When I was pregnant and planning to place my son for adoption, I often focused on the pain I imagined would occur. How hard it would be to hold him after birth knowing he wasn’t coming home with me, the first weeks and months without him in my belly, seeing him grown and raised by someone else. What I didn’t expect and what I am so grateful for are the joys of my open adoption that have blessed my life.

1. The amount of pride I feel.

I never thought I would feel so much joy by experiencing how beautiful of a child he is. I worried that I would be so wrapped up in my grief that I wouldn’t see past that. But when I see pictures of him looking so handsome, hear stories of how silly or smart he is, or play with him and see his mental wheels turning, my heart feels so full. I am so proud and happy that he is in the world, and that only grows more with time as he grows and amazes us all.

2. How I would find my soul sister in his mom.

When I thought of an open adoption, I hoped to like and find admirable the person that was chosen to be his mom. I never imagined I would love her with all my heart and find one of the best souls I have ever met in her. We’re bonded by our personal interests and weird senses of humor, but our greatest bond is by loving this boy so utterly and completely and wanting him to be happy and whole. In the few years of our journey so far, I cannot measure the amount of joy I’ve had by having her be his mom (and his dad be his dad!).

3. Falling further in love with his father and myself through the shared qualities he exhibits.

While the title of this list item is wordy, this one is simple: I love my son’s father and even myself more when I see the qualities from us that he shares. He really is the best of us. And without the benefit of open adoption, I wouldn’t be able to see his different qualities blossom and bloom. I’ve also found myself more in love with his father for holding my hand through the hard stuff and through having to make an adoption plan. We did what we could to give him what we thought was a better life and now strive to make our lives better and make him proud.

4. Being accepted by so many people who love him and I both.

Throughout the time I’ve been on this journey, I dealt with a lot of mixed opinions and reactions to making an adoption plan. But I have found such joy in the people that accept it and love both he and I. From his whole adoptive family to my tribe of birth moms and even friends within the adoption community, it has helped my heart to have people love me, and more importantly, love him so much. I count myself so lucky to have found these people and call them my family and friends.

Though there has been both expected and unexpected pain and grief in being a birth parent, I can’t believe the amount of unexpected joy I have gotten to experience too. When I think back to being a scared, sick, pregnant young woman, I could not have guessed where I would be at right now or the amount of love and pride I would have for that sweet baby boy. While adoption can be painful, I have personally found some joy in it too.