“Everyone has a story,” I say to myself when on a crowded airplane or walking through the park and seeing people of all sorts. And everyone’s story has meaning.

When it comes to adoption, no two stories are alike, yet similar emotions abound. The adoptee who, though given a life of love, acceptance and security, wonders about his past; the birth parents who love their child—sometimes just the memory of their child—and sacrificed their own needs to be loved unconditionally by one so pure; the adoptive parents who ached for parenthood, then gave their hearts more than once in failed adoptions, finally wondering if it can be real—those little hands grasping parental fingers.

Sometimes aren’t we a bit harsh, those of us who have experienced only one leg of the adoption triad?

Maybe it’s the birth mother who believes no one but she knows what pain really is—and she’s offended by the drama exhibited by adoptive parents who openly share how often they’ve been disappointed and discouraged.

Or maybe it’s the adoptive dad who can’t understand the needy birth parents—he’s pushing to close the door on their open adoption and keep his family all to himself.

Perhaps it’s the adoptee who holds resentment toward her birth mother and indifference for her adoptive parents who haven’t jumped on her search-and-reunion-bandwagon. Are any of us guilty of any of these feelings? Even to a small degree? Sometimes we might just need a little reminder that each of our journeys are filled with individualized hardship, pain, and adversity. When we remember that everyone really does have a story—a story that matters—it becomes easier to empathize and to ease up on judgement. Take a look at these real-life adoption experiences shared with BuzzFeed. As you read, remember that everyone’s story is remarkable, and everyone’s experience is meaningful.

Consider this story of two mothers and two fathers . . . a story that is filled with joy of family and pain of separation. It’s the story of Lindsay and Josh, who pushed through infertility, miscarriage, and failed adoption, finally beginning their family because of another couple.  It’s the story of Tiffany and Frankie, who loved so deeply that they said good-bye to their newborn son at the hospital as he was placed with Lindsay and Josh.

While your story may differ in details, certainly you’ll be reminded of the other players in your adoption triad as you read how all four of these adults felt as they experienced their personal pain and joy. As you read, you may be reminded of the sacrifices willingly offered by the others in your adoption triad, and perhaps you’ll be prompted, as I was, to be more grateful, less judgmental, and more sympathetic.

So here’s a call to action: Remember that your sacrifice isn’t the only one required in your story.  It’s a combined pain, a combined experience, and a combined love that brought you to this place.