Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Flying Solo

So here I sit at the Dallas Fort Worth International airport. It has been a rush getting here and now everything has slowed down while I wait at the gate for two days of traveling. I paid $200 for a bag that was 3 lbs overweight, but every diaper and can of formula counts until my mother in law can arrive with the 2nd bag full in a month. I pre-paid without complaint and was impressed with myself that my guess that my bag would be just over 50 lbs was deadly accurate. The TSA agent on the Xray machine didn’t blink an eye at my breast pump that I left inside my 2nd carry on, so I guess that won’t raise eyebrows at Mumbai…..I hope.

I cried loudly enough to attract attention when I said goodbye to my husband, and I think he was trying not to get choked up too. I’m more worried about him than me. I’ve only gone about a week away from him since we’ve been married 8 years ago. Now I’ll go at least 2 months without seeing him!  It is very hard to say goodbye, but I know it is the smart thing to do. His VISA arrived this morning, so that is one thing off the list. I’ve left a critical “Honey Do” list so I’ll have to check in on his progress.  I’ve asked family not to call me at the hotel until the evening time on the 8th so that all day I can focus on my babies and not missed calls and reporting back status to my family.

My mother-in-law’s wonderful sister Guddi Aunti has gifted us lots of baby clothes, which I can’t wait to see until I got back. Three more gifts were given my last night at work, and though I had frantically finished all the thank you notes from my shower I didn’t have time to get thank you cards to those generous three and I hope that an email will be okay.

A million thoughts and emotions run through my brain as I sip what will be my last Starbucks coffee for some time. I can’t wait to meet my babies. I’m worried about my babies. I’m worried I’m a bad mother because maybe I’m worrying too much about my babies. All indicators tell us that they are doing spectacular but still I fear they are waiting to tell me anything bad until I get there. Stop worrying. Stay positive. Quit thinking about your to do list when you get home and the fact that the nursery is still not painted. Babies don’t care what color the walls are. Quit worrying that there is one critical thing you forgot to pack. I look at the three new pictures of my babies, especially my little girl chilling under the bili-lights, and I follow her example to relax and live in the moment. I still can’t believe I finally am a mother. I have a son and a daughter.  A family of four forever. 

I know I must talk to Dr. Hitesh and Dr. Patel the day I arrive too in order to meet our surrogate (if she is still there and the one providing our breastmilk) and in order to settle payments, but I tell myself that can wait for a few hours and to meet my babies first and take my time.  That reminds me…I forgot to pack Kleenex and I’m going to cry. A lot. 

I read The Premature Baby Book by Dr. Sears at my side, partly because it is the one thing I could not fit in either of my two carry-ons. It is great preparatory reading and so far I’m feeling a little more confident in how I’ll handle myself and knowing what to expect.  I plan on taking the advice to not read the chapters of bad things that can happen unless they actually happen. I read some preemie blogs of 28 weekers and some born sooner at my last night of work, and mostly found encouragement but things that went wrong with some scared me. For the most part it seems like the ones that had problems of some sort it was apparent from birth or there were more delivery complications or they were born sooner or smaller than mine. The fact that mine were never on a ventilator and are now breathing on their own is the biggest reassurance of all. I just hope my little girl gets chunky soon because 2 lbs is pretty tiny and 2 ½ sounds a lot better. Plus I promised my mother at least two chubby rolls on their thighs for her to pinch on.

So here I still sit waiting at the DFW gate. I’m watching the drug dog make a 2nd pass at my suitcase. I have a bag of fenugreek seed and a bag of fennel seed that look a lot like drugs and have a strong scent, but are just galactologue herbal supplements. Fortunately Rover seems to know the difference. (His actual name is Uno, because I can hear the handler calling his name and telling him “Good boy!”)  For a moment I watch him play with his rubber toy reward with pure elation, and it makes me miss my dog but also be grateful now that I finally know such joy in my own heart too.

I’d decided when I got to Newark I’m using the 3 hour layover to eat a steak. Hopefully it will tide me over enough that I don’t rush out into the street and go after one of the cows that wander loose. Mmmmm….sacred.  

So here I sit at the gate in Newark. It turns out when these Yankees think mighty highly of their steaks and charge twice as much for half the size as I can get in Texas. I have a bleu cheese burger instead, and it ain’t that great. I’m already missing Texas.

It takes me half an hour to get my saree on in the tiny bathroom. I’d forgotten one element of the Gujarati style of wrapping since I’m used to wrapping Punjabi style excepting my trip to Anand a year ago, but it comes to me in a flash after four attempts and I finally get it on.  The saree I had on top of my suitcase didn’t fit because I’d forgotten about the whole lactation thing and my chest is too large. So instead I select a very comfy pink one with a stretchy top. I befriend a young Indian gal who has been stuck at the airport for a day and compliments my saree, and she wishes me luck. Once I freshen up and brush my teeth I realize there is no electrical outlet to use my breast pump. Guess once I get on the plane I’ll turn to the side in my window seat and use the hand pump and hand expression like I did on the first flight.

The main reason I selected the window seat was to allow for some privacy for that purpose. And fortunately being in the last row and seated next to one old lady who didn’t speak English and minded her own business helped that effort. However I love window seats for other reasons. Mainly because you can look out upon the universe with sky and clouds and the magnificence and grandeur of God is overwhelming. It baffles me that everyone else I see has the window closed and is sleeping, reading, or watching the TV they charge you 7.99 to view. I just can’t fathom how you can’t even open your window a crack just once on the flight to see and enjoy the amazing scenery that brings on such a sense of wonder. It makes me ponder miracles, and feel an intense gratitude for the two miracles I’ve been granted.

So here I sit in the Mumbai airport during a 7 hour overnight layover, just like I did a year ago on my first trip to Anand to attempt surrogacy. I am calmer to some degree because the locations and signs are familiar and I am less worried that I’m going to the wrong place and know I have 7 hours to correct any navigational errors. I mostly worry envisioning my mother doing this on her own in a few months and I plan how to explain what to expect to her. The only snags so far are the bus guy pushing me hard for a tip. I don’t feel bad not tipping him because:

  1. I can handle my own damn luggage but you wouldn’t let me. I’m stronger than I look.
  2. I don’t have anything less than a 500 rupee bill and am not about to ask for change with a line of folks behind me.
  3. He didn’t ask anyone else for a tip for picking up a piece of luggage and putting it in the bus directly next to him
The 2nd snag is that when I go to get my new boarding pass since the one issued in the US must be exchanged for a local one. I also check in my luggage, and a 3 person debate in Hindi ensues for 30 minutes concerning it. Concerned about what is happening I show her a picture of my preemie girl and tell her “sick baby” and point to the bags and say “medical equipment.”  She seems to get the importance of what I’m trying to communicate and assures me the baggage can go but they are just debating what payment is due. I luckily had a printed receipt that I had paid for my overweight and extra bag already, and the think tank pores over and discusses it extensively. But the restrictions on Jet Airways for my connecting flight to Vadodora domestically are different than United that I used to get here, and the real problem becomes my 2nd carry on. I neglected to research that in advance. My 2nd carry on is 14 kg and only 7kg is allowed. She sees the look of panic on my face as I consider my options:

  1. Dump half my clothes in a garbage can. My two large bags are all baby stuff, and my small carry on is my stuff only. I could always buy more clothes for me here, but baby stuff is harder to come buy.
  2. See if I can refund my ticket and take a train or car to Anand. I’d really have to kick my resourcefulness into high gear, but it is an option though it might delay me. I really only considered this option when I thought that the baby luggage might not be allowed to go.

She tells me I can check it instead as a 3rd bag and pay. I agree to do so. It is almost 3,000 rupees, or around $60. I figured if I’d bought new clothes that is about the same price so I pay willingly with a smile on my face. Kill ‘em with kindness and getting them to pity you is a better way to go here than being a demanding, self-entitled, stereotypical American.  

I get through the security screening at the final gate just fine, though they have to unpack my entire bag because I wasn’t clear than anything and everything metal needed to be separated out into a container. They expect my ignorance due to my overwhelmingly pale and obviously foreign appearance. The saree and mangalsutra necklace only go so far and people find it more charming that I wear them than an effective disguise. He did question my fenugreek seed, but I tell him “fenugreek herbal supplement” and he seems satisfied, thank goodness. If that didn’t work I wasn’t sure where we would go from there because galactologue doesn’t translate well.

I am starting to feel engorged and am now worried because my hand pump lost a part at some point from when I got off the plane that it may not work properly without. I decide to brave the bathroom and hope I can find an outlet with a bit of privacy. I find the working outlet, but have to unplug the hand dryer to do it.  As far as privacy goes, my semi-sheer saree draping across my front will have to do. I am pleased to find that I actually pump enough that it could probably be fed to a baby in a single spoon. This is progress to be proud of at this early stage. About 10 women come and go as I pump, most looking at me curiously. One custodian asks me what I am doing. I just say “breast pump” and point each index finger towards each breast. The look on her face is still confusion but she seems satisfied with that explanation. They probably only use babies or hand pumps for that purpose here, and $2000 electric double breast pumps are not something you see everyday.

I’m not sure how much I slept on the flight to Mumbai but it could have been around 10 solid hours. I slept at least an hour in this waiting room, though I’m not sure how because it was dreadfully uncomfortable. Some coffee wakes me up a bit, and I’m rather sure I’ll find the will and strength to get through an entire day before I sleep again as night falls. The sun will be up in a few hours, and I’m about to have one of the most important and happiest days of my life. It is odd to know that beforehand and have to wait for it consciously.

I read some more of my preemie book to help prepare myself. I know the hardest part of the day will be arriving at the hotel and unpacking and pumping first and forcing myself to wait a few more minutes to meet my children who are but a 2 minute walk away. Who are we kidding? It will be 1 minute cause I’m gonna speed walk. But I want to make sure I’m clean and showered for the NICU so I don’t bring in germs, and I want to organize the baby stuff and bring in a few items I know they need immediately. I plan to write the names on their diapers since I know the Huggies are better for boys and Pampers better for girls. This is the one think Dr. Kothiala did say on the phone I needed to bring, though she probably doesn’t realize I knew that already and have been systematically prepping for months to know in advance what is necessary to bring. I also want to walk in looking like the most prepared mother every to make a good impression upon these nurses I will depend on so heavily. I mustn’t forget to tie my hair back, and will wear something that is easily adapted to Kangaroo care in the hope I can hold them today. Waiting a week until they are more stabilized and developed will hopefully pay off in that respect. 

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