Choosing Empathy Over Judgement
Words by Rebecca Gregerson
We often get to a point in life where we think we’ve got it all figured out… confident in what we’ve built and decisions we’ve made. I know I did. I was thriving in career, marriage, and adventures. At some point during this phase, I started to grant myself permission to judge others who made choices I disagreed with. Personal choices that were none of my business. I started selfishly turning up my nose to empathy.
The time came that my husband and I felt like we should start considering children. Did we or didn’t we want them? How did we want to build our family? After careful consideration and research, we decided on adoption. We’d often taken the path less traveled and felt like we were the type of couple that could love to the fullest regardless of a biological connection. We were global thinkers and we could make a difference in various ways by taking this non-traditional approach. And so began a journey that taught lessons in so much more than I thought possible.
Paperwork. Fingerprints, Physicals, Interviews, Reading, Learning, More Paperwork. Background checks, Money, Letters of Recommendation, Official stamps, Approved. Waiting. Existent judgement increasing.
No one was like us… no one seemed to be choosing this path first. I understood if people wanted to conceive biologically and it worked out. But watching so many take all of these crazy, extraordinary measures— spending thousands, tens of thousands, fertility drugs, injections— it would just eat away at me. Twins, quintuplets, and SEXtuplets seemed to be everywhere with friends holding diaper drives to help the birth families who couldn’t support what they’d created. How can people be so selfish knowing that there are so many children in the world that need loving homes? I was on a high horse and, in my mind, they were either narcissistic or ignorant.
I actually felt these things. I actually expressed these things openly. Unfortunately, people around me were listening.
As we were knee deep in our process, my closest friend, who was like a sister, announced to me that they were also going to adopt. Wow, of course they would. They’re just like us. They get it. I was so excited about this, asking for updates, waiting for them to tell their families. It felt like such a fun and beautiful connection for us to share. Then, something changed. I had a strange feeling. She finally told me the truth. They’d been trying for a while and she’d had a miscarriage. They changed their mind and wanted to continue to try for biological. She couldn’t explain. It was just something they needed to do.
I tried to understand. I didn’t. I couldn’t! I, selfishly, viewed their decision as a choice against what my children would represent. She lied to me a lot. How could I trust her after that? She could have told me to screw off, but I had the upper hand in the fall out. So, instead, I got to say it was the betrayal that ended the friendship, not my judgement of her choice. Like sisters, no more.
My husband and I moved shortly after, started life in a new city, and finally brought home our baby from Ethiopia. While lengthy, the process went pretty smoothly resulting in a beautiful boy who lit up our lives. What next? A sibling, of course.
More paperwork, more everything. We were getting close. Then, problems. So, so many problems.
International adoption is laden with complexities. Close to two years and in the home stretch, our agency made the decision to close its program in Ethiopia. Finding ourselves back at square one, we regrouped and started considering what “extraordinary measures” WE would need to take. It was different though, of course. After months of soul searching, we decided to pursue a domestic program. The problems continued.
The friendship loss still truly haunted me during this time. I deeply wished I could share these struggles with her, but my pride kept me from reaching out. I still held on to false beliefs of the reason we fell apart.
The domestic process seemed easy after all we’d experienced, but strange none the less, like we were selling ourselves. Would anyone choose us? Would they like our sweet, professionally created portfolio? Would we be as lucky as Matt and Zach who got the call two days after their paperwork approval and are now home with a bouncing baby boy? We would not.
Each and every failed attempt that we went through was grueling and heartbreaking in a different way, shaking me to the core. Preparing and undoing over and over. Still, we kept moving the line pushing for something that didn’t seem meant to happen. Why was this so hard? Why wouldn’t this baby come to us? We reached our limit after flying across the country, making it all the way to a hospital parking lot, and being told not to go in. What were we doing to ourselves? Time to call it quits. No sibling, no baby.
As life usually works, sadness of those depths brought forth some major reflection that I so clearly needed to face. I had judged so many for doing what they needed or wanted to do in terms of building a family. And then it finally hit me…I had done the exact same thing! I had moved my boundaries, readjusted the limits over and over, made decisions from the heart, felt desperate to make them work, and did what felt right for us. Nobody ever questioned that.
My heart opened up and I found such comfort and gratitude in what I’d learned. I was bursting to reach out to that dear friend that I’d let go of, regretful beyond measure for never giving her a safe place to share her heartbreak or her decisions. She forgave.
Everyone is going through life with a different set of experiences and circumstances that influence every move they make. No one’s are better or worse, right or wrong…just different. I learned the hard way, but now I choose empathy.
Rebecca Gregerson is a busy entrepreneur who runs, Pieces, an art and decor business and a brand new organizational app called My Proxy Fox. She is always bursting with new ideas and loves finding creative ways to bring them to life. Outside of chasing her career dreams, her heart belongs to her super supportive and all around awesome husband, two spunky and fabulous littles, and two of the sweetest fur babies in town.