I remember once, many years ago, talking with a friend who had recently completed an international adoption. I had followed her story closely as she recorded it on her blog, and had felt inspired to press forward in my own adoption journey. As we talked, she shared how difficult the process had been and how difficult it had continued to be even after they returned home. In listening to her, I said, “You’re so brave,” to which she replied, “Or crazy.” That statement struck me. To some, we are crazy, but that isn’t the truth. Brave is a word used quite often when describing certain players in the adoption triad, and it is usually and rightly attributed to birth mothers. But that day, as a hopeful adoptive parent, I realized the courage it takes to pursue adoption.

As a hopeful adoptive parent, you put your most vulnerable self out there for the world to see. Home studies are invasive. Adoption blogs, Facebook pages, and Instagram accounts are made public.  Adoption can come with a stigma, and by proclaiming that you are “hoping to adopt,” you open yourselves up to lots of differing opinions. Suddenly, you are thrust into a totally new world; a world of new terminology and laws that differ from state to state (or country to country,) where you fumble around trying to find the best fit for you and your family, all the while fielding questions from those who may not understand or support your journey.

Courage comes when you commit finances to agencies and attorneys with the hopes that you will be chosen to be parents by an expectant mother. You put on your bravest face when your profile is shown over and over again and never makes the final cut. Yet, every time a call comes about a situation, you say “yes!” when they ask if you are interested in being shown. It comes when you are once again not chosen and despite the crushing feeling in your chest, you still get up and go to work the next day.

Meeting an expectant mother for the first time is nerve-wracking. What should you say? How should you act? Will you be “perfect enough?” without being “too perfect” for her liking? But you push aside all your fears and show up to that meeting with hope that this could be the one.

You spend weeks putting your heart on the line as you develop a relationship with an amazing woman who has chosen adoption. But all the while, there are no guarantees. In the end, you may return home with empty arms and no money left in your adoption budget.

Courage is displayed as you rush to the airport and fly out on a red eye flight, hoping to make it to the hospital in time for the birth of a child, who still may not be yours. It is displayed as you awkwardly wait in hospital foyers or in the back of the room, not wanting to interfere, and not knowing where you fit in during this emotional time–and all the while you still give your best smile, a comforting hug, and words of encouragement and love to the woman who has just become a mother.

Placement day takes courage to a whole new level as you begin to experience emotions you didn’t see coming. You want this child to come home with you more than you’ve ever wanted anything, however the thought of the heartbreak it is causing another woman is almost more than you can bear. You simultaneously want it to happen and wish it wasn’t happening. Walking out the door with a new child in your arms seems so frightening, and yet, you do it with a resolve to keep every promise you made to this baby’s birth mother.

Open adoption takes courage as you put aside your own insecurities and allow your child to develop a relationship with the woman who gave him life. You do it out of love and push away the fearful questions of “what if he loves her more?” because you are doing what’s best for him. As you focus on having courage and showing love, your fears eventually subside, and upon looking back over your journey you realize that you are not the woman you once were.

You have overcome obstacles. You have answered criticism with grace. You have smiled when you wanted to cry. You have stepped up when you would have rather run away. You have invested in relationships without the promise of anything in return, and you have learned to love in a way you never knew existed.

So, when you feel as if you aren’t enough, give yourself the credit you deserve. You are amazing. You can do hard things. You are courageous.