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I’m Not A Hero

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I was having a conversation with an older, 70s-aged gentleman who was sitting in our office waiting for a meeting. The conversation was casual. The topics didn’t go much deeper than the “how-about-that-weather?” jabber. Then someone mentioned to him that my twins were adopted. His reaction was incredibly sweet. He asked how old they were, asked their names, whether they’re walking and talking. The usual.

“And…you adopted them? You’re a hero for bringing them into your home. They’re lucky to have you.”

Wait. What?

Those three words, “You’re a hero” sat uneasy with me. Like a medal he was giving me that I didn’t deserve. He knew nothing about our story and how our kids came to be a part of our family. He simply made an assumption based on the fact that my children aren’t biologically mine.

If he had been a friend who said that to me while talking over lunch, I would have pulled out all of the feelings from that statement and politely poured them out on the table. I would have graciously made him aware of more appropriate and positive adoption language to use. But the surface-level conversation with this gentleman didn’t feel like an invite to pull out the counselor’s couch to talk about all the emotions and thoughts those three words “You’re a hero” brought to my surface. I knew his intentions were sweet and innocent, and I probably would never see him again – so I spared him all the feelings.

I was polite. “No sir, I’m not a hero for that. Thanks though. I appreciate your sentiment. I’m just a mom like every other mom.”

We smiled, and he was on his way two seconds later, oblivious to the deeper discussion his well-intended compliment warranted.

Since this grandfatherly gentleman and I weren’t friends talking over lunch, let’s pretend that you and I are enjoying a meal together. We’ll be buds, and I’ll share all the feelings with you that his comment splattered all over my heart…

First, I’m not a hero. I’m just a mother who found a different way to her children other than the traditional biological route. I’m a mother whose children were birthed, not from her womb, but through the miracle of adoption. Yes, parenting adopted children has specific aspects that we must be sensitive to as adoptive parents. But being an adoptive parent doesn’t make one a hero.

Second, I didn’t “bring them into my home” like stray cats. My children obviously aren’t cats. Let’s get that out of the way. We brought them into our home because that’s what parents do. When a woman births a child, she brings the baby home. We don’t look at that biological child and think, “She’s lucky her mom took her in.” Why should adoption be any different? The only difference is the route to becoming a family. Adopted children deserve the same respect as biological children in that their family brought them home because that’s what parents and families do.

And I get what some people mean when they say, “They’re lucky to have you as parents.” I always wonder about the motives behind this statement. When this comes from people that really know us and know the type of people that my husband and I are, I assume they say this because they think our made up silly songs, intentional connections with our kids, or nightly dance parties makes us great, fun parents. They’ve seen our parenting from the front row.

However, I’ve heard “they’re lucky to have you” from strangers in line at the grocery store. Our interactions are simply eye contact. They don’t see my day-to-day parenting at work. They know nothing about me and are only making an assumption because they see that my children are adopted. So saying “they’re lucky to have you” based merely on the fact that I adopted my children can come across to my children as saying “you’re lucky someone wanted you.” My children are only 15 months old right now, but can you imagine saying that to a child who has the ability to grasp what that means? It could make them feel damaged, unwanted, or unloved.

The fact is, I’m lucky to have them and we’re lucky to have each other – that is if you want to use the term “luck.” I prefer “blessed.” I’m not a hero because I brought them into my home. All moms are heroes. Period. Because they are raising little humans to hopefully someday become wonderful bigger humans who will make a difference in their world around them. It’s a tough job. Hats off to you, moms.

Just like a child that is birthed into a family belongs, so does an adopted child belong into the family in which they are placed. The only difference in our family is genetics. I’ve never looked at our adoption as us being saints in raising children placed for adoption. Viewing adoption as “saving a child” creates a hero complex. Which makes for very dangerous parenting because adoption is viewed as salvation. That perspective cripples a parent to be able to walk along side your child in any grief and loss that accompanies them from being adopted. Portraying yourself as your child’s “hero” to them {or anyone else} does not give them permission to feel the legitimate emotions that arise from their adoptive experience. And as parents, we want to be able to walk with our children through whatever joys and heartache they may experience in this life. Right?

I’m raising my children because they are my children. Not because I’m a hero, or wanted to bring stray children into my home, or because I feel like they’re lucky to have me as a parent, or because I wanted to save an orphan. I didn’t decide to put on a white hat, jump on my trusty steed, and happen to scoop up these twin “orphans” to nurture, secretly hoping to be recognized for my selfless act.

I just wanted to be a mom. I wanted to raise a family. I wanted to love. And adoption is how that happened. I’m just a mom with two incredible little people to raise. A mom who, just like every other mom out there, has baby food splattered on her floor and who worries about whether or not she’s doing enough to help her children thrive. And what an honor it is to me to be a mom through the miracle of adoption.

imnotahero

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11 Responses to I’m Not A Hero

  1. Andrea S
    Andrea S March 25, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    Thanks for sharing! I do think some people comment without thinking about the deeper meaning of how this would impact you (ah, is the story of life I guess) anyway… they mean well by giving you a compliment or just interacting with you I think. Good insight into what small passing comments can really mean to someone.

    • Hannah B
      Hannah B March 25, 2015 at 11:22 am #

      That’s true, Andrea…I think they do mean well (the majority of people anyway). That’s why grace is SO important in these types of situations. I always want my reactions to these things to be seasoned with grace.

  2. Natalia March 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Again thanks for sharing….hope I’ve never been one of those well-intentioned folks….but chances are I have…lesson learned:)

  3. Jeanette March 27, 2015 at 9:53 pm #

    I loved this. I have shared these exact feelings as well multiple times. Creating a family, no matter how it’s done, is so beautiful. We have 1 biological child, and so far 2 children through adoption (waiting for our next placement). Each of them have unique stories that they were born into and they have greatly enriched my life. We are so blessed to have them and that our stories intertwined.

  4. Melissa April 1, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    As an adopted child and a mom of 2, I politely disagree with you. I am lucky my family adopted me. I love my older brother (who was also adopted), and the parents who raised me. I was also lucky to know that I was loved before, that my mom was 17 and was not able to take care of me the way she wanted me to be cared for. I understand why you do not like the phrase or what it may imply but that is not the only implication it makes. It expensive to adopt, its emotional and not every mother can or is willing to go through it. From an outside view they are lucky that someone understood they needed more then what they could offer and it is much harder to let go of a child then people think.

    • Gretchin April 2, 2015 at 10:54 am #

      I agree with Hannah 100% and understand why she feels like she’s “just another mom” and WANTS to feel like “just another mom,” because she is.

      However, I have to say, it’s hard for me to not see you as a hero, and I often tell moms who didn’t adopt that they are heroes, too. 🙂

      I just watched a friend of mine go through the adoption process and a cousin go through infertility treatment and birth triplets. I saw another friend get pregnant and have a brand new baby boy but struggle with post-partum depression.

      I just want to give all you amazing mamas hero high-fives. Much love to you all!

    • Hannah B
      Hannah B April 6, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Melissa. I always love hearing from the perspective of an adoptee!

    • Cristy August 25, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

      Some of us, however m, weren’t as lucky. Some of us were adopted by a very abusive family and the term “lucky” shouldn’t be shoved across the board

  5. Gene June 29, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    Get the chip off your shoulder. The children are lucky as so many kids do not have a loving family and are passed from foster home to foster home. And yes, you are blessed by them. You just sound like you are looking for an offense where none exists. The Bible even talks about belssings for those who look out for the widows and orphans.

    • Hannah B
      Hannah B June 30, 2015 at 12:27 am #

      No chips here. Definitely wasn’t offended as I well described in my post. Thanks for your comment, but I think you missed the heart of my post. Just sharing my experience in order to have an open, respectful discussion about adoption language. It’s always my goal to pepper with grace all of my reactions to comments and questions about the subject and to carry on a graceful, kind discussion. That’s my heart. Nothing else.

  6. Ashley McLaurin September 21, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    my husband and I adopted twins this may :] #adoptionisfamily

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