How I Became a Mother
I became a mother on August 4, 2015.
It was around 4pm, and I was wrapping up work for the day. As I began to pack up my papers, lunch remnants and the like (why does going to work always feel like packing for the weekend?) my phone buzzed on the desk beside me.
The screen flashed with a message: Incoming call, "No Caller ID."
Every once in a while, people with blocked numbers call (solicitors, usually). But this buzz felt different. We'd been waiting to be matched with a child in Korea for several months, and it seemed like our time was drawing nearer. This could be the call that would change things forever. This could be the call that would make us parents — would make me a mom.
I let the call go to voicemail, not sure if I was emotionally equipped to take it right away. As it is with creative agencies these days, many of us sit in one large, open, very well-lit and minimally decorated room. We have a Chemex. We have a gumball machine. We do wall sits and impromptu dance moves to loosen up every hour. It's a beautiful, collaborative inspiring space. I love our work environment and the people in it. But it's not exactly quiet.
As the blinking light from the phone went dark, I gathered myself. Trying not to appear shaken, I got up from my chair and walked into an adjacent room with the outward calm of a scrubbed-in neurosurgeon and the inward upheaval of a high-efficiency front-loading washing machine on Super Spin. I listened to the voicemail. I was right.
It was our social worker. (A short side note: The country's best social workers are, at most times, nameless and faceless parts of a family's adoption story. Due to the profound sense of professionalism and promise of confidentiality with which they do their jobs, they remain unsung heroes. Ours is just such a hero. If you are reading this, you know who you are. Thank you.)
He'd called to tell us that he had some exciting news. There was a little boy in Korea, aged 16 months, who needed a forever home. He was healthy and happy and very cute. Should he send us the referral paperwork and picture? Would we like to consider being matched with him?
I called Jason. We agreed not to open the email containing his matching details until we were both home. He immediately left work.
The rest is a bit of a blur. I think I recall walking quickly to my desk and, with the efficiency of Thompson gazelle escaping a cheetah, packed up my things and yelled to whomever was still in the office, "You guys, we're getting matched. Right now!" The peanut gallery responded with a lot of 'Whoot!,' 'Go get 'em!' and sincere congratulations marked with several great questions about how everything would work from here on out.
(I should also mention at this point that one of my supervisors is an adoptive parent himself. Another coworker is an adoptive brother of not one, but three siblings. Our former production manager is a self-proclaimed "Third-Culture Kid" who, though American, grew up in the Czech Republic, speaking two languages and feeling as if she belonged everywhere and nowhere at the same time. These people get it. So when I shared with them that we were adopting, the support meter hit infinity. It has remained there throughout these many months.)
We got home and sat in front of the computer screen for a while. We talked, calmly, about the implications of what we were about to see. This could be our child. Our baby. Our little boy. Were we ready?
One of the things I love most about my husband is how measured he is — how thoughtful his approach to everything tends to be. When he proposed to me, I didn't realize it was even happening until about a third of the way through. For this reason, on the day we became parents, I remember calm. I remember his stillness soaking into my heart and sitting utterly placid and unrushed as we opened the email for the first time and stared, with disbelieving eyes, at our son. Our beautiful son.
I'll write more about the details of what happened next some other time. As you may or may not know, the international adoption process is long and involved and complicated, and deserves some further hashing out. Also, due to strict confidentiality, it will be some time before I'm able to disclose our son's name or show his picture. I'm still wrestling with how much of this story can be told while he's still so little, and before he knows what is really happening to him — before I can tell him the story of his past, and let him write his own future.
In the meantime, let's just say we've been waiting. We are, by current adoption-process definition, waiting parents. We receive monthly medical updates and pictures of our little boy. He recently celebrated his second birthday, just a couple weeks after my best friend's twins celebrated theirs, and we can't wait for their first play date together. Our parents are planning showers and providing gifts for us to send abroad. We made a "My Family" book on Pinhole Press for his foster parents to read to him, in the attempt to give him some sort of an inkling of who his expanded family will be. The outpouring of support and excitement over this little person is all at once heartening and life-changing, for all of us. We hope to travel to Korea to bring him home this fall, though it will be several more months before we receive our travel dates.
So for now, I am a mother who waits. And thinks.
I think about the first day he will look at me and realize how different our faces are and wonder, with all the innocence of a child and the confusion brought about by the human need to belong ... Why?
I think about the first day someone asks us, in front of him, who his "real" mother is, and how I'll respond.
I think about the day I'll tell him about his family in Korea, and how there are others, halfway across the world, who love him as much as we do. I practice for this moment incessantly.
By Mother's Day next year, I'll be thinking about what to make him for breakfast, which local park we'll head to for a play date, and how (please, universe!) I can sneak in just a little more sleep.
I'll also know so much more by then about how he's adjusting (Does he like vegetables as much as we hope he will? What is his favorite book, stuffed animal and toy?) I'll know how his face looks when the unmistakable California light comes through his window first thing in the early morning. I'll know how he feels when the ocean waves touch his little toes, envelop his ankles and recede again.
Like any parent, I will know so much and yet still, so little.
We are not yet together. Yet, I know in my deepest heart of hearts that we are a family. He is my son. I am a mother.