Nine years ago this August, I placed my only child for adoption—a baby girl. Choosing to be a birth mom was the hardest and smartest thing I have ever done.

It was smart because it left me relieved that she would have the life I couldn’t give her but wanted her to have. It was hard because there was a lot of relief I had to wait to feel.

Our semi-open adoption keeps me updated on the details of her life. Her adoptive parents and I exchange pictures, letters, videos, cards, gifts, and emails a few times a year. I write her meaningful letters on her birthday. And we so look forward to the two visits per year that we have arranged.

I didn’t believe that time would heal my heart, despite other birth moms reassuring me that it would. Birth moms also told me that someday I’d be able to think of my little girl without tears or pain. I’d be able to feel a calm assurance that I had done the right thing because she was happy. Deep down, though, I doubted I could ever achieve that. So I always just nodded and pretended to agree. It wasn’t until years later—after enough time passed—that I started to experience the relief those birth moms promised.

Now, when I hear a little girl giggle or see a newborn infant all wrapped up in blankets, my heart doesn’t feel like it’s ripping in half. Instead, there is a dull aching which is almost always over-powered by a feeling of peace. The pain is still there, but it’s ripening into something bittersweet.

I was not forced to place my daughter for adoption, and I don’t regret my decision. I chose to be a birth mom because I love my little girl.