adopting blog

Inspiration, Resources, Opinions & Advice From Our Adoption Community

How Compassion Can Help Improve Your Adoption Journey

Showing compassion in your adoption

Everybody makes mistakes. Everyone fails sometimes. No one is perfect.

But what if I said that everybody is always doing the best that they can?

This is a concept that was first introduced to me by Brené Brown, PhD in her book Rising Strong, and it kind of blew my mind. It helped that Brené was talking about how much trouble she had with this idea, which kept coming up in her research. There may be some people and situations we encounter where we do not want to apply this compassionate perspective. I hear you! But, since being introduced to this thought, the more I have embraced it, the better my life has become.

In my last post, I talked about the need to take personal responsibility for the wild ride that is the adoption process. I talked about the importance of feeling your feelings, taking care of yourself, and embracing the fact that you made the choice to adopt and participate. Well, there is another piece of the puzzle that I think makes owning your journey better and easier: compassion.

First, self-compassion.

What is self-compassion? In a nutshell, self-compassion is being kind to yourself.

How can you be self-compassionate? Treat yourself the same way that you would treat your best friend when they approached you with a stressful problem or devastating loss. Speak to yourself the same way that you would speak to a child, always with love and kindness. That is self-compassion.

Be kind. Cut yourself some slack. You totally deserve it!

There can be some confusion about self-compassion. Some people think that berating themselves is useful. A way to hold themselves accountable for their actions. But that is not true. Being able to evaluate situations is good and normal. But there is a difference between objective criticism and negative self-talk. Tearing yourself down makes it harder to keep moving forward. When you spend time yelling at yourself for every perceived mistake, getting up and trying again is that much harder.

Some people also think that if they are kind and compassionate towards themselves, they will become lazy and entitled. That is also not true. Self-compassion and kindness have been proven to help increase productivity, not diminish it. Self-compassion has also been linked with lower anxiety levels, less conflict, and more peace of mind. That sounds good, doesn’t it?

If we really embrace the thought that everybody is doing the best that they can, how does that change how you look at yourself? Does it let you treat yourself with more compassion? I certainly hope so.

Self-compassion enables us to look at the things that we have done, even the times when we feel like we have failed or fallen down, and say, “Oh! That sucked. I was trying my best, even though it doesn’t look that way now. What can I learn from this?”

When you are getting frustrated at all the waiting in the adoption journey, when you are losing your patience with a partner or a loved one, when you just aren’t measuring up to the high standards that you have for yourself, practice self-compassion. You are doing the best that you can. Take a breath, take a break, look for what you can learn, and try again.

There is a Buddhist principle that says that you must care about yourself before you can really care about others. As you are going on your adoption journey, don’t you want to be able to love and care for others better? Isn’t that one of the major goals of trying to bring a child (or children) into your home? That process starts with self-compassion and self-love.

Second, compassion for others.

What does compassion for others look like? Be kind. You can think of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Except, approach it with your own self-compassion in mind.

One of the big concerns that I have seen about compassion for others is justice. If you are being compassionate all the time, won’t people walk all over you? No way! I’m never recommending that you let this happen. You should still hold people accountable for their inappropriate actions, but you can approach these things with love and kindness instead of anger and disdain.

The adoption journey can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes we can get stressed and overwhelmed and upset with the people who are on the journey with us. Can we try to show them some compassion instead of frustration?

Compassion For Birth Mother & Expectant Parents

I’d like to take a minute for some compassion for all the expectant mothers and the birth mothers out there. Can you imagine how hard and heartbreaking the decision is to place a child for adoption? That is one of the bravest and most selfless things ever. I know that my daughter’s birth mother has gotten a lot of flak from people about her decision. Can you imagine? Loving your child enough to put their needs above your own, and then having other people judge you for it? It makes me so sad. Can we please show these brave women that they matter and that we KNOW that they are doing the best thing that they can, given their circumstances? Let’s show them the kindness and compassion they deserve.

My husband and I spent 5 months thinking that we were going to be parents to a little girl at the end of 2015. On the day that the expectant mother gave birth, she changed her mind and chose to keep the baby. My heart shattered into a million pieces. I wanted to be a mom so badly! But even while I was crushed and grieving, I knew that she was just doing the best that she could. She didn’t try to mislead us – she just changed her mind. My heart was empathetic, and though it was hard, I knew I could show her the compassion that I needed to show myself at the same time.

Eventually we got our happy ending. We connected with a different expectant mother. She chose us and we got to see her through the process. Along the way, we got to be amazing friends. I was very conscious of the fact that there was another woman – another mother – another human being who knew she was doing something overwhelming, but that it was the best decision for the child. While I was caring for my newborn daughter, I was also reaching out and trying my best to be there for her. She needed help, love, kindness, and compassion. And I was happy to oblige.

What about other people in your adoption journey? The social worker or the attorney that messed something up? The agency, where things haven’t gone quite the way that you planned? Most of those people are in this field because they care. They want to help form amazing families. And they want to make sure that the children are well cared for. So, can we please give them the benefit of the doubt, and say that they are doing the best that they can? They deserve compassion as well!

I also want you to keep in mind your family members and friends – your support system. Some of them may not get it. They may not know how to act or what to say about adoption. They may say or do some insensitive things. They love you anyway and they are likely doing the best that they can. Please, show them compassion and kindness. On the other end of the spectrum, you could have some family and friends who understand. They get it and they want to be there for you. Please, let them show YOU compassion. If it’s what they want to do, be willing to accept the compassion and the help and the support.

As you go about embracing your adoption journey, please, take the time to show yourself compassion. As you interact with others, please show them the same compassion. Remember, nobody is perfect. We are all doing the best that we can. This whole adoption journey is about letting more love into your life and into your heart by bringing a child into your home. I know that as you practice self-compassion and compassion for others, it will help make your journey a little better and a little easier.