Journey to Judah: Part 12 - The Passport
Once the passport has been received is when most families fly to India. Because Judah was in a region where we had to appear in court and because we chose to stay between court & passport, our trip was longer than typical time frames for India adoptions. So don’t worry, when YOU adopt from India, you (most likely) won’t have to be gone as long as us.
May 21, 2018
After a rest-filled weekend, Monday morning brought 1 mission: get Judah’s passport. We were headed to the passport office bright and early, and we were hoping to walk out of the office with that passport in our hands. We had already purchased tickets to fly from Hyderabad to New Delhi on Tuesday morning where we would finish the last steps of our adoption process. Plans would have to change if we couldn’t get Judah’s passport that day.
We ate a quick breakfast and rented a car from the hotel. For some reason, our phones weren’t working that day, and we didn’t want to risk being stranded 45 minutes from the hotel and unable to get an Uber. 45 minutes by car would be an extremely long rickshaw ride.
Because we were unsure of how long we’d be at the passport office and because we knew we didn’t want to leave the office without that passport, we rented a car for the whole day. Our driver did not seem excited about having to sit outside the passport office all day...probably because we were robbing him of the chance to make money and get other passengers. I made a mental note to give him a very generous tip.
The passport office was in the next city over, Hyderabad’s twin city, Secunderabad. On the way to the office, we had to drive past Hyderabad’s largest man-made lake where we were able to see the world’s tallest statue of Buddha standing in the middle of the lake. We also saw more sights and sounds of India: scooters packed with goods to sell, women dressed in traditional Indian saris, fruit stands on every corner, ornate temples hued in bright colors, animals wandering the streets, people everywhere, incessant honking, and heavy traffic.
The traffic made me a little anxious that we wouldn’t make it to our appointment on time, but thankfully we arrived with a whole 5 minutes to spare. We showed some ID at the front and rushed through the underground tunnel, trying to figure out where to go next. A security guard waved us over and, after a quick scan, told us to go up to the third floor.
After climbing three flights of stairs, I looked around, panicking. The room was pretty empty. Where was the orphanage director? She had to be here in order to get Judah’s passport, but I didn’t see her anywhere! When the security guard at the top of the stairs asked us for our application, my eyes got wide, and my heart started to race. We didn’t have it because someone from the orphanage was supposed to meet us at the office. When Marcus explained the situation to the security guard, he let us know that we needed to go down to the second floor.
As we walked down the stairs, I hoped and prayed that I’d see the director in that room. The room was so crowded, though, and most of my time with the director had been spent in a dark room fighting to get custody of our son.....so I wasn’t even sure that I would recognize her in this room brimming with people. After our eventful time in India, that long day at court followed by our fight for custody in the dark seemed like several months ago, but in all reality, it was only 2 weeks prior. I sincerely hoped that today would not bring that kind of a battle. I wasn’t sure if I had much fight left in me.
Thankfully, as I glanced around the room, I saw two women waving us over toward a smaller waiting area. I breathed a sigh of relief when I recognized the orphanage director standing next to someone else from The Department. Getting everyone in the right place at the right time seems to be half the battle in India, so I was beginning to feel much better. One of them asked me if I had Judah’s passport photos, and I laughed to myself as I told her that we had them. That photo was just another reminder of how long and miserable that day was....that day that, looking back, turned out to be one of the best days of our lives.
The director took the photos and requested a few more documents from us, and then she went to a desk to apply for Judah’s passport. It seemed strange that we could go right to the front of the line when there had to be more than 100 people waiting in this large room, which reminded me of the DMV on steroids. My only guess was that adoptees or minors were processed differently.
Thankfully, applying for the passport was quick and easy. After that, we headed back up to the 3rd floor. The women from the orphanage instructed us to sit in the waiting area while they went back to some offices. All of the walls were glass, so I could see them as they bounced from office to office speaking with different people and filling out different forms, but I had to idea what they were doing. We remained in the waiting area for over an hour before the women came back to tell us news that we did not want to hear: the system that allows the passport to be printed was down. There was no back up system, there was no way around it, and until the system was back up and running, we could not get Judah’s passport.
Marcus and I waited for two more hours in the small waiting room before Judah had finally had enough. He began screaming and crying. No amount of bribery with food or toys or pat-a-cake would cut it. By now, you should know what Indians think about crying babies, so it was a pretty uncomfortable situation for us. He was so loud that the orphanage director came out of one of the glass offices and told us to leave. She told us to go get lunch and come back around 2:30 while she waited to get his passport.
I did NOT want to leave. I wasn’t sure if the director would actually stay at the passport office or if she would leave shortly after we did if the system wasn’t up and running again quickly. I felt like I needed to stay and fight for the last thing we needed before leaving Hyderabad. I knew we had plane tickets booked for TOMORROW morning, and we would not be getting on that plane if we didn’t have this passport. Judah, however, didn’t care about any of those things. He just needed some real food, a nap, and a place with fewer people. I wondered what Minal, our in-country advocate would say if she were here. She had told us to stay at the office all day until they handed us his passport. Because our phones weren’t working, we couldn’t ask her opinion, so we did what any CRAZY person would do in that situation. We left. We left everything in the hands of 2 women, and we hoped and prayed that they’d be there when we returned from our lunch break. We also hoped and prayed that the passport system would be back up and running by then.
On the drive back to the hotel, I was a little frustrated that we were still in the midst of this fight. Why did everything have to be so difficult? I shouldn’t have been surprised that we’d hit another bump in the road, but I really just couldn’t believe it. Hadn’t we had enough? The adoption process can sometimes feel like a never-ending uphill battle where the enemy always holds the element of surprise. I was starting to wonder if we’d ever make it back home. In moments like those, I missed our girls so much that it was almost hard to breathe through the weight of my emotions. “Don’t cry in front of our hotel car driver. Don’t cry in front of our hotel car driver,” I kept repeating to myself. Y’all know that I had cried in front of far too many people in Hyderabad already. Who was I becoming? To prevent the tears from falling, I busied myself with making a bottle for Judah. He gulped it down and fell asleep just as we pulled into the hotel drive.
At home, if my kids fall asleep in the car, there’s about a 50% chance that I can keep them asleep while carrying them to bed. In this case, where I had to get out of the car, go through a metal detector, walk through a busy lobby, ride an elevator up 5 stories, and walk to the very end of a long hallway- there was about a 0% chance that I could keep Judah asleep. Of course, he woke up as soon as I stepped out of the car into the muggy Southern-Indian air. Our boy needed a nap, but he also needed some food, so I hoped he would go back to sleep after he got some food in his belly.
In true, Judah fashion, he thoroughly enjoyed his lunch but fought his nap with everything he had in him. Once again, he fell asleep just before it was time to head back to the passport office. Judah woke up as we carried him toward the elevator, and remained awake the whole car ride back around the lake.
When we arrived at the passport office, we silently celebrated that the orphanage director was still there. However, our celebration was cut short once we learned that the passport system was still not working. Once again, I found myself sitting in a building in India, praying for technology to work.
Even without a real nap, Judah was in a pretty good mood. He quickly took command of the room, and brought everyone over to us with his constant smiling, waving, and pointing. It seemed that almost everyone in the overly-full waiting area took a turn playing peek-a-boo, pinching his cheeks, and receiving one of Judah’s coveted high-fives. After an hour in the waiting area, the passport system was still not up and running. I went back and forth between believing that we would leave with Judah’s passport in our hands to think that we would have to come back and try again another day. When I asked what time the passport office closed, we were told 6:00. Realizing that it was nearing 4:00, I began praying more fervently as I sat Judah on the floor. When you spend forever in a waiting room, and your baby can’t walk yet, you have to get over your preferences and allow your child to crawl around on the dirty tile floor. You also have to feed him an entire bottle of Puffs cereal bites in order to survive.
Finally, just before 5:00, we got word that the system was finally up and running again. We were unsure of how many passports were in line ahead of us, and we weren’t sure that 1 hour was enough time for his passport to be printed. More fervent praying ensued. 1 hour was all that separated us from using our plane tickets to fly out the next morning or having to cancel and rebook them for another day.
It took everything in me, not to ask for an update every 10 minutes. I sat there and watched the minutes tick by on the wall clock and started to lose more hope every time that red second hand clicked its way past the 12. At 5:52, when I was about to ask what time we should return the next day, we heard someone say “Master Judah Mahesh Mackey.” Startled but in awe at hearing the sweet sound of Judah MACKEY, we walked over toward the office employee. We watched as he handed a shiny, new Indian passport to the orphanage director. She glanced at it and handed it to me, telling me to carefully check each section- especially his birthdate and parents’ information. There it was, in black and white: Judah Mahesh Mackey son of Marcus and Kayla Mackey. The written court order had deemed us Judah’s parents forever, but to see it on another official, important document was, once again, surreal after dreaming about it for more than 5 years.
It took me a minute to realize that our mission for the day was now complete. It wasn’t until the orphanage director hugged Judah and said, “Take care of Mahesh. I know he will have a happy life,” that I realized that this was it - we were free to leave Hyderabad with our son.
We rode back to the hotel, reorganized and repacked all 4 of our bags, and made copies of all of the documents that we would need for the next phase of our adoption process in New Delhi. We went to sleep dreaming about going home. We were so close, and yet we still had so many steps to go.
When we awoke the next morning, we ate our last meal in Hyderabad and said goodbye to our favorite waiter. He had a son who looked a lot like Judah, so he had taken extra-special care of us. We hired a driver and got to the airport with ease. We had no trouble checking in for our flight, and everything was on time. Marcus and I highly recommend flying with an infant because (ignoring any other stressors flying with an infant might incur) we were able to skip to the front of every line. No one seemed to care that our bags were overweight or that we had extra liquid in our carry-ons. Everything was smooth sailing.
As our plane ascended into the sky, I watched our 13-month-old baby boy stare out the window of his first plane right, and I was overcome with emotion. It was both the beauty and the brokenness of adoption wrapped up in that one single moment. As he got his last glimpse (for now) of Hyderabad, I was reminded of the brokenness that prevents him from growing up in his beautiful birth city surrounded by rich culture and his native language. As we flew further from Hyderabad with him on our laps, I was reminded of the redemptive beauty of adoption - a picture of the Gospel - which allows us to bring him in and love him forever. Grateful and humbled is the only way I can describe my feelings.
Judah did very well on his first flight, and we landed safely in New Delhi in just a couple of hours, with renewed energy to tackle the remaining steps of our adoption process. We were one step closer to being home, and we were 1 day closer to hugging our girls. Marcus and I had a new hope that this new city in India would bring us a much smoother back half of our adoption process.