Finding myself pregnant at the young age of 18 was certainly not what I had planned for, and it most definitely was not where I wanted to see myself just weeks after graduating high school. What else was I expecting, though? I mean getting pregnant is a result of having sex, right? Why did I never think about that consequence when I decided to be sexually active before I was married?

I knew I wasn’t ready to be a mother, but I knew I always wanted to be one. I figured if I could find a good job and rely on the help of my parents, I could probably make it happen. The birth father wasn’t exactly in the position to be “Dad of the Year,” but he was a good guy and we liked each other enough. Sure, he was still in high school, but we could make it work. We had to make it work. These were my thoughts for the first three months of my pregnancy.

And then reality set in.

The night that I sat down with statistics on children who were raised in single-parent homes or split-parent homes was the night it dawned on me that I needed to make a better choice for my baby. I grew up in a split-parent home. My parents were divorced when I was 8 years old, and to be honest, I don’t have very many memories of before that time. I remember quite vividly a time when I wanted my dad. It was just after my parents had split up, and my Dad had recently moved out of the house. I don’t remember exactly why I needed him or wanted him so much; all I remember is that he couldn’t be there if I wanted him to be.

It was the beginning of the rest of my life. I didn’t understand why my dad didn’t love my mom anymore, and I definitely didn’t understand why my dad couldn’t just be there when I wanted him to be. I knew with that memory that I had to give my baby something better.

My sister had known from a fairly young age that she would most likely never be able to have biological children. When I found out I was pregnant, my sister and her husband had been married for six years and were about two years in to their own adoption story. Adoption had always been a topic in our home, and I just knew that it was the only other choice I had outside of being a single mom. Watching my sister and her husband go through their infertility journey gave me a pretty big window into the world of adoption on the adoptive parents side, and I knew that by placing my baby for adoption, I would be making someone else’s family whole.

I also knew that placing her into the arms of another was the only way I would be able to give her a home with both a mom and a dad, and more importantly a mom and a dad who loved one another. No matter how much I loved my baby and no matter how hard I might have tried to be the best mom possible, I knew there was no way I could ever be her dad, and I certainly knew that there was no way that her birth father and I would ever love each other in the way that I wish my parents had loved each other.

Growing up in a home where my parents were divorced when I was only 8 years old definitely added a whole new dynamic to the way I saw things. Although both my parents had remarried later on in my adolescent years, I didn’t fully understand love. All I really recognized was that my parents didn’t love each other, and that hit hard in the emotional department.

I knew that when it came to giving my baby a better home; I wanted to give her all that I didn’t have. I didn’t want her to be 8 years old, crying for her dad, and wondering why he couldn’t be there. I wanted her to be able to cry for her dad and have him be in the next room, ready to comfort her at any moment. I wanted her to look up at her parents dancing in the kitchen or kissing when her dad got home from work and think to herself, “I want that someday.” These were just some of the things I knew I would probably never be able to give her.

Choosing adoption for my baby was not an easy choice. In fact, it is the hardest choice I have ever had to make. The day I placed her in her parents arms is a day I will always remember. The love that is shared between her adoptive parents is unmistakable. I knew within moments of meeting them that they were meant to be her parents. I had never seen two people love each other more, and still to this day, I am in awe at the love they share for each other.

We have had our ups and downs over the years, but no matter what, they somehow always find a way to remind me of that love the I felt that first time we met, and I remember that my daughter is where she was always meant to be. They waited for her, they longed for her, and they were ready to be her parents.

I have often heard the phrase “the gift we could not give each other” when adoptive parents are speaking of their adopted children, but in my case, they gave me the gift I could not give myself. It wasn’t until I met my birth daughters adoptive parents that I started to understand what true love was, and it was upon her arrival that I truly began to know what true love is. The day I held my birth daughter in my arms for the first time was the day that my life changed forever.

I’ve been asked multiple times since placing my birth daughter for adoption nine years ago whether or not I feel like I made the right choice. Undeniably, my answer is yes. Yes, it’s come with more heartache than I ever could have imagined, but it’s also come with an amount of love that I didn’t even know existed.

I did not place my daughter for adoption because I did not love her. I placed her for adoption because I loved her more.