I was thinking the other day about something that people say to adoptive parents that I've never heard them say to parents who've given birth. Maybe they do say it, but no one said it to me when I gave birth to our daughter and I've never heard it so I'm operating on the principle that no one says it to parents by birth. But when our son was a baby I heard it often. Someone would know our story and look at our beautiful baby boy and say "he sure is lucky that you guys adopted him." Or they would see him do something adorable and comment, "what a lucky baby." And I'm going to be honest, that phrase still makes me seethe.
It's not that I don't want my son to feel blessed that we're his parents. I do. Just like I want our daughter to feel blessed that we're her parents. Just like every parent wants their children to feel thankful for the sacrifices parents make to give their children a good life. But this phrase cuts me because it somehow implies that we did our son a favor. It implies that he was a stray that we took in because we have such good hearts. It goes back to an issue that so many adoptees struggle with--the feeling that they were castoff, that somehow there was something so wrong with them that their birthparents rejected them at birth. I know it's not true. I know the love that went into the sacrifice my son's birthparents made when they decided not to parent him themselves. But the truth is that there is a loss at the heart of every adoption that needs to be dealt with. And I don't like how our society turns that loss of the adoptee's first relationship into something that makes him "lucky" because now he's with us.
The reality is that if we hadn't adopted our son, someone else would have. We didn't save him from an orphanage or death. It's even possible that he could have been adopted by a family with way more money than we have. In 1995, the year of our son's birth, there were 100,000 women in the US who had applied to adopt. According to the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth there are an estimated 3.3 adoption seekers for every actual adoption. We truly didn't rescue him.
Truth be told, we felt like the lucky ones. The day his birthparents selected our profile out of all the waiting families at our agency was better than winning the lottery. But there's more to it. We knew then and have had it confirmed over and over that God put our family together. Our family felt incomplete until we had our second child. We prayed and prayed for a baby, prayed for a child who would be ours and that's exactly what we got. He is as much my child as the daughter who shares my genetics and grew in my body. He continually reminds me of members of my family in both looks and personality. He also is unique and brings in a richness that wouldn't exist in our family if he wasn't here. Even 16 years later, I marvel that I've been blessed to have this child in my life.
I guess my point is, if you know someone who is adopting or has adopted, share their joy. Rejoice with them and marvel at one of the wonderful ways that families are made. But keep the "lucky" comments inside. Thanks.