I always wanted to be a mom. From the time I was a young child, even before I girlishly dreamt of my wedding day, I wanted children (specifically two boys and a girl, in that order). But when I got pregnant and placed my son, that all changed. I don’t regret how things turned out even for a second, but I hated myself for the situation I’d put myself in. I was so upset, I convinced myself that if I wasn’t good enough to be my son’s parent, I should never be one at all. I rehearsed this to myself for over four years, actually convincing myself that I no longer wanted children.

A few months before our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I got the prompting that we needed to try to have a child. We both fought it for a while, but as time went on, the feeling didn’t go away. When my husband and I went out to dinner on our actual anniversary, I told him I’d just found out that morning that we were pregnant. I tried so hard to be happy about the upcoming addition to our family, but that dreadful lie had deeply rooted itself into my mind.

I tried everything I could think of to change how I felt. I took classes, I did extensive research, I saw a therapist, I prayed, I tried other people’s suggestions even if they had no idea what I was really going through. I tried it all. Eventually, I came to the realization that everything would probably change one she was born. How could I still feel these negative things once she was physically here, in my arms? Oh was I wrong.

Since I’d already gone through the whole labor and delivery thing, that part was a breeze (after the epidural). That was the “hard part,” so I thought everything was going to be smooth sailing from there. Wrong again. The way I decided to go about placing my son, I literally gave him to his family from the second he was born. I got to hold him for a while and I saw him now and then over the next several months, but I never experienced a single moment of actual parenthood. Have you ever heard of The Second Night (and yes, it’s capitalized for a reason)? I sure hadn’t. When that second night hit, I questioned even more if I should be a parent. I couldn’t handle this! But the nurses all said it would get better from there. Wrong.

We learned very quickly about the word, colic. The medical definition is essentially when a baby cries for three hours or more at a time, seemingly without reason. We had one of the most colicky babies any of our family or friends had ever seen. There were even a couple occasions when she cried for seven hours straight, and once when we thought she had to be in pain to cry that long, so we took her to the ER. This went on for the first two months of her life. This of course didn’t help my feelings in the slightest. I cried myself to sleep most nights, broke down almost daily, and assumed I was destined to be a horrible parent to this poor child…until the day she smiled.

The first time we saw her smile, all those horrible feelings I’d had for years disappeared. This didn’t make all the crying go away, but it made the effort worth it. And then she laughed. When I heard that angelic sound, I started to cry. This child that I surely was making miserable, was happy. But then the impossible happened: she reached for me. She wanted to be with me. All that hard work, time, and tears didn’t go unnoticed, and she wanted me.

For those birth mothers who are thinking they aren’t good enough to be parents after placing a child, let me lovingly tell you that you’re wrong. I know all too well the feeling you might be having. The feeling of being unworthy of a child’s love. The feeling of inadequacy to take care of a child. The feeling that you won’t be able to love that child as much as the one you placed. Even after my daughter was born, it took a few months to start considering the fact that she wasn’t going to be someone else’s; that she was going to call me mom, that she would get excited to see me when I got home, that she would love me without being told to, that I would be her parent. Me. That “unworthy, inadequate, imperfect, and temporary” me.

It gets too easy to criticize yourselves after deciding it’s better for someone else to be your child’s parent. But let me assure you that you are worthy of love. You are one of the greatest examples of selflessness. You are the epitome of motherhood. You are a birth mother, and you can also be an amazing parent.