My name is Ann, and I placed my second child for open adoption. After raising my eldest daughter for 8 years completely on my own, when I found I was pregnant again, I knew there was absolutely no way I could afford a second child on my income. The birth father, whom I had dated for a year prior to the pregnancy, had no interest whatsoever in being a father and told me he wasn’t going to help me in any way. As I sat in the doctor’s office, I thought about the thousands of women who would give anything to be sitting where I was and that by some fluke of nature or sheer luck, it was me here instead. The day I found out, at 6 weeks pregnant, that the greatest and most loving thing I could do for both my children was to place this baby for adoption.

Just remember at the end of the day, you are the one who has to live with any decision you make. You. Not your mom, or your cousin, or the mailman, but YOU and that sweet child, so follow your heart wherever it leads you.

I began to search online for the perfect parents for the baby growing inside me. I wanted her to have all the advantages in life, but at the same time, I didn’t want her growing up in some boring, stuffy house with old parents that she would have nothing in common with. So I tried to find people I thought were similar to me, which was harder than it sounds. I went through over 2,000 profiles, and then they were 2001 and I just stopped looking. I knew the moment I saw them they were the ones for me. Their profile stood out from the rest, which all seemed to be written by the same person and were all a bit boring. Their personalities shone through so much. I could see the bright life of laughter and happiness my daughter would have, and I was completely sure this was the best thing I could ever do.

I attempted for a few days to write the toughest email of my life. How do you ask another woman, a perfect stranger, to raise your child for you? There are no words, I wasn’t sure what to write except for the truth—I was a 28-year-old woman, with an 8-year-old daughter, who made 9 dollars an hour. My keeping the child was never a financial possibility, and even three years later, I’m not much better off than I was then. After that first nervous letter, a flurry of better emails between us began. Very quickly we found ourselves talking about a lot more than just the baby—we discussed all of our interests and dislikes. We had almost seven months before the baby was born to really get to know one another, and that helped lay the foundation of our now extremely close-knit family.

The whole pregnancy I was in kind of a bubble . . . It almost didn’t seem real to me; I was just going through the motions. I never really got attached to the baby inside me. Sure, I was doing all the best things for her, making sure she was safe and protected in every way, but I considered myself more of a surrogate than a mother. This all changed the moment she was laid on my chest, I was unprepared for how much I would love her. I thought that because I willingly and lovingly chose adoption, and it was my only choice from the start, that it wouldn’t affect my life very much. I like to blame it on hormones, and I’m sure they didn’t help matters, but the whole first month I cried daily. Often, I wouldn’t even notice until someone brushed a tear away. I’d cry in my sleep, especially if I dreamt of my little one. Separating myself from my daughter was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The first six months were definitely the hardest, and then I found a support group of birth mothers and I began my healing.

Luckily for me, I chose an adoptive couple who had done quite a lot of research, and they knew that open adoption was best for everyone involved. They were great about sending me pictures and videos all the time, and it made me feel a lot closer to them, as we live on opposite coasts. We FaceTime often, and our daughter knows exactly who I am. The other day, the adoptive mother I chose sent me an adorable text regarding a playdate at her house. S was showing off her room, and right away, and pointed to the pictures on her bulletin board. “That’s my Ann,” she said, “I was in her belly, not my mommy’s. And that’s my sister K.” I never thought a toddler would grasp such an immense concept as adoption, but she seems to not only understand her world, but thrive in it.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a position similar to mine. I’m sure by now everyone in the world is giving you advice on what to do, and I know exactly how frustrating that can be. Just remember at the end of the day, you are the one who has to live with any decision you make. You. Not your mom, or your cousin, or the mailman, but YOU and that sweet child, so follow your heart wherever it leads you.

If you DO decide upon adoption, do your homework. Be aware that there are hundreds of thousands of hopeful adoptive couples out there, and you can afford to be choosy. Find people of a similar background, with lots of shared interests, as this can help develop a friendship outside of the child. Make sure the couple is also very educated on open adoption, and understand there is an ebb and flow in relationships. Sometimes people need space, and that’s okay. And lastly, find a support network! It has been my own personal saving grace! Whatever you decide, I wish you strength and courage, and I’ll tell you this: You can sign away your parental rights, but you can’t sign away your biology. That baby will always be part of you no matter where they go.

Did you enjoy this story? It’s part of an eBook, Stories From Birth Mothers, that’s available to download for FREE right here. If you want to read more stories and get more advice from women who chose adoption for their children, get it now