C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
As hopeful adoptive parents, we often come into the world of adoption after experiencing a lot of heartache and difficult emotions surrounding infertility in one form or another. That experience is deeply personal and the couples who have gone through it have usually spent a lot of time consumed with themselves: their bodies, their feelings, their hopes, and their dreams. And rightly so. The roller coaster they have been on requires that level of personal attention. Because of this, it can be easy to enter into adoption feeling as if we deserve things to go smoothly for us. After all, everything previous to this has felt like an uphill battle. Shouldn’t something work out? Doesn’t the universe owe this to us? We have been through so much.
Unfortunately, adoption often also proves to be difficult, and this can lead to more heartache. These emotions can become overwhelming and all-encompassing. We stay consumed with our situation and find it difficult to look beyond ourselves. We feel as if adoption is a competition between families: Who has the cutest picture? Who has the most creative adoption profile? Who bakes everything from scratch and throws amazing parties? Who has the cutest home? The nicest car? The best vacations? We can’t help but feel jealous whenever an announcement is made of a couple being chosen by an expectant mother. We wonder: What’s wrong with us? Why haven’t we been chosen yet? Even though we may be feeling lowly in heart, the idea that things should be going smoothly for us because we deserve it doesn’t actually come from a place of humility. Those feelings often cause us to feel angry and isolated. We tend to forget that there is another side to the adoption equation: an expectant mother who finds herself facing an unplanned pregnancy, who is also feeling alone and afraid. She is weighing her options: should she parent this child? Or should she place this child for adoption?
These experiences changed our hearts and opened our minds to what adoption was really about: Love. Love from all sides. This new feeling of love replaced the feelings of anger, anxiety, entitlement, and frustration.
I remember experiencing all of those painful feelings of frustration, seclusion, and dare I say, entitlement, as we hoped to be matched with an expectant mother for the first time. We had waited and prayed, worked and worried, cried and complained: This part wasn’t supposed to be the hard part. But it was, and I wasn’t feeling very humble about the process. I often lamented to my husband about what a “lonely road” adoption had turned out to be.
Sadly, it wasn’t until I finally held our son in my arms that the feelings of humility came. I rocked him and cried for his birth mother and for all she had gone through. I cried for the grief she was experiencing. I cried out of guilt that I was here, rocking HER baby to sleep. I cried out of gratitude for the enormity of the sacrifice she had made for her son. I cried huge, body-shaking tears for quite a while that night, and have cried them again, over and over, for the past three years as we have watched our son grow.
I suddenly and deeply felt what blogger Jody Landers so eloquently put into words when she said, “Children born to another woman call me ‘Mom.’ The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”
That was my first moment of true humility.
When we decided to pursue adoption a second time, our approach had changed. We no longer felt that anyone “owed” us anything. We were hoping to add to our family through the miracle of adoption, and after having gone through the process once, we truly recognized what a MIRACLE it was. We thought much less about our frustrations and chose to focus more on those around us. We got involved in the adoption community and learned the stories of hundreds of other couples who were hoping to adopt. They were right there with us. Adoption no longer felt like a competition between hopeful adoptive families. Instead it felt like a team effort. We shared possible situations when they arose, we encouraged one another on days that were hard, we prayed for each other, and we rejoiced when a success story was shared.
We spent time getting to know the courageous women who had chosen adoption for their children. We also learned their stories, and felt pain and sadness for their struggles. They became friends who taught us about unconditional love and pure sacrifice. Suddenly, instead of hoping every unplanned pregnancy would result in adoption, we became cheerleaders for those women and just wanted them to be able to do what felt right for their individual situation. We were able to offer them love and support without any ulterior motives.
These experiences changed our hearts and opened our minds to what adoption was really about: Love. Love from all sides. This new feeling of love replaced the feelings of anger, anxiety, entitlement, and frustration. It allowed us to feel strangely peaceful, even when our second adoption match failed. Of course we were sad, but we also felt humbled at the idea that we had even been chosen a second time—even if it didn’t end up going through. We felt humbled that we were able to get to know a second courageous woman, who was doing the best she could do in the circumstances she was in. We were humbled by her love for us and her trust in us. Allowing ourselves to be humble and unassuming brought our adoption hopes to a totally new level.
In speaking of humility, Thomas Moore offered this description, “Humility, that low, sweet root, from which all Heavenly Virtues shoot.” There is truth in that statement. From the roots of cultivating humility shoot sprigs of love, patience, kindness, and charity. Developing these attributes will only sweeten your adoption experience and make it so much more than you expected it could ever be.