The Magical Number 3: Julie Young
“The Magical Number 3”
My children represent a hard fought battle that, thankfully, I won. Thank God and the Universe and Buddha and Allah and most of all, Dr. Chung and the Cornell Center for Reproductive Medicine, that I won. It took six, long and at times blindingly painful years for me to win this all out war against my body. My body, having no fallopian tubes, is unable to make babies on its own. I was born with fallopian tubes but I lost them, one at a time, during my six year battle to become a parent. My body was once able to make babies, in fact there were two others, one in 2002 and one in 2005. But neither baby made it because they both got stuck in a tube (known as ectopic pregnancy.) After they were stuck and continued to grow, the tubes ruptured sending me to emergency surgery to have my tubes and my pregnancies removed.
Too many times along the way I was asked, or worse, told “why don’t you just adopt.” Note to readers, even though you may be well intentioned in saying such a thing, your words are caustic to a woman battling infertility. And with me, as an adult who was adopted, there was always an added thought, whether spoken or not, “you were adopted so why wouldn’t you adopt?” The reason why I would not adopt, and why I fought for six years to have children from my and my husband’s DNA, is because I was adopted.
I was ripped away from my Korean family at the tender age of 3. Yes, I think of it as being ripped, torn, broken away from my family. My Korean mother (Oma) says she threw herself to the ground and was in a severe depression for many months after my plane took off. That sounds like being ripped to me. I imagine that I didn’t go so happily myself either. Actually, I imagine that I tried to put on a brave face but that inside I was dying. I was dying a slow, confusing, so painful- as- to- immediately- have- to- go- into- denial, painful death. At 3. I can imagine this so vividly because my twins are about to turn 3.
The other day I left work early to go to my children’s first music “recital.” (In reality, a bunch of small children singing a few songs.) My son and daughter came out holding hands. Almost immediately my son started crying and crying hard. He was scared, he didn’t like being in front of so many parents. He was cowering and trying to turn inward toward himself while standing up. The part about him crying that was most like a knife through my heart, was that he was trying to muffle himself. In other words, he was terrified but he was trying to be brave.
This is how I imagine I felt as I was getting on that gigantic steel bird to go to my soon-to-be new American family. It was the death of Yoon Ji Hyun. Cowering and scared, yet brave.
I can imagine my 3 year old death because my soon to be 3 year old daughter and I are cut intricately from the same cloth. I know that if I were to ever try and explain to her little, yet-oh-so vast, brain that she was going on a plane, alone, that she would have a new mommy and daddy; I know that amidst her confusion and pain, she would somehow still try and put on a brave face. The thought of such courage breaks my heart. As in, truly causes a physical ache in my heart. I can not imagine EVER giving up one of my children. Especially, after loving, raising, caring and witnessing them develop into these amazing little beings for 3 years. They are such complete little people in development. I just don’t understand. I can forgive, most of the time. But I can not understand.
Growing up I always thought I had been too young at 3 years old to really get what was going on when I was adopted. It was when my nieces and nephews started turning 3 that it first hit me. I had no idea that 3 year olds were such complete little people. And even though it was difficult for me to watch as my nieces and nephews turned three, nothing could have prepared me for what it would be like as my own children turn 3.
To see just how completely and fully my children understand what it means to be a part of our family stuns me sometimes. With all of their complexities and strong opinions. It makes me wonder, how on earth did I ever deal with being ripped away from my family? Being sent to a foreign land with foreign people who were suddenly my new mommy and daddy? Survival instinct, I suppose. Trying to imagine my daughter’s sadness and confusion in such a situation is just unfathomable. Utterly-the-thought-makes-me-want-to-puke-unfathomable. It is truly too difficult for me to think about. And yet, I did it. Or rather, it was done to me. I was sent away. I wonder how old I was when I started to forget. Was I 4? Was I 5? When did the memory of my Oma’s face fade from my conscious mind?
At night, I will lie in bed with my son or daughter and talk a little, or sing songs with them, before they go to sleep. Lately, as their third birthday approaches, I have been glad that we are in the dark when we do this. Otherwise, they might see the tears welling up in my eyes. As we sing and talk, I give thanks for them. And I give thanks to her. Thank you, Yoon Ji Hyun for being more brave than any three year old should ever have to be.
Julie Young, 38, was born Yoon Ji Hyun. She resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, son, daughter and red nosed pit bull. She is a recovering attorney and wanna-be writer/creative of some sort.