Two years ago, when I discovered I was pregnant, I was dead set on parenting my baby. It didn’t matter that I was only 17. I was not going to shirk my responsibility as a mother. I took on extra shifts, working every minute that I could to pay for medical care and my baby’s future. I enrolled in college, determined to finish my education so we could live comfortably. I put down a deposit on an apartment and started stocking up on baby supplies. I did everything in my power to make sure I could give my baby a good life.

But I didn’t parent. I placed my daughter for adoption because it was the only thought that gave me any semblance of peace. I went with my gut and chose a couple to adopt my baby girl, and we have a wonderful open adoption. I see her often and she thrives with her parents who are now my dearest friends.

I pushed through the physical pain. I managed the postpartum depression. I shrugged off the insults and I learned to deal with missing her. Every month got a little easier as I rode the waves of grief. I reached a point where the happiness of adoption outweighed the hurt.

I started feeling good about my life. I excelled in my classes and was promoted at work. I completely changed my life for the better. I even met an incredible guy who made me feel like a princess.

But something doesn’t feel right about it all. Amidst all the happiness there is still a twinge in my gut that reminds me something is off. I have spent weeks trying to put my finger on exactly why I felt this way. A few days ago, I reached an epiphany: I feel guilty.

There is still a part of me that is 17 and determined to take responsibility for my actions. I feel like I haven’t done that. How could I just place my baby with someone else to raise and keep living my life like nothing ever happened? If I have time to date now, I would have had time for a baby. I think that I should be buying diapers instead of pizza and a new laptop. I feel like I abandoned her just because I was scared at the time. I feel like someone who does something that horrible shouldn’t be allowed to be happy.

And then I remembered the pep talk I give my friends who placed babies.

“You did the best you could. You are not a bad mom for doing what you felt was right for your child. You’re allowed to be happy and loved, and your baby is happy and loved too. You are so blessed to be able to see them thrive in the family you chose for them. Remember that the reasons that you placed are real. I know you, I see how much you love the child you created. I know you’re a wonderful person.”

I need to believe that about myself, and treat myself as kindly as I treat my friends. I am a good person. I chose life for a baby who is now a part of a beautiful family. I chose them carefully because I wanted her to have the very best. And she does. I don’t have to keep punishing myself for doing everything in my power to ensure Baby R has a happy life. I realize that deep down, I still have negative stereotypes about birth parents – about myself.

I’m allowed to eat pizza and go to school. I deserve a good man who treats me well. I did not abandon my child. I am there for her every day and I always will be. I did the best I could, and now my job is to make her proud. So I’ll let myself be happy and loved and become the kind of person I want her to be.

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