How do you describe the day your life changed? How do you explain how you are no longer the person you once were? How is it that one event, one phone call, can completely change the way you feel about the world?
I hadn’t been thinking about the adoption. To tell you the truth, I had given up. Several times, in the weeks prior to this fateful day, I found myself among these fabulous women I have met during this adoption process. I looked at them and thought, ”I hope that they will continue to be my friend even though I won’t have kids.” I thought that surely we would still be friends? I could baby sit, and be Auntie Julie to their remarkable kiddos. In all areas of my life, I was trying to get my head around the fact that we would not be parents. We were going on ten years of trying. Enough, I thought, how many signs do I need to convince me that it is not in the cards? I didn’t think that it was going to happen. If, by some miracle it did happen, I thought, it definitely won’t be until the fall or winter. We had already set a record for waiting time at our agency. I thought about the big picture, and realized that I would not die if it didn’t work out. I thought about Steven and our life together. I felt clarity in knowing that life would go on. I felt grateful for love, health, family, and friends. I gave up on the children part. I let go of it. I wrote this post.
The next day, the phone rang.
On Wednesday morning, May 27th, 2009, I returned home from my local gym. I had had a sort of lazy workout (Yes, that was me on the Stairmaster, staring into space and mouthing the words to some ballad that I really shouldn’t be using as a workout song.) After about thirty-four minutes of fake exercise, I went home. Before stepping in the shower, I sat down to check my e-mail. Moses licked my salty shoulder, and the phone rang.
My phone came up with the name, Kristina. Kristina is my former social worker (when you wait nearly seventeen months, people change jobs). She had moved on to a position as head of the HIV + adoption program at CHSFS. I wasn’t sure why she was calling, but I am always happy to talk to her as she basically, in a word, rocks.
There was no way it could have been a referral call as I was told by CHSFS that my local Los Angeles social worker (at Vista del Mar) would be the person who would call me with a referral. I picked up the call and it was Jan, my current social worker at CHS. This is where it starts to get a little fuzzy. I can’t remember if she said, “I am here with Kristina,” or “Kristina is here with me,” or if I just noticed that it was Jan calling from Kristina’s extension. They were both on the phone. Jan, comedian that she is, decided to ‘mess’ with me a little. She said, “I’m just calling to go over your paperwork. I see that you are open to two children under 6 years of age is that correct?” I started to shake a little bit. Our file said up to 4 years old but we had modified it to go up to 6 after an unsuccessful attempt to view older siblings on the waiting list several months ago. When she asked this I thought, for a flash, is this a referral? Is this a referral for two 6 year olds? Then she said,” I see you are open on your medical conditions, is that correct?” Yes, I said thinking, is this referral for two 6 year olds with heart conditions? I started to shake a little bit.
She then said, “Well Kristina and I were wondering if you would be interested in reviewing the referral information for a 2 ½ year old girl and her 5 month old brother?”
“Yes”, I said, “of course.”
I think I may have freaked out at this point. You’ll have to ask them what I did or said, I do remember thinking that I wish I weren’t wearing such ratty gym clothes to meet our children for the first time. I also remember feeling something that I have never felt before: Happy Shock. I have heard bad news on the phone on more than one occasion, but I had never heard news like this. I was pacing around the house, my arms all tingly and my heart beating out of my chest.
“Would you like us to call your husband?”
Steven was at work. He was in a meeting and had to uncharacteristically announce, ”I HAVE TO TAKE THIS CALL,” as he stepped out of the room.
During some complications with getting the conference call to work, I panicked and thought, they are going to give up and not tell us about these kids. I said, “Ladies, it’s been 17 months! Give me ten minutes!” They weren’t about to give up. We finally had Steven facilitate the conference call from his end. He is handy like that.
Then, something remarkable happened, they told us about our future.
It was an intense phone call. I thought that I had done a good job preparing myself to hear the information. I had had plenty of time to think about it. I thought that I would be ready. I thought I knew what it would feel like. I was wrong. I have never felt so much sadness and so much joy in such a short period of time. These children, these remarkable children, their lives, their story, I had no idea. I had no idea what it would mean.
Coming up… Part II - Chunk of Love and a Degas Ballerina in a blue dress.