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.