Possums are famous for playing dead when they feel threatened. The frozen state they assume is involuntary and can last for hours. In the weeks after placement, I did the same thing. When I woke up, my limbs were unwilling to move. I often overslept, and I took little interest in anything. My mother called it “possuming.” It was a light-hearted way to label my psychosomatic tendency.

Pregnancy and placement cause significant changes to your mind, body, and heart. Food intolerances may arise, your mood can plummet with post-partum hormones, your thyroid readjusts, and your sense of lost maternity can make being around children almost unbearable. These short but significant chapters in life are likely to affect everything you are. Like the grief for your birth child, the grief for who you once were or what you hoped for can be debilitating.

So how much longer do you have to suffer? When do things go back to normal?

First, consider the obvious: you can’t re-create the past. In that sense, things will never go back to normal. They can never be what they were. Theoretically, the concept is simple. However, this age-old fact eludes the nostalgic. Like the infant that so quickly develops, you transform, too. For many young birth mothers, the gestational period is what catapults them into womanhood. You can, and should, be permanently changed by your situation.

The changes don’t all have to be solemn. Coping with my unplanned pregnancy lent me both compassion and perspective. I learned to love at the greatest depths, and I gained independence. Through all of our experiences in life, there is something to learn. At the end of turmoil is a reward, even if it doesn’t seem apparent. Accept these rewards graciously. Consider that you have created a new normal.

If you wish, you can still salvage pieces of your old situation. For instance, I chose to move back to my hometown so as to reacquaint myself with my family and the more childlike self I once was. In the old setting, I saw some great things come back as I healed: my ability to laugh, my interest in hobbies, and my fondness for close friends. But with each bounty I regained, I was faced with a threat: toxic exes, tempting habits, and assumptive criticisms.

Ultimately, you are the one who chooses what to maintain as part of you. Select the best qualities from your past and present to focus on and nurture. Let the others die away; you need not oblige them.

Your feelings and attitudes toward children may be modified greatly after placement. While a baby’s cry was once something that made you cringe, it may now make you want to weep. Seeing families may trigger deep yearning within you and serve as a reminder of your painful situation. In addition to the emotional reasons for these shifts, your perspective may be further explained by the biological and psychological changes that occur after giving birth. Placement comes as a traumatic shock to your mind and body: While you may logically understand the reasons for placement, your body doesn’t understand what the separation means.

There isn’t much that you can do to heal this particular wound. Science indicates that phobias are maintained when avoidance continues to bring relief. From a similar standpoint, continuing to avoid children, especially families, may only make this unique reaction worse. Instead, cautiously continue your interactions with children as you would have before. Understand your limits, and allow yourself breaks if needed.

Wherever you are in your journey as a birth mother, recognize that the bitterness and sweetness of your situation will always fluctuate. Recall for yourself how your experiences have changed you, and take care to internally reflect on your complacence with those changes. Accept who you are graciously. Though it may seem odd, have gratitude for what you’ve gleaned from your experiences, for what you learn shapes who you are.