Updated: Jul 17
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"An adopted baby is a lucky baby," said the elderly church ladies who informed me of their prayers for my arrival.
"You should feel so blessed that Jesus brought you here," they’d continue. “This was all a part of God’s special plan for you.”
They would gush over my adoption as if I’d earned it. But with every insistence of my “luck,” they would always forget to mention the part of my narrative in which an abandoned baby is an unwanted baby.
My luck as an adoptee was often backed by the tragedy of China’s One Child Policy and how God’s plan allowed me to have a life here in America, in the land of the free. Additionally, they’d also tell me I was lucky to be in a country where I could know Jesus, stringing together the notion that the CCP banned the word of God– but their facts on that point were a little bit erroneous.
Then again, most of these elderly ladies grew up when the Chinese Revolution heightened with the fall of mainland China to communism and the fear of the Second Red Scare pervaded their minds.
Nevertheless, I believed in this luck and clung to it. I believed I was special and that my adoption was a benefit; it saved me from the clutches of the communist party that rules my motherland. It preserved my happiness and ignorance of the truth, like how Annie’s locket protected her from the broken promise that her parents would return. But just as Annie had to face her truth, I eventually faced mine.
When the elderly church ladies would come up to me and tell me about their prayers, I always wondered what exactly they were all praying about– the scariest thing about my adoption was that I got good parents (they knew I did), and that the plane to America didn’t crash (it didn’t). After mulling these prayers over in my head, I dug into what adoption meant, as a full process. Adoption in full requires a child as well as the abandonment of the child, yet the former requirement seems to be the only part that is remembered and the latter forgotten.
The word “abandoned” used to be just another word for me and was never associated with the word “adoption.” It wasn’t until after I watched Nanfu Wang’s One Child Nation and Amanda Lipitz’s Found that the word “abandoned” opened the wound it had made 18 years ago.
Even lucky coins can have a dark side, for there cannot be yin without yang. As yang is light and male, yin is dark and female-- and in this case unwanted. The loss that is overshadowed by luck remains a mystery for me and most other adoptees. Carving the luck out of an adoption story doesn't get rid of its grief and loss. Adoption is composed of both happy and sad, loss and gain-- both are essential to its truth and both never disappear. Pushing away feelings doesn't get rid of them, but only preserves them for later.
Thousands of questions and possibilities flood my mind when I think about my “gift:”
Was I given up or was I taken? The fact that some adoptees were stolen from their families creates another if and a yearning to know the full story of their beginning.
Is there someone out there waiting for me to find them? After learning about Kati Pohler’s story of how her biological father was burdened with guilt for giving up his daughter and that every year since, on the same day, he waited for her on a bridge in Hangzhou. What if there is someone out there waiting on a bridge for me?
Or when I overhear others accept compliments I’ll never receive: “You have your mother’s eyes and your fathers nose.” Who’s eyes do I have? Who gave me my nose? Who’s reflections make up my complexion?
Who knew that the gift of luck would be accompanied by so many unknowns—definitely not the elderly church ladies.
Editors: Danielle C., Joyce P., Claudia S., Leila W., Erika Y.