Journey to Judah: Part 5 - The Hotel
May 7-9, 2018
After such an intense, crazy day, it was surreal walking back into the hotel with a baby in our arms. We had stayed at that hotel for 2 nights already, and now we were asking the front desk if someone could bring a crib to our room. We hadn’t told anyone there that we were adopting, and I wondered what their thoughts about it might be. The woman at the desk just smiled at us and said, “Lucky baby.” This is a common response, even in the United States, “He’s so lucky!” but it is not an accurate response. There’s nothing lucky about losing your first family. We also don’t believe that “this was the plan for him all along.” God’s initial plan was ruined when sin entered the world, and orphans, like so many other things, are a sign that this world is broken. By God’s grace, He can redeem broken situations, He can put orphans in families, and He can definitely have a beautiful plan for our son’s life. Obviously, God knew that Judah Mahesh would be a Mackey, and we are forever grateful and humbled that we get to call him our son. WE are the lucky ones to get to be a part of our son’s story. But of course, I just smiled at her and nodded because it wasn’t really appropriate to tell this well-meaning woman that a comment like that might hurt my 13-month old son’s feelings sometime in the future.
We took the elevator up to our room. (Judah) Mahesh’s eyes got wide as we rose to the 3rd floor in the glass elevator. It made me realize how many “firsts” we would still get to experience with him. We had checked some firsts off already, but there were still so many firsts to come that I had daydreamed about for the past 5 years: our airplane touching down in the US and our son gaining citizenship, our daughters finally meeting their brother, celebrating at the KC airport with friends and family who have prayed for him for YEARS, having a huge 2nd birthday party, dedicating him back to the Lord in front of our church family...
(Judah) Mahesh didn’t cry, but I knew our baby boy was hungry because it was after 6:00, and he hadn’t had much to eat all day. As soon as we got to the room, though, I had to take his clothes off of him first. Remember that last-minute photo we took at the orphanage? Well, as I was holding him, mustering up the best smile I could give at that point in the day, I felt something warm and wet on my hip...the hip where I was holding my son. Thankfully my dark dress hid the wet spot well, but (Judah) Mahesh’s light blue outfit did nothing to hide how badly he had needed a diaper change. In the chaos of the afternoon, we hadn’t found a spot to change his diaper, and now I was paying for it. Marcus said between laughs, “Well I guess you really feel like his mom now, huh? He was just marking his new territory.” Sweet words, right? But honestly, nothing could have bothered me right then. We had passed court, Judah Mahesh was officially our son, and now he was with us in our hotel room. It was almost too good to be true. Just then, someone knocked on the door, and the crib was rolled into our room, reminding me that this was, in fact, reality. The woman from the front desk also brought up some chocolates for us to celebrate such a "sweet" occasion, just as we had brought chocolates to The Department.
I removed our baby boy's wet clothes, changed his diaper, and wiped him down with a baby bath wipe. Then we gave him a bottle of formula before putting some clothes back on him. I wanted to take an official family photo and do a video update, so I contemplated putting some nicer clothes on him. Knowing how long our day had been, though, I decided to just go with pajamas instead. It just wasn’t worth changing his clothes twice. Besides, I had a feeling he’d look cute in just about anything I put on him.
We took a few photos to document this momentous occasion, and then I changed my clothes before we called the girls on FaceTime. As I watched my girls get to talk to their brother for the first time, my heart grew three sizes. I couldn’t wait for them to meet face to face, but this was definitely the next best thing. Their excitement and immediate love for their brother was evident. They squealed with joy and tried to tell him about everything.
“I’m your sister.”
“You have toys in your room.”
“We live in Kansas City.”
“I’ll share with you.”
“I have blue eyes.”
“I missed you.”
Eliza, brainwashed by her daddy, even got right to work trying to teach him to say Texas and “throw up the horns.”
Having started the adoption process before we had biological children, Eliza and Hattie have literally been praying for their brother for their entire lives. I’m so glad our girls were able to see such a tangible answer to prayer. As hard as it was, I’m also glad that they were able to see that sometimes God closes doors, sometimes His plans are different than your own, sometimes He asks you to wait, but He is always faithful.
(Judah) Mahesh did not understand what was happening with the phone, and this was the first time people were yelling “Judah” at him. Up until this point, we had just been calling him Mahesh, like everyone else had for his whole life. It was surprisingly hard for me to call him Judah, even though that’s what I had been calling our hypothetical son for almost 5 years. Judah means the Lord will be praised, and He certainly had been praised and will continue to be praised through this little boy’s story....but this little boy did not identify as Judah at all. I went back and forth for about a week: sometimes calling him Mahesh, sometimes calling him Judah Mahesh. Was it wrong to change his name? Was this all too much for him? Were we changing an identifying part of him? As I wrestled with it, I was glad that we kept Mahesh as his middle name. He can always go by Mahesh again in the future if he chooses to do so, but now that he's been home 7 weeks, he already points to himself and says “Judah,” so maybe we didn’t traumatize him after all.
Even though he didn’t really understand or respond to his sisters, they loved talking to their brother so much. In fact, every time we called them on FaceTime throughout our entire trip, the first words out of their mouths were “I want to see Judah!”
“Oh, hey girls, remember us? Your parents? The ones who miss you so much it hurts? Oh, but sure, you can see your brother now.”
But really, it was sweet.
Once you’ve passed court, FaceTimed your family, and posted an announcement video for all the people praying back home, there’s only one natural step that comes next: get rid of the bugs. We were told to bring lice kits because it’s so common at the orphanages, and we had been using preventive shampoos and sprays, but we treated all of us- just in case. We don’t even know if (Judah) Mahesh had lice, but you can’t be too careful in those situations, right? We didn’t mind it, honestly. In fact, I absolutely love this photo from our first night together.
While we waited for our treatments to set in, we fed (Judah) Mahesh some baby food. I was thankful that I had brought some rice cereal with us because I could make the texture of the baby food about the same consistency as what he had been eating in the orphanage. I had grabbed some blueberry, pear, spinach mixture, and I wondered if he had eaten any of those things before. Whether he had or not, he ate every single bite in record speed!
Then we sat our son on the floor to play since he had literally been in our arms that entire day. He caught us off guard when he crawled over to the bed, grabbed on, and pulled himself up to standing. Our baby could stand! Then he held on and walked along the edge of the bed. Our baby was cruising!? When we left for India, we were unsure whether or not this little guy could even crawl. We had a few seconds long video clip of him where it looked like he MIGHT give it a try. He showed off his crawling skills the first day we met him, but we had never seen any of these skills. It was actually pretty amazing! Even though he’d lived in institutionalized care and had been confined to one small, empty room, he was meeting developmental milestones. We had prayed for 5 months that he would thrive at the orphanage, and he was showing us that he was, indeed, an overcomer. God was also showing us that He is greater than our circumstances.
That night, even though we had asked for a crib, (Judah) Mahesh slept right in between us. I just wanted to be near him. Even though I was exhausted, I'm pretty sure I just stared at him all night. After all that time, I couldn’t believe he was actually right there beside us. He slept over 13 hours that first night - a mixture of exhaustion and grief, I’m sure. As much as we believe that children belong in families and as much as we know that he will be loved and protected forever, it was a lot to take in for such a little boy: new people, new language, new food, new room. It was the beginning of so many changes for him. Sleep is one way young kids can deal with the unknown. However, once he woke up, he was very happy.
We spent 36 hours in our hotel room, laying low, and catching up on the past 13 months. Those first few hours were such a sweet, uninterrupted time of rest, room service, and bonding with our son. Here are some of the things we learned about him those first days:
-He’s ticklish under his left arm and above his knees.
-His laughter is high pitched, squealy, and very contagious.
-He sucks on 2 of his knuckles to soothe himself.
-He liked to throw everything- toys, cups, food, everything! And we just kept picking it right back up for him, no matter how many times it happened - trying to show him that we were there to help him with anything he needed.
-He had 3.5 teeth.
-At 13 months old, he fit best in 6-9 month clothing and still had room to grow.
-He was up for trying all foods, and he was a big fan of bananas and scrambled eggs.
-He could babble! (He had made no real sounds the first 2 days we were with him, but once he warmed up to us, he began slowly using his voice. That first night he even turned and looked straight at me and said “mama.” Even if he didn’t know what he was saying, my heart melted into a giant puddle.)
-He wasn’t used to be held a lot, and sometimes the physical contact seemed to be just too much for him. (This is something we still wrestle against if he’s too tired or over-stimulated.)
-He was doing amazingly well for such a HUGE transition.
-He was definitely the most beautiful boy in all of India.
-He was already so loved by his mommy and daddy.
We put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and we were pretty much left alone for the rest of our stay at the hotel. We were only called once by Minal, who let us know that the orphanage had forgotten to have us sign something before we took custody. Of course, they wanted us to come back to the orphanage. Minal, our superhero once again, convinced them to let us send it electronically so we didn’t have to take (Judah) Mahesh back to the orphanage and run the risk of undoing the bonding and transitioning that had already begun.
Did you know that you can sign, date, and put your phone number on the back of a hotel notepad, text it to someone at an orphanage, and it can count as an official signature for an important document in India? We didn’t either, but it worked, and we were able to stay comfy, cozy in our hotel room eating chicken-fried rice and getting to know our son.
In the back of our minds, though, we knew that we were anxiously awaiting our written court order. This was our “wild card,” because we had no idea when to expect it from the judge. Courts were also rumored to close any day, and we were told that they would not reopen until June. Until we had that official document, we couldn’t move on to any of the other steps in our adoption process. We also could not leave India. It was also very evident from our court experience, that the judge wasn’t our biggest fan. How long would it be before I could hug my girls again?