I did it sub-q into my abdomen. Within hours it felt like a ball of cement in my belly and ached pretty bad. I figured I would ask the doctor about it on Saturday and tough it out until then.

We made it out to the main road and tried to flag down a rickshaw. For some reason every empty rickshaw passed by us without stopping. This was strange for us; in Mumbai, we were swarmed with rickshaws all fighting for our business. Finally a rickshaw stopped and we negotiated a reasonable rate to get back to the hotel. The driver was not happy about our rate but still took us and in five minutes we were back at the hotel. The fun of riding in a rickshaw seems to never go away! We had about two hours before we needed to head back to the hospital for my last scan. We spent the time chilling on the roof top patio. It was a beautiful day in Delhi and we just enjoyed being together. Mark was alert and relaxed after his travel, which was surprising, as he normally takes a few days to settle in. Closer to my appointment time we grabbed a rickshaw and headed to the hospital. It was very busy at the hospital and for the first time this week I had to wait for my scan. Every time I visited the hospital I witnessed nonstop cleaning. It was certainly reassuring to see this, knowing the hospital valued its cleanliness. Finally Dr Shivani called me in. My ovaries were full and kissing each other. There were loads of follicles all ready to go! It was very exciting for me to hear the words, “you are ready for your trigger.” After the scan, Dr Shivani came and spoke to Mark and me to make plans for the evening.

We were to come to her office at 5:30 to meet the lawyer and our surrogates and pick up my trigger shot. Dr Shivani offered to do my last HMG shot for me. She arranged for a car to pick us up at 5:15. As we booted back to the hotel we were full of energy. The thought of meeting your surrogate is very unnerving and exciting. Prior to our trip we had chosen two surrogates, one was very young; one was in her mid-30’s. We based our choice on the least amount of time since each surrogate’s last pregnancy. No matter whom we chose, we knew she could be swapped out based on her hormone profile and response to uterine priming. Dr Shivani will not waste our efforts and money on a surrogate who does not look optimal.

When we arrived at her office that evening it was a buzz! There were a lot of surrogates in the office and the whole SCI team was busy working. All the surrogates looked so beautiful and the sea of colorful saris within the office was incredible. All the surrogates were saying hello and namaste to us, all with big smiles on their faces. There were some husbands milling around outside and the air was full of excitement and happiness! We sat with Dr Shivani for a few minutes and she told us what was going to happen over the next hour. As discussed, our next step was contract review with the lawyer. We shuffled into an office across the hall to meet the lawyer. He went through the contracts in detail. The contracts are about 30 pages long and he was very patient with us as we scanned each page and asked questions. We had two surrogates and therefore two individual contracts. It was interesting to see that one surrogate and her husband signed their names and the second used inked thumbprints. The thumbprints were a concern to us and we asked about the legalities and reasoning. It turns out she and her husband are not able to write. This was a slap of reality. Education is a privilege and sadly a large part of the Indian population is not granted this and must start work at a very young age. We were grateful for the opportunity to work with this surrogate and hope and pray a positive pregnancy would change her life forever.

After the drudgery of the contracts we went back to Dr Shivani’s office where we were to soon meet our surrogates. I was dumbstruck, trying to ramble out some words, incoherently. But Dr Shivani was kind and accommodating. Her office door opened and in walked two beautiful women. “We have Sunita and Sumita” Sunita was a glow; she made direct eye contact with us and was chatting like crazy. Dr Shivani translated that she was extremely nervous to meet us and now she feels so much excitement and really hopes we all have success. Sumita was shy, quiet, and made very little eye contact. My heart melted for her and I certainly did not want her to feel like she was on show and treat her like “the chosen one”. It was very difficult to converse with these wonderful women as they spoke no English and us no Hindi. They were very different –Sunita tall and vivacious, Sumita tiny, short, and shy. The meeting was quick but fulfilling. We had wanted to take pictures with the surrogates but felt it inappropriate at that time. After the surrogate meeting, Dr Shivani got my trigger shot ready and packed it up with an ice pack then she mixed up my HMG and gave me a shot in the ass. She detailed the time of my trigger and when to come to the hospital for egg retrieval. We opted to come back to her office on Sunday and pick up copies of the contracts, because we really wanted to have our own copy for our memories.

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