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.

November 19, 2011

Traffic patterns changing

I never realized this before, but November is a month in which good things tend to happen in my life. It’s the month in which we moved to Chicago 10 years ago. It’s the month I was hired in my current job, which I love, and the month in which we mailed off our application to adopt from Korea. (Of course, it’s the month of Thanksgiving, too, a time of gratitude and family and lots of good food.)

On Thursday, November 10, around 10:30 in the morning, I retrieved my phone from the closet in my office to text our dogwalker. I then placed it on my desk, thinking absentmindedly that one of these days, hopefully, hopefully, our social worker would call with our referral, and I’d want to make sure I picked up right away.

Less than three minutes later, it rang, and it was her.

“I’ve received a package with a referral for you,” she said.

Then I was standing, facing away from my open office door, my eyes full, hands shaking, heart beating so hard I could feel it hitting against my chest.

It’s a boy, she told me. He’s healthy. He was born on November 1, 2010. We could come in that afternoon to read his files and see his face.

See his face.

I called John, still shaking, breathless. I think he was shocked to the point where he could barely register what was happening, that it was actually happening. He would pick me up at 2:30 for the drive to the agency.

I called my parents. I told my boss and cried when she hugged me. I pretended to do work for three hours. My stomach somersaulted; I had no appetite for lunch. I tried to remember what we’d been doing on November 1 in 2010. It was a Monday, the day after Halloween. We’d run a 10K on Halloween morning and met up with new friends whose adopted toddler son is Korean. I remembered John and I walking around the neighborhood that night, looking at all the trick-or-treaters, talking about how much our child would love being part of it someday, musing about costume ideas. He was born the next day.

The drive was slow, surreal. We listened to Andrew Bird. We passed the Korean Air warehouse by the airport. I saw a construction sign alongside the highway: “Week of Nov. 7: Traffic patterns changing.”

Our social worker apologized for wearing jeans; she hadn’t expected to meet with clients that day. We sat in her office and she started handing us document after document, so much information about his birthmother, his birth, his medical history, his foster family. And then, oh, then, three pages of typed information from his foster mother: his likes and dislikes, his personality, his schedule, what he eats (and what he spits out—yogurt!). He is curious and likes riding outside in his carriage. He can sometimes be short-tempered. He can find a hidden toy. He likes baths. He laughs. He likes meeting other babies. He dances when his foster mother sings. He cries when his foster father leaves for work. He’s already pulling himself up. He says two words. He has four teeth.

His birthmother gave him the name Jiho. It means “clear wisdom.”

The Korean social worker wrote in the paperwork, “Jiho is a smart, cute-looking baby boy. He babbles well and gives a laugh if you play with him. He is growing up healthy and being loved in the special care of his foster family. We hope that Jiho will meet a good adoptive family as soon as possible. We also hope his adoptive parents will enjoy a happier life as well with him.”

And then, then, the photos. We were given the gift of more than 25 of them, some taken when he was six months old and some just a few weeks ago, at 12 months. He is adorable. He is beautiful. He has big eyes and lots of hair and the smoothest skin. He’s wearing a little hoodie. He’s standing up and holding onto a toy lawnmower. He’s clutching a rattle, then a phone. He’s sitting with his smiling foster mother. He’s propped up between two huge teddy bears.

We took the papers and the photos and we drove home in a daze, in the late-afternoon darkness, straining to look at his face again and again as we passed under the streetlights. When we got home, we spread all the photos out on the counter, a collage of Jiho. We reread his paperwork. That night we slept like the dead, funnily enough; we were just completely drained from the emotion and intensity of the day.

Before formally accepting the referral, we needed to speak with a pediatrician who specializes in internationally adopted children and have him review Jiho’s files. That didn’t happen until Sunday. Friday and Saturday were slow and surreal, spent looking at his photos, talking about him, offering up possible names, just the two of us together, sharing this secret. For the first time since we decided to adopt, John walked into the second bedroom and started talking about what we’d need for the nursery. (He always said he wanted to wait until our referral before doing any real preparation.)

On Sunday afternoon, we spoke with the doctor, who’s raising his family in the city not far from us and will likely be our pediatrician. He said Jiho is healthy and developing well. He told us to “go get him.”

And we are.

We don’t know exactly when that will be. Sometime in the spring, I suspect (and pray). Sometime in the spring we will fly across the world, where there is a baby boy waiting for us, as we’ve been waiting for him. We will meet him and hold him and become a family of three. He is real. This is really happening. For two years—we mailed our first application to adopt on November 12, 2009—this has been our hope and wish and plan, and now it’s actually happened. It’s almost too much to process and grasp, but it’s beginning to feel more normal as each hour of each day passes by. The more I look at his face, the deeper in love I fall with him.

I don’t even know what else to write, or how to talk about this. In the past nine days, I’ve found myself smiling at nothing. Riding on the train, I haven’t been able to focus on my magazine; I just stare out the window. We’ve called our parents and siblings, emailed his photos to the proud new grandparents and aunts and uncles. We’re starting to tell cousins, friends, coworkers. Their tears and sincere joy for us deepens our own. I’ve reflected a lot on what wonderful people we have in our life, and on the miracle of how many people here already love this baby.

I won’t lie, the tears have been coming easily. The moment on Sunday afternoon when we decided to accept, I cried hard, really hard, so overwhelmed by what was happening. And then I gathered myself together, dried my face, pulled my hair back, and went out for my long run, amazed at how different the familiar path and trees and lake looked that miraculous autumn afternoon, on my first run as a mom.

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Blogger sue said...

eeeeek!!!!!!!!! i'm ridiculously excited for you!!!!!! you have a son, amy and john!!!!!

i'm so glad i opened this today, because i almost saved it for later! congratulations to your family! you have been so patient through this process, and now it is finally your turn!!!!

i can't wait to see your sweet son in your arms!!! congratulations again!!!!

4:06 PM  
Anonymous wendryn said...

Oh, congratulations! I'm so happy for you!

Our daughter was born October 21, a domestic adoption, and we are over-the-moon happy. I am very glad you and your husband have found your son!

5:07 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I am crying with joy for you! Congratulations, mom!

6:04 PM  
Blogger Farm-Raised said...

I am so happy to read this beautiful post!!! Congratulations to you. I loved every detail of this story. Thinking of your joy (and being able to relate to that incredible phone-call moment) brought tears to my eyes. We're rooting for you here in Iowa!!!!

7:59 PM  
Blogger Christine said...


I almost didn't look at google*reader but I'm uploading a video for National Adoption Day (was this announcement intentional, or just a happy accident?!) and killing time and the title caught my eye. I almost fell off my chair when I got to the second paragraph!

Congrats congrats congrats!!! I am so very, very excited for you!!!! GAAAAUUUUGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

8:54 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

So, so very happy for you that this is happening!

8:41 AM  
Blogger Kellie said...

Mom!!!! I am crying tears of joy for you. So much love to you and your family of three!

10:05 AM  
Blogger kelly said...

Oh my goodness, this is so exciting!!! Congratulations to both of you. You've waited a long time for this. And now you know (as all us APs do) that your little guy was totally worth the wait. Your post was beautiful and has me teary-eyed on this Sunday morning. What a blessing! Can't wait until you get that call to get on that plane!

11:11 AM  
Blogger Pix said...

Finally! When I read your news, I actually squeaked outloud (which sort of alarmed the guy standing next to me in line at the coffee shop)! The joy in your heart comes out so clearly in your post. Thrilled for all of you!

1:17 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Oh, so VERY VERY excited and happy and joy-filled for all 3 of you! I just read parts of your posts to my children and they are doing a squealing-twirling-dance of their own for you right now. Congratulations, MOM!

2:00 PM  
Blogger Jessamyn said...

As the other Amy said, I am crying with joy for you! So happy for your referral, your decision, your overwhelming happiness, and for all of the joyous mom moments still to come (and I hope soon)! xo

7:35 PM  
Blogger *plum*tree*studio* said...

Oh my goodness!!! for some reason i thought i needed to check your blog first thing this morning..weird huh? i just had a feeling! i'm soooo happy for you!!! you guys have waited so long but now that wait is over!! feels so good doesn't it? such wonderful news to share!! Congratulations!!! he sounds perfect and beautiful and healthy!! so happy for you!!! enjoy this bliss!! it's such a wonderful feeling!!

9:05 AM  
Blogger Birdie said...

Hooray hooray a million time hooray! A collage of Jiho!

And it sounds like his enjoyments are going to fit perfectly with yours, from stoller-riding (perfect for a running parent!)and dancing (I hope John has a good repertoire of kid songs learned for the guitar) to spending time outside. I am so happy that you will have him in your arms in the near future!

Enjoy your moments as a family of two, as you plan your life as a family of three. I have to write that again – a family of three! It’s so true – traffic patterns will definitely be changing, and what a wonderful change to have!

10:07 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

AHHHH!!!!!! I'm so happy for you and Jon! I remember meeting you last October, and thinking what a nice pair of people you were, and what great parents you would make. Seeing your child for the first time is such an overwhelming, amazing feeling. I'm so glad you've finally gotten to experience it! Congratulations Mommy!!!!!!

8:52 PM  
Blogger Jaclyn and Travis said...

Congratulations Momma! You have a son :)
It's a long wait but so worth it. Enjoy this time and have fun getting his room ready, before long you will be bringing him home!

8:53 PM  
Anonymous sandy said...

You sound like a nice person, and if that is deeply true inside, and just not a pose or the following of social conventions, that's what really counts. I'm specially happy for the kid, whatever they say, in the world there are too many kids that deserve a better life, for me this is the best you are doing, besides the selfishness of satisfying a personal wish, you are also giving a better future to a human being. Thanks for that.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

This is so wonderful I can barely stand it. I am so, so happy for you.

4:35 PM  

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