No matter what your placement situation looks like, it is normal to expect a broad range of emotions. There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter adoption—each is unique. Some expectant mothers will feel sadness way more than happiness, others will feel peace with a touch of jealousy. No matter what you feel, know that it is normal and healthy to let yourself to feel. The following are emotions I felt (and displayed) on placement day.

Fear

Overwhelming, consuming fear. Fear of what was to come, whether or not I could handle placement, that I couldn’t sign the papers, and that I had chosen the wrong family. I knew I would only get one shot at this and I wanted it to be perfect, but I was also terrified for it to actually happen. I even feared that my chosen couple wouldn’t want my baby—ridiculous, but it was there all the same.

Sadness

It wasn’t quite grief yet, but I was very sad. I was sad that the time had passed so quickly. I was sad that I would be saying goodbye to my firstborn. My tears flowed freely all day, and in a way the sadness was a calming emotion that kept me grounded. It was a solid feeling. I could survive in sadness, because it wasn’t making me act irrationally.

Anger

Between my waves of fear and sadness, I became angry. I was angry at myself for being in the situation, angry at my son’s birth father for not rescuing me (a blessing, I later understood), and even angry at my chosen family. I was angry that everyone around me seemed to be able to take care of a child, but I knew that I wasn’t ready. It just didn’t seem fair. In my mind I lashed out at my son’s birth father and my chosen family. Although my anger was misplaced, I am grateful that I was able to feel it.

Hope

As faint as it was, I felt a glimmer of hope. Hope for better, brighter days. Hope for an amazing future for my son and myself. Hope that I would not lose myself in this, and it would make me a stronger, better person. I had hope because I truly loved my son so much.

Loneliness

I constantly had people around me (except for a few brief minutes in the car after placement, during which I had an actual panic attack), but even so, I felt incredibly lonely. Nobody else could quite understand the gravity of the situation I was in, and because of it I felt so alone.

Gratitude

As sad as the whole situation was, I felt overwhelming gratitude for my family and my chosen family. I was even grateful for my son’s birth father. If I needed to be in a crappy situation and admit to myself that I wasn’t ready to be a parent, at least I had a huge support system and was in a good place mentally to recognize it. In many ways, I was even grateful for my unplanned pregnancy because it had turned my life around.

Peace

The peace didn’t come until placement. As I began to sign relinquishment papers, I closed my eyes and said a silent, desperate prayer for strength. Although I was ugly-crying, I felt peace surrounding me. It became stronger when my son’s parents walked into the room, and I couldn’t deny that they were absolutely meant to be his, and he was meant to be theirs. That peace gave me the mental clarity I needed.

Love

The most important emotion that I felt on placement day was love. Possibly for the first time, I felt an unconditional and powerful love that I had never felt before. I love my birth son more than words can ever describe. To this day, my love for him differs from that for my husband and even my children that I am raising. It is not stronger or better, but different. I am not his mother, but I would still do anything in my power to protect him.

That unconditional and huge love was how I found the strength to go through with placement. I drove to the agency, I signed the relinquishment papers, and I placed him into the arms of his parents out of love. No other emotion could have made me go against nature, and at the same time do the most natural thing in the world: give my child the absolute best. I was protecting him from an uncertain future and breaking my own heart in the process. When people talk about love healing, I believe that it is true. Even while my heart was tearing apart, the love for my son and his parents-to-be was already at work mending it. Almost 7 years later, that love has only increased.

Sometimes it seems that one person feeling so many things at once would make them explode. The beautiful thing about being human is that we do get to feel so many things, to experience this life in all its imperfection. Let those feelings come, and be emotional. What you feel is strong, real, and powerful. It is heartbreaking and life-changing. Never be afraid to feel too much—it is when we stop feeling that we lose our humanity.

If you’re pregnant and considering adoption, you don’t have to do it alone. Click here to connect with a compassionate adoption professional who can help you think through your options . . . at absolutely no charge.