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.

June 6, 2011

Running, registering, and this past weekend

I. Running

I’m in training again. My second half-marathon. When my friend-slash-coach emailed me my training plan, all twelve weeks lined up in a neat chart of miles, I was simultaneously elated and daunted. There are pace runs and intervals and fast finishes on that chart. My weekly long runs started with seven-milers. It’s a more aggressive plan than last year, because I want to run those 13.1 miles faster. I believe I can run them faster.

I know this is an eye-rolling, cringe-inducing statement to some, but I really do love to run. It makes me feel powerful and healthy, it helps me zip my jeans, it earns me membership in a community, it connects me to my city in a unique way. But I’ve realized that, like anything else, just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s pink roses and calico kittens all the time. I worry about getting hurt. I worry about failing. Sometimes I don’t want to run. Sometimes I set out for my long run and hate the entire first mile; the weight of the distance left to go seem so unbearable. My mind boggles at the fact that there are still seven, eight, twelve miles to cover.

Long runs are funny things. I find myself needing a day or two to psych myself up for them, especially when I’m in the above-ten-miles range. Our minds hold a lot of power; completing a long run is a physical achievement, of course, but your brain has to be on board to propel you through. When I’m running for two hours, my thoughts swing from ecstasy to agony, bliss to torture. I look at my fellow runners, at the dogs and boats and soccer players, then I zone out and don’t notice anything for a mile. My right knee twinges and aches. I worry that I’m getting sunburned. Then I round a bend and see the sun glittering on the mighty lake and feel like my chest is going to burst with joy, because I get to have this experience, this feeling, this accomplishment.

Two miles later, I hate every step and can think of nothing but the shower and beer waiting for me back home.

It’s fascinating to me, those mental and physical shifts. But above all else, running gives me space to think, to truly be alone in my head, if that makes sense, even as I’m surrounded by hundreds of Chicagoans. I suspect I’m going to value this time even more when I’m a mom. And certainly my main topic of thought while running these days is our little guy. The miles fly by when you’re thinking of names, mentally debating whether you need a pack-n-play, and scrutinizing every jogging stroller that flies down the path.

II. Registering

I went to Babies R Us for the first time a couple weeks ago. My friend Mandy came along to help me start our registry. Mandy and I have a lot in common: we both waited until our mid-30s to have our first child, we live in similar-sized city condos, and our reaction to places like Babies R Us is more overwhelmed-ness than excitement. Don’t get me wrong; I was extremely excited to register, but I definitely needed some navigational assistance. So we spent two hours on a Wednesday night roaming the store, waving the little gun over changing-pad covers and thermometers and wipes and plastic utensils and a carseat. We discussed the merits of homemade baby food. We tried on diaper bags. I got a little choked up around the bath toys. It was so, so much fun.

In the past month, John and I have allowed ourselves to realize that we’re actually going to become parents. For the first time, it’s all seemed so real. Based on referrals coming to other families who are with our agency, we realized that ours could come at the early end of the six-to-nine-month wait we were quoted. In fact, it could come in early June. And then, we could be in Seoul in as little as twelve weeks after that. I didn’t want to cram all our preparations into three months. And I wanted to give adequate advance notice at work. So I told my boss the news (she was over the moon). My college girlfriends gave me a beautiful shower at our annual reunion in May. I signed up for a weekly e-newsletter that tracks your baby’s development, guessing that maybe he’d been born in February. John and I made plans to paint the nursery on the weekend of our tenth wedding anniversary in June. I made sure my phone’s ringer was always turned on.

III. This past weekend

Friday was warm and summer-like. We decided to grill after work, and we lounged on the deck, enjoying the balmy air, savoring our beers, John flipping the bison burgers as they seared. Life felt so perfect. “When do you think our referral will come?” he asked me out of the blue, his eyes alight.

Later, before bed, I went online to check the weekend forecast and plan when to do my long run. I zipped around a few sites and visited Cheese Curds and Kimchi, a blog written by a couple who just brought their son home from Seoul a few weeks ago. As soon as I began to read the news in her latest post, my stomach turned over, and then I was crying, and all of those happy expectations and plans and hopes were just—not there anymore.

I definitely recommend clicking on that link; Pix is a terrific writer and she explains the situation really well. In a nutshell, the Korean government is attempting to slow, and eventually end, international adoption. They’re allowing fewer and fewer babies to leave the country each year—there’s an annual quota for how many can be adopted internationally. But domestic adoption rates aren’t rising fast enough to make up the difference. So more and more babies are having to wait longer to join their international families. If they’re matched with a family but the quota is then reached, they have to wait until the following year to travel, when a new batch of annual permits is issued.

Our agency historically hasn't been as affected by this quota as others, which is why we switched to it. But as of last month, that changed. Somehow, we fell through the cracks and weren’t informed—our social worker hasn’t explained why, but she confirmed what I read online. There will be no more referrals until late fall, there will be no travel until 2012, and our child will very likely be older than twelve months when he comes home. We had been expecting him to be nine or ten months, and we didn’t imagine Christmas 2011 without him.

What else to say? This was a tough blow. We aren’t in control of this process, but it’s really hard to readjust our expectations. We don’t have a choice. But it’s still really hard. I feel like we’re back at that place where it doesn’t feel real. We can fill our lives with work and classes and dinner with friends, summer festivals, camping trips, and the beach, and we will. But part of me feels like I’m ready for this era of my life to end, for the new one to begin, and now I don’t know when that will happen.


On Saturday night, we decided to go downtown for dinner at an Indian place. The car ride down Lake Shore Drive was a quiet one. We parked in a garage, and when I got out, I found a black wallet at my feet. It contained a driver’s license, credit card, about $30, and some mints. Amazingly, the owner lived just three blocks west of us, on the same street. We found him on Facebook, saw that he was a server at a nearby restaurant, and called there to let him know we’d found his wallet. We offered to bring it by after our meal.

The restaurant is a swanky new steakhouse overlooking the river. We showed up around 10, and when we spoke with the hostess, she began gushing about how kind we were and insisted we have a round of drinks on the house. So we found ourselves sitting in the dark, hushed bar, raising two glasses to good karma. We’ll take all we can get.

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Blogger Jessamyn said...

Oh, Amy. I'm so sorry! I wish I had any words of wisdom, but I really don't think I do. But I am so sorry about this disappointment, especially right when you thought you'd gotten so, so close. Sending you lots of love.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I hate this so, so much - on your behalf, on behalf of all the adoptive parents waiting, and on behalf of all those children, stuck in a limbo while waiting for their family. And because I know that you are a lot like me, the thing I bet is hardest to take is that you had JUST finally let yourself get excited about it. You had JUST adjusted your expectations to let that joy in, and now you are back to wondering. The timeline is tough, but had you known to expect it from the start, you'd be dealing with it bravely. It's the CHANGE, the feeling that the rug's been swept from under you that's so unfair. I'm sorry, Amy.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Kellie said...

I'm so, so sorry. I can't even believe all of this as I'm reading it. The shifts in expectation, thinking, hoping that you have had to make in this process. I wish I could give you a big, big hug.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I'm sitting here, trying to put my thoughts into words... and I just don't have the words to wrap up my feelings into a tidy little package. In short, this stinks (I edited that word to be non-profane). It's horrible and gut-wrenching... and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm sorry. So, so sorry. I wish I had words of comfort... but there aren't any for this. :-(

7:20 PM  
Blogger Birdie said...

This is the first that I am reading about this and my heart is breaking for you. The changing of the expectation is so difficult. We experienced a similar shift when we were in another program, and even though I heard that international adoption can be a roller coaster ride, it's tough to accept when you are the one on that roller coaster. I'm so very sorry Amy.

On another note, I loved your thoughts on running, I wish I could have that mindset. You are a powerful woman!

9:23 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I wanted to thank all of you for your comments. They help so much! We had a hard weekend, but we're adjusting. We know we'll be a family of three... it will just take longer than we planned. We're sad, but in the end, this is going to be worth it. It will be so, so worth it. (I keep telling myself that.)

9:44 PM  
Blogger Pix said...

Oh Amy. I'm so sorry you had to hear about the EP issue on a blog! Sucky. No two ways about it. We switched to AIAA because of the EP issue, and are shocked that they are now caught up in it. I know that has to really be tough, especially as the time grows closer to referral.

On another note, you are a rock star on the running! I can't even fathom the long runs (8K is my max) but I do know the ups and downs that are in each run. That's gonna help you get through this tough part. I'm finally running my first race this weekend (5K) and I'm totally unprepared. Haven't been able to run much since LM has come home.

One more bit of unsolicited advice. We registered at which was super cool. You can register for stuff anywhere on the web, from a variety of places. So it helped give us a lot of variety. Plus, that Toys R Us place was so overwhelming to walk in there! I enjoyed registering from our couch :) Plus, if I did find stuff in person, I just sent an email to the account with the item and it was automatically added to our registry. Nifty.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope things are moving along for you now. I tried to post this but first time didn't take! :)

I'm in Chicago also.. I have alot in common with you. My husband and I are in the adoption process for Korea and we own a triathlon and multisport coaching company- Max Multisport Coaching.

I'd love to chat with you offline about your current experiences and see if you are getting referrals again?? We have been in process for over a year (an no referral) and told yesterday 2013 even if we get a referral.. Go to my site and email me..

This plain Sucks.

4:59 PM  

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