The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

March 24, 2011

There are so many things I want to write about this whole process

My little sister is pregnant with her first child, the first grandchild in my family. I am so over the moon about this, so ready to meet my nephew and to add the role of aunt to wife, daughter, and sister. He’s due to show up at the end of April, and I can already feel the soft heavy warm weight of him in my arms. It’s a sheer miracle to think of looking into his face and seeing my sister’s face, our family face.

My mother and I threw a baby shower a few weeks ago. Eighteen women gathered in the living room, eating cupcakes and passing around the baby gifts as my sister opened them. I handled each one as it came to me, exclaiming over the little pants, the pacifiers, the blankets and bibs. My sister laughed and tugged at her maternity shirt, made a joke about her breastfeeding pump. And I felt no envy. I’ve never had a yearning to be pregnant, to experience what it’s like to carry a baby to term and give birth. I don’t look at pregnant women and wish I were one of them.

I do feel the loss of not creating a child with John. I will never forget our first meeting with our social worker, on a white-sky winter day last year, when she told us that we had to come to terms with that—the fact that our child won’t look like us, won’t inherit our family’s traits, won’t come from me and John. She pointed out that that was a loss, and I guess I’d been so focused on the excitement of starting the adoption process that I hadn’t really thought of it. It brought tears to my eyes then, and every once in awhile, I think of it and still feel that sadness.

When it comes down to it, being pregnant isn’t what I want. Having a child is. For certain health reasons, and because we’ve always had open hearts for adoption, that’s how we’re going to grow our family. At the core of me, it does feel right.


There are so many things I want to write about this whole process.

I might not envy the state of being pregnant, but sometimes I do envy the simplicity of it. People understand pregnancy and biological children. They don’t have so many questions, whether asked or unasked. John and I still haven’t told many people about our plans. Of course, our families know, and several close friends, but we haven’t announced it at work or said anything about it on Facebook. Most of the people we’ve told have been thrilled and excited and supportive. (The ones who haven’t been that way seem mildly happy for us but also confused, and they haven’t asked us about it much afterward.) Most people have some questions, but nothing that’s odd or rude. They check in with us for updates and ask how the process is going. And maybe it’s just me being overly sensitive (and that’s a very strong possibility), but sometimes I wonder what they’re really thinking. Do they think we’re crazy? Do they think international adoption isn’t a good thing? Do they have preconceived ideas about what adopted kids are like? If our child has any problems whatsoever, will people always point to his adoption?

Obviously, dealing with these types of issues is going to be part of our “new normal.” We knew that going into it, and we know we will handle it. But still, it can feel a little jarring and isolating. Recently I went out to dinner with a few friends, one of whom didn’t know about the adoption, and I told her. She seemed happy for us, asked me a few questions, and that was it. It wasn’t brought up again for the rest of the night. The next day, we all emailed back and forth about how fun the dinner was, and she never mentioned it. I can’t help wondering if it would be the same if I were pregnant.


It’s not hard for me to get too deeply inside my own head, if that makes sense. On some days I think about how he’s already somewhere out there, crying or sleeping or gurgling, waving his arms around. I see the three of us visiting playgrounds, taking Stella to the beach, reading bedtime stories. I see him dancing while John plays the guitar, all of us laughing. Other days I fear that he won’t attach, he won’t sleep, he’ll have separation anxiety, he’ll be afraid of the playground (I know, right?). That we won’t be good parents; that I’ll be frustrated or confused or desperate or just plain old worried all the time. Logically, I know that parenting is going to contain all of these emotions and experiences in one big messy bundle, that there will be very high highs and very low lows. I suppose I’m just afraid of the unknown sometimes, even though I’m still moving steadily toward it with my arms open wide.

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