People often say that adopted children are lucky. This article suggests that it is the adoptive parents who are the lucky ones in adoption.

Feeling Lucky? The Real Luck in Adoption

If I got a penny for every time I heard how lucky my kids are to have me and my husband, I wouldn’t be wealthy (I don’t talk to that many people) but I could certainly afford to feed us all a nice dinner out. And the truth is I wish that was the case. I wish my kids were the lucky ones in this convoluted adoption equation. I wish that their lives were the ones that were so dramatically improved that they would never feel their loss, or grieve their past, or wish things could have been different.

The truth is that my husband and I are no one special. My precious people didn’t luck into an “Annie!” situation. No mansions or Broadway shows or servants to enchant with their smiles. We are exactly nothing like a child’s fantasy about their adoptive family could be like. However, there are still people who will look at my children who have been through unknown, unspeakable trauma and declare how lucky they are. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If luck had anything to do with it (and I don’t believe it did), my husband and I are the lucky ones. I get the extreme privilege of the cherished name “mama.” I get to celebrate victories large and small with my kids. Their first bike ride on two wheels, their first chapter book, and their first adorable, gap-toothed grin after they lose their first tooth. 

For me to be this lucky, my children whom I adore first had to be born into a world of chaos and trauma. First, a mama had to choose to let someone else raise their baby, either with their actions or choices. First, there had to be a situation that someone considered that giving their baby over to someone else was the best choice. That doesn’t make the child feel lucky. If anything, it makes the child feel like the unluckiest in the world.

At four years old, my youngest daughter asked me why her birth parents didn’t want her. I had to explain that they did want her but that they were making unsafe choices for her and her brothers so they had to choose someone else to be their Mama and Papa. At four, she was feeling the weight of someone not loving her or wanting her. I will never call that lucky. Some families are blessed enough that they got to make calm, well-timed, well-arranged decisions that are mutually beneficial for everyone involved. My kids’ families had no such luxuries. Even kids who are adopted in the best possible scenario are likely to have some doubts and issues with self-worth somewhere down the line. 

So, are you feeling lucky? If luck is a factor, it almost always errs on the side of adoptive parents. Let me explain. Most adoptive parents don’t enter into the adoption world without some type of motivation. It may be religiously driven or it may be that they cannot have biological children. They may feel their family isn’t complete and they are missing someone. It could be any or all of the above or something completely different. The point is, it is rarely a truly altruistic endeavor. This is of course not to say it is always a selfish motivation, but rather just to say that there is usually something for the adoptive family to gain through the process.

For everything to work out, if luck is a factor and not divine providence, or karma, or the universe working things out, luck has to be on the side of the adoptive parents. First, they have to have enough money to apply to adopt. They have to make enough money that a judge would logically say that the new parents are fit to parent. They have to be able to pay adoption agency fees (unless they are pursuing foster to adopt, which is a different ballgame but fiscal responsibility is still involved). 

So first the family has to be lucky enough to want to figure out the long process of adoption. Then they have to be lucky enough to find an adoption agency to work with them and their situations (whatever those may be). The next lucky step is having a birth family choose them and then the birth parents choose adoption after the baby is born. Then the adoptive family will need continual luck to have a baby who isn’t sick, drug-addicted, medically fragile, etc. They will need lots of luck to make sure the baby grows up to be a healthy, well-adjusted, productive member of society. If most of these things happen in the time frame set by outside forces, then the family formed by adoption will be considered “lucky.” That, however, leaves everyone else out of the picture. 

Not to be pessimistic but let’s look at this picture from the flip side. The birth family has to choose or have the decision made for them that they cannot parent. They have to choose a family to parent their baby and hope that they aren’t too weird. They must carry the baby for nine months, give birth, heal from birth, maintain contact, stay clean, and heal emotionally. None of that feels lucky to me.

Birth parents make a very difficult decision that they have to be okay with for the next 18 years minimum. They have to hope that they made the right choices and leave it in the hands of other people. That doesn’t feel particularly lucky. But no one said that birth parents were the lucky ones in the adoption equation anyway. So let’s look at the stars of the show: the babies. The precious children “lucky” enough to be adopted by loving, doting parents who dreamed about parenting perfect angel babies. 

First, the baby is conceived. They in no way asked for this but they will spend nine months getting to know the voice of the person carrying them and all of the people around them. They will feel the moods of their mother shift, eat what she eats, feel what she feels. Then nine months later, they will be pushed or pulled out into a cold, overbright world. They instinctively turn their head towards the woman who has carried them for the past nine months, seeking her warmth and her milk.

But wait, where is he/she going? The baby is placed in the open, waiting arms of another. Someone is crying and taking pictures. The baby is bewildered and starts to cry. Birth mom bites her lip to stop herself from crying while adoptive parents are in the room. They pack up their things and leave. The baby is carried further and further away from the person who bore him. The person whose scent he still carries. His life will get increasingly complicated from that day forward. 

Please, don’t get it twisted. I adore adoption. I have many times talked about how I would not have my beautiful family if adoption wasn’t a thing. But I just don’t think luck has anything to do with it. Let me wax philosophical for a moment if you’ll indulge me. What if none of us, those who participate in adoption and those who don’t, are lucky? What if sometimes things just happen and we make the most out of them because that’s the best we can do?

Some people are born wealthy, some are born poor. We have no control at all over how much money our parents make. We have no control at all of the weather, people around us, even people in our homes. My children, though dear to me and precious beyond measure, are not controlled by me. They have their own free will to do what they want when they want to. I try to train them to make wise decisions but at the end of the day, it’s up to them to make and own their choices. 

So, if I don’t believe in luck, what do I believe in? Glad you asked. I believe that my children should have been raised by birth parents who made healthy, safe decisions for their children. That unfortunately didn’t happen. If I could rewind the whole thing and fix it, I would, even if it meant I didn’t get my children because they deserve the best. The best is a healthy forever family. I try hard and I work at it. I will never know what my kids’ first kicks felt like. I don’t know their birth weights or have their first precious foot and handprints. I can’t help them put together an accurate family tree. 

So, who are the lucky ones in the adoption triad? If luck is even a factor, and I don’t believe it is, the adoptive parents are the luckiest of all. We get this undeserved gift of a child to love. I cannot imagine loving a person more than I love my children. They are sometimes difficult to live with because their trauma before coming to us is so bad. 

My six-year-old has been known to throw punches and chairs. She is also the best hugger, has the sweetest face, and is the most gorgeous, perfect-looking little thing you have ever seen. There is a chance I am biased here but I think my kids are possibly the cutest in the world. I get to say that since my genes aren’t even part of the equation. 

My other six-year-old is the sweetest, most contrarian child you have ever met. She smiles and it lights up the room. You tell her “no” and she will do everything in her power to make your life miserable. 

My eight-year-old couldn’t be closer to what I was like as an eight-year-old if I had birthed her myself and given her step-by-step instructions. It is uncanny how similar we are. This is not a fantastic thing when you realize I am a very emotional person. My daughter is eight and can storm out of a room like a hurricane. She cries loudly and long. She is easy to annoy, easy to frustrate, and very, very easy to make angry. However, she has the most compassion out of any of my children. She plays little mommy to everyone in the house and reads my expressions like a book. She is a delight and a terror and my life would be empty without her and her sisters. 

My older boys, I could write a book on how far they’ve come from the frightened little children who walked through my front door over five years ago. They look like young men now, not children far too small to be the ages they were supposed to be. They amaze me with their talents, their growth, and their capacity to annoy their little sisters on purpose. 

Adoption is most certainly not for the faint of heart but in a game of chance, I managed to gain a family that is more than I could ever imagine. I laugh more, cry more, pray more, negotiate more, sing more, hug more, tickle more, and dream more than I ever could have guessed I would. 

So, the next time you think to yourself that an adopted child is so lucky to have been adopted by loving parents, I would ask you to think before you speak. Yes, there are good things in my children’s lives because we adopted them. We spoil them. We are extravagant with them at times because we want them to feel their worth. But I don’t think that being able to do what we do for them makes us the best possible choice for them. They aren’t lucky. I am the luckiest person that I get to be their mom. 

Christina Gochnauer

Christina Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor's degree of Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from "hard places" in her church and community.