Let’s just say it how it is: adoption can be hard for every member of the triad. For those seeking to adopt, the wait can be excruciating. For those placing their child, giving up parenting is heartbreaking. And those who are adopted have to deal with a lot of difficult questions. And those are just the obvious hardships. Every case is different, so I know I can’t speak for everyone. But if there is one thing I know: it can get better.

I won’t pretend like I know an over abundance of birth mothers or that I understand each birth mothers’ circumstances. But the few that I do know, coupled with my own experiences, are a testament that life doesn’t have to be a constant downward spiral of despair and gloom. Actually, quite the contrary. Being a birth mother can shape you into a better person if you’re willing to take responsibility and learn from your experience.

In my situation, placing my son was the way I took responsibility for my actions. I was willing to make poor choices without considering the fallout. However, pretending like there weren’t consequences for my actions didn’t free me from them. Like someone who drives recklessly, crashes and ends up paralyzed, or someone who commits a crime, gets caught and ends up in prison the rest of their life—they took a risk knowing there was a chance something could go wrong, but did it anyway. I took a chance and will deal with those consequences the rest of my life. They will never go away. I will never be my son’s parent. Ever.

I’ve learned so much from my son’s placement, from how to look at it with positivity, to how I can ensure I don’t feel the need to place another one of my children. It’s taken years to get where I am now, and it’ll take more years to get to an even better place, but I have not let my past hold me back or stop me from finding joy. I’ve managed to find an amazing man who loves me. I have a beautiful daughter who lights up my world just by existing. I have a job where I’m valued for my integrity and hard work. I have my faith that helps me feel like my mistakes don’t define me. And I have the most amazing son who opened the door for me to have an extended family. I wouldn’t have these and many other blessings if it wasn’t for my experience with adoption.

I can confidently say I am a better person now because of it. Was it easy? Not even a little. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Did the repercussions of my past actions disappear over time? No. I think about it every day and have to play a constant mental game to keep myself from self-loathing. Was it worth it? Without a shadow of a doubt. I know I did the right thing for my son every time I see him tell his family he loves them. Would I do the same thing if I could go back and do it all over again? You better believe I would. I wouldn’t trade the life I have now for anything.

Through all that, let me make myself perfectly clear: I will never stop being the mother of that amazing little boy, I will never have to stop loving him, and I will be happy again. I am happy again. It’s rough, but we, as birth mothers…no. Just as mothers, we need to do what is best for our children. Whether that means parenting or placing, we need to think of them first. Once you know you’ve done everything you can for them, you can think of yourself and work towards becoming who you want to be. Having the title of birth mother is only a hinderance if you allow it to be. As for myself, it made me who I’m happy to be. Me.