Greetings from Kiev!
Today is exactly two weeks since we’ve arrived in Kiev, and it seems like a blur, but a wonderful blur! As you know, our twins Milo and Logan were born on the 26th of February, which was a huge surprise to, well, pretty much everyone! Considering that our original due date was April 14th, and our plane tickets to Kiev had us depart on March 1st – we honestly thought that we had planned in advance as much as possible. So, to receive an email on the 26th, letting us know that Yuliya’s water had broken, and that she was in delivery getting a c-section (one of the boys was in breech position), it definitely threw us for a loop. The reactions from both of us were worlds apart – K was overjoyed and excited that our babies were born, while I was immediately disappointed and upset that we weren’t there to love on them the minute they were born. I had looked forward to being a part of the birth so much – in fact, I had daydreamed many a times imagining how the experience would be once in a lifetime, and had even considered hiring a photographer so that we could capture our reactions when we first met the boys (this is pretty much impossible, because the hospitals don’t allow it). I wanted the boys to feel loved and have that bonding skin-to-skin contact right once they were out of the womb, and so while K was elated crying tears of joy, I was conflicted about how to feel the entire day and wrestling within myself. In my perspective, the boys were not “born” until they were in my arms, which is a very myopic point of view, but as the day passed, I started to receive a lot more texts from my friend tribe, who were sympathetic towards my disappointment of not being there, which made me feel a lot better, knowing that it wasn’t just me. In hindsight, I am glad that I at least let myself feel my emotions – because the faster I acknowledge how I’m feeling (not always a given thing) and let myself feel those emotions guilt-free, the faster I can move on. So the next day, I felt a lot better, also due to the fact that since they were born at 33 weeks, they were definitely premature babies, and would require an indefinite timeframe in the NICU before they were released anyway – and we had also contacted LOT Airlines, a Polish airline that would take us to Kyiv – and discovered that changing our flight to two days earlier would cost $1300 and only really get us there an extra day early. So we (mostly I, because K doesn’t struggle with impatience) decided to be patient and keep our original tickets and just wait it out. And seeing how our boys were discharged the following Tuesday (we first got to lay eyes on them the previous Saturday), we felt blessed to have such a short wait to take them home.
Once we arrived in Kiev Friday afternoon, we realized that we wouldn’t see the kids until the morning, because visitation hours were over, and it wasn’t a bad thing, because the first few days, we really struggled with jet lag pretty badly, sleeping at all hours during the day and then trying to sleep at night – and again, I was thankful in hindsight that we didn’t have the babies released to us right away – it would’ve been incredibly difficult for us to take care of the babies while falling asleep constantly! God knew what He was doing!
Milo and Logan were born at the Kiev City Maternity Hospital #5, but before we went to see the babies, we made sure to visit Yuliya, our surrogate, who had been recovering from a c-section in a huge hospital room by herself. We brought her some flowers and candy, and also a robotic dinosaur toy for her 5 year-old son. Yuliya was in an understandable rush to go home, as she hadn’t seen her son in 3 months, which is basically an eternity! Since she was in Kiev since December, she had missed him terribly, and dolefully shared that she wished her son would miss her more, which made me laugh, as I know boys that age are all about exploration and just getting to know the world, and I could see myself wishing the same thing. Yuliya asked about the babies and their weight and height, as they had not give her any information after the c-section, which is common practice for surrogacy, but of course, we shared that information with her and all pictures that we had, as we were aware how difficult and abrupt it can be to have two babies disappear from her life after spending so much time together! My heart broke for her a bit, and I inquired about allowing Yuliya to join us for our first time meeting the babies, but the staff advised against it, so we had to say goodbye before moving upstairs to the NICU lab.
When we finally arrived, we were immediately greeted by Dr. Tatiana, who was a wonderful doctor and would later educate us on how to take care of the babies. She would say, “Mutter! Fater!”, telling us how to wrap and swaddle the babies, and that they must have a ton of heat because since they are premies, they don’t have full control over heat retention just yet. We had to put on the same ritual of shoes being covered and gowns and face masks, as the Ukrainians are very obsessed with cleanliness, which is a great thing! My heart was pounding as we made our way to the ward, and when my eyes laid on our babies in the corner of the room, my heart literally burst, I kid you not! I ran over and immediately started touching their little faces and smelling their addictive baby smell, and the nurses, having experienced this so many times, brought over two rocking chairs and let us hold them for the first time. They were so itty bitty, but perfect nonetheless, and I just couldn’t believe I was actually holding my own child, my own flesh and blood! Surprisingly, I had imagined myself bursting into tears, but as I get older, I realize more and more that when I am overwhelmed with emotion, I can’t really cry – it’s like some weird safety valve goes on in my head, saying, “We see you got some MAJOR FEELS (feels is American slang for feelings) going on, so we’re going on red alert to remind you that you are in public, and your ugly cry face is not becoming on you!” This also happened at my baby shower – I was so overwhelmed at the love, support, and generosity of our friends and family, that safety valve was initiated once again. So as we sat there, each holding a baby, K and I each looked at each other in sheer joy and disbelief, because we actually had our babies in our arms! I thought about all of the years we’d struggled, the beautiful babies we’d lost along the way, the endless hormone shots, surgeries, weight gain, and general decline in my mental health – to consider all those horrible years, and now, to have my flesh and blood in my arms! It was truly a mind-blowing miracle for us, and although extremely difficult, all of it, every hardship and heartbreak, it was worth this moment in time, one that we’ll never forget! Below are pictures that somewhat illustrate our feelings:
We continued to visit them at the hospital everyday, and Dr. Tatiana continued to give us updates that although the babies were really tiny, they were perfectly healthy – they had only needed ventilator help the night they were born, and after that, they were fine and dandy on their own. We continued to bond and love on our little tykes, until Tuesday came along for the discharge! We couldn’t believe that from now on (and we’re fully aware we might not understand the gravity of this statement) we would be hanging out with our boys 24/7! We gingerly placed them in our bassinets that we’d received earlier, and Dr. Tatiana advised us that we should bundle them up like crazy when we take them out for walks… to which we were confused, considering it was snowing like crazy and in the 20’s! She then explained that in Ukraine, mothers take their babies out for daily walks, even in the winter, to give them “fresh air”, and culturally, it was well accepted to do so, you know, under the assumption that it would build some grit into the babies and get them strong and tough, which aptly describes Ukrainians in general. Shocked, we assured her of our American pansy ways, that we would not be taking them outside anytime soon, so no need to buy them extra thick comforters to swaddle them in. Since they were so tiny – most of the clothes that we had brought from the States were way too big, even as the newborn size – so I had the staff wash all of them again in hopes of shrinking them, and it definitely helped. Before we left, we made sure to meet up with Yuliya, our precious surrogate – who had not had the chance to see the babies in person. We profusely thanked her and it was obvious that we were totally in love with our babies – and I could see the look of joy on her face as she saw us together as a happy family, which is an important part of completing the surrogacy journey for both parties! We have kept in touch with her ever since, and she is planning on visiting us in Kiev once more before we leave, so we look forward to spending time with her again, as we will be forever grateful to her, and plan to tell our babies that because my tummy was broken, that they had to grow in another mommy’s tummy, and have plans to send photos and updates for as long as she wants them.
Hello folks, here’s a quick update on what’s we’ve been up to! We have been busy getting the house ready (the nursery is STILL in progress, haha), and preparing for our trip, which is only about a week away! One of the more important tasks for preparation is to make sure you have all of your documents ready, so that the US Citizenship process is smooth and quick. Everyone will tell you that US folks are lucky, because our process is very quick, compared to our European counterparts. Most Euro folks need to stay about 3 – 4 months with court proceedings to get your country to accept your baby for citizenship, so we are thankful that our trip will hopefully be only around 4 – 6 weeks. However, because we are having twins and we don’t really know when they come, we are prepared and ready to go at any time!
This is the checklist that Biotexcom will provide you to collect before you head over. The passports and marriage certificate is easy – we had all of those already. However, the apostilization can be tricky. When I got married to K, I changed my name, but the marriage certificate doesn’t indicate the name change. So we had to get a letter written by an attorney stating how my name had changed, and then get it notarized. We were so fortunate to have one of K’s old high school students (who is now a practicing lawyer) hook us up with the letter and notarization – we were so grateful! Then K took the document to Indianapolis to get it apostilled (sp?) by the Secretary of State. Apostilization is basically just getting something notarized on an international level, so that other governments (in our case, Ukraine) will accept legal documents that you present. K was able to finish all of this in a day, so it wasn’t a huge ordeal, although I’m not quite sure how much prep-work was involved in doing this.
The only concern that we have is that since I was naturalized in the US in my 20’s, that Ukraine officials might request my birth certificate from Korea, which I don’t have. We sent off everything to Biotexcom, and are now awaiting confirmation of whether this is satisfactory, or whether we need to have my naturalization certificate apostilled, but since it’s at the federal level, we’re hoping this is okay, as it is pretty US official. We’ll keep you posted on what happens!
On another note, is anyone interested in having a webinar where I can answer your questions that you might have? If so, please leave a comment or email me directly at email@example.com – and hopefully we can get something set up in the next two weeks!
Hello lovely folks!
Can you believe we’re already in February?! Months ago, I would have thought February is ages away – turns out, it goes faster than you think! This time, we skyped with Yuliya and her growing belly.is.HUGE. All I could think was, I hope that she doesn’t get too many battle scars! She seemed very happy and healthy, and told us the boys have been keeping her up at night, where sometimes, she wakes up because they kick her! I smirked to myself when I heard that, because both K and I are total night owls – so not surprised that the boys get their main source of energy around dawn!
One thing that was a big surprise to us was that Yuliya had actually been staying in Kiev already since Christmas, the day we missed Skyping with her. We had not been informed that she had already moved to the maternity house, but were glad to hear it, just so she can be well monitored and taken care of. We asked if it was too hard because of her 5 year-old son, who lives 16 hours away. She told us that they had already been there to visit, so that made me feel better. I made a mental note to definitely buy gifts for Yuliya, her son, and her mother, who has been watching over Yuliya throughout this whole process. I’m not sure what I will get them right now, but I’ll keep you posted! If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment on this post.
Another funny bit is that when I turned on my Skype on my laptop to get ready, once logged in, I saw three messages from Yaryna on Christmas, saying that Yuliya had to leave her meeting early and that Skyping was not possible for this reason. I was irked because I don’t really use Skype on my phone, so I never got those messages, and wish that Biotexcom could have made it a point to at least let me know through email that Yuliya had been moved there, and that there were some scheduling difficulties. The main issue that we’ve had with Biotexcom is communication, and I realize more and more that cultural differences play into it quite a bit. I also wondered that if she had been there since Christmas, we could have Skyped with her as much as we’d like, no? But at this point, we’re just focused on our mission to get the babies here ASAP.
Soooooo right after getting off the phone with Yuliya, we went right onto our laptops and bought our tickets to Kiev! Since the boys are still measuring a week ahead, and Yuliya herself said she feels like she will have them in 3 – 4 weeks, I’m just nervous about not getting there in time! We are flying out March 1st, and our estimated twins due date puts us around 3/14, even though the official due date is 4/14, since twins tend to come in a month early. We asked Anna for advice on when to buy, and she seemed to think that our plan was fine, and told us they would give us updates right away if anything changes. We were able to get round trip tickets for around $800 round trip, which was way better than our original trip, so that’s been great! Do keep in mind that we are flying out of Chicago instead of Indianapolis, because there were cheaper and less layovers when we chose major airports. We chose with our budget in mind, but also with flight time, as I wanted to get the shortest trip span available, since being on a plane with babies can be scary. According to our tickets, our trips back and forth are around 12 hours, which is much better than the 15 hours that is the norm. However, since we’re flying into Chicago, and have a 3 hour car ride home, I’m not sure what our plan is there – perhaps we should spend the night at a hotel and drive down tomorrow. We’ll keep you posted either way!
Here are the reports, videos, and heartbeat scans (no audio – sorry!). You’ll be seeing a lot more posts from me, since now we’re much closer to leaving. Thank you so much for your continued support – and remember, if you have any questions, you can always comment on the post or send me a message :)!
This weekend’s entertainment consisted of going to something we both haven’t been to in a while – the circus! In Kiev, they have a building that houses the National Circus of Ukraine, and we decided to give it a shot, since Ukraine is well known for having great gymnasts, and we both love animals. This particular show was called Sun Magic (or Solar Spell, depending on which translator you are using), and it seemed to have some sort of Alice in Wonderland theme going. I was really pumped because we were able to get front row seats for $20 each, so we got to see the animals really up close! When we got to the actual arena, though, we realized it’s actually not that big, so we could’ve been fine to buy some middle row seats, which would’ve been around $8 bucks a seat – so if anyone decides to go, make sure to keep that in mind! We really didn’t know what to expect, and since a lot of it was in Ukrainian, except some famous American songs like YMCA or Up in here by DMX (go figure?!), so we were cracking up.
Overall, we were very enthralled by the whole show – it was a good 2 and a half hours of a huge variety of animals that we didn’t expect, like lemurs, raccoons, porcupines, and even a cat with its own company of mice?! I don’t think what I can say will do it any justice, so I’ll just post some videos for you to enjoy. Something to note is that we didn’t know you weren’t allowed to take photos or videos, even though everyone and their mom was doing it – but as usual, the photo narc came by to me and told me to stop, so unfortunately, we didn’t get shots of everything, but enough for you to get a good idea. We highly recommend it as a fun way to spend a weekend!
On Sunday, we went on another adventure into the city to see the Pechersk-Lavra, which included going into the monastery caves! I had read about this on TripAdvisor, and thought it sounded like a fun thing to check out. I had read that you needed to buy a shawl of some sort to cover your head, so had already planned on doing so, since there are a lot of stands around conveniently selling them. But what I didn’t realize was that you should ALSO wear a long skirt, and just cover up in general. Since I knew it was going to be a hot day, I wore a tank top and shorts, and have never felt so judged in my life! Whether it was grandmas or the priest inside the caves, they rebuked me several times and asked me to wear a skirt to cover up. In hindsight, it was kind of funny, but I felt so bad because it seemed like I was genuinely disturbing their worship. Totally something that would happen to me, of course :)! I was amazed to see how many people came and kissed EVERY SINGLE tomb and prayed. Some of them, you could even see their shriveled hands and toes! They wouldn’t let us take pictures inside, so I’ve dug up a photo from the internets so you can see what I’m talking about. The caves are long and winding, and you never really know which way is up or out, and so after a while, I started freaking out a bit, especially because we ended up seeing the priest that had shamed me earlier, again, and I needed to get out of there! Definitely a fun thing to do, I would highly recommend it. The gardens and buildings all around are also incredibly ornate and beautiful, as you can see in the pictures below.
After our first excursion, we went to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant that was pretty much right next to the church, and it was pretty tasty! The building was really interesting, with a winding staircase that would go all the way up to the top. We had a beer, soda, coffee, a lasagna, burger and fries, and a slice of a raspberry tart of some kind, and it all came out to less than $20. Score!
After lunch, we went to check out the Miniatures Museum, which is where the famous Ukrainian artist Mykola Syadristy presents his collection of miniature art. It was so amazing! Each piece was encased with a microscope, where you could check out the pieces and read a short description. I have no idea how he made all of these tiny, delicate items, and it was definitely worth the $4 entry fee. We also took some pictures with sculptures that were around the area. If you ever come to Kiev, I would definitely recommend seeing this area. We spent a total of around 4 hours walking and having fun, which is quite necessary when you’re about to start an IVF cycle.
It’s been about a week that we’ve been officially in Ukraine, and we can’t believe how fast the time passed! Throughout this time, we have just been trying to process our emotions about all of this, since it happened so quickly, and have started to explore around our neighborhood, which has been fun. The Venice Hotel is in an area that has the grocery store Novus right across the street, which is very convenient, and that is where we entered our first Ukrainian grocery store. We would say the equivalent of it is like the local Star/Kroger, but the produce leaves much to be desired. The liquor/wine/beer section is the first thing on your left when you enter, and there was SUCH a huge variety of libations and spirits. I had read before from other blogs that vodka is very popular here, like most former USSR countries, and they weren’t kidding; K had me take a picture of the “water” aisle, as we liked to joke around, and look how tiny he is in the picture and all of that vodka! You can purchase a liter for around $1.50ish, although I can’t attest to the quality or flavor since I haven’t tried any. Try at your own risk! Can’t be worse than the Popov’s I used to drink back in college, which although it claims it was filtered in charcoal, it tasted pretty much like rubbing alcohol, haha.
If you weren’t aware, the US dollar is equal to about 26 Ukrainian Hryvnia, which means that everything is SUPER cheap compared to the US. You can live like a king and buy so much stuff, and it’ll come out to about 5 bucks. Since we have food from our stay at Venice, we just try little things here and there. I bought some berries that I used to LOVE eating when I was growing up in Germany, and they were about a dollar for two pounds. Crazy!
K has been having a blast trying all of the various Ukrainian beers, which tend to be mostly of the Bavarian sort. But they also had foreign brands like Coronas and Sam Adams and the like. One of the strangest beers that he bought was hilarious, as it was Trump beer! But not like Trump Winery, but a beer that specifically mocks Trump, which includes for some bizarre reason a shot of Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone, “Free Melania” protester, a Trump Tower, and Putin wearing a Make America Great Again hat. We were cracking up! It describes its flavor as a Mexican Imperial Lager, but at this point, we think everything about this beer is just a joke. So far, at our hotel, we’ve been the token Americans, and many have asked about Trump, stating that they couldn’t keep their eyes off the TV during our last election, it was so close. I’ve been overseas many times before, and no one has ever asked me about my feelings about the current President, so this was an interesting experience. Behind the Trump beer, you can see all of the different kinds that K has been trying, and his best deal yet – a 2.5ltr beer that is the equivalent of Natty Ice in the US. All for 22UAH, or 84 cents!
Anywho, the pricing is, for the most part, incredibly cheap, as you can see below. However, some things, such as an Apple iPhone, is still the same price as back home. I asked how that worked since the average income of a person in Ukraine is $200 a month – how would anyone be able to afford that? Someone explained that they usually make a monthly payment plan to pay off the phone in increments. We’ve noticed that most people have Samsung products, which seems really popular.
If you hop across the street again (cross at your own risk!), the brand new Lavina Mall has opened, and although a lot of the mall is still in progress, they have some cute places to eat, many of the stuff that you would expect in an American mall. You’ll recognize some of the name brands like Benetton, Lacoste, and Zara (not open yet).
They also have a movie theater that plays a lot of the same movies out in the US, but they have Ukrainian dubbing, so we probably won’t be going there anytime soon. It was funny because they had Cars 3 posters, which for some reason, is called Wheelbarrow 3 here?!
We were most surprised to see that they even have a Pizza King, just like the one in Indiana, which totally threw us off guard! The stall at the mall had a long line around it compared to the others, so we’re guessing it’s pretty popular. One time as we were leaving the mall, we saw a Pizza King delivery dude, who was wearing what looked similar to a racing uniform that was branded with the Pizza King logo, with a matching red moped to boot! We will be ordering delivery at some point, just to satisfy our curiosity, so stay tuned. It is available 24/7, and they have combos that include that 2.5ltr of beer that K had. I was looking at the menu, and they have two options of sauces – creamy and specialty sauce, but the picture of both pizzas look exactly the same, so we’re not quite sure what’s happening there. There were a couple of bizarre topping choices, such as mustard or mini gherkins!
What’s even more nuts is that there is also a mini-amusement park for kids inside the mall, called Galaxy. It is pretty much like a carnival indoors! There are rollercoasters, play gyms, trampolines, the like. Very convenient for those parents who brought a child with them along the surrogacy trip, of which there are a few.
Inside the mall, there is another huge grocery store called Silpo, which is a very fancypants and has lots of cafes and sit down places for you to enjoy your coffee and sweets, or eat a meal. We think it’s pretty much the equivalent of Whole Foods, but the prices seem pretty similar, and everything is very fresh and of high quality. I’ve been wondering whether some of the produce and meat in Ukraine is organic, just because all of it looks a lot smaller than what I see in the grocery store, but GMO has taken over the world, so most likely not. Some shots below of Silpo – and great free Wifi, if you need a change of scenery from your Ukrainian abode.
Lastly, next to the Lavina Mall, is a huge warehouse shopping center that reminds me of a Costco – we just did a drive-by, but it seems like it will take ages just to go through the whole store! They also have a bunch of little stores next to the cash registers, one of which was a gun store that just had semi-automatics hanging on the shelf like lollipops. I’m guessing they have a lot less stricter gun rules here, if you can get your groceries for the week and pick up a shotgun in the same place.
Alrighty then, that’s it for the update about the neighborhood! I am gearing up for my IVF cycle which starts this Saturday, so going to make the most of the last couple days before I start with the injectibles. I’m curious to see what kind of protocol that they will put me on, and will be sure to update you shortly thereafter 🙂