I said it out loud. After knowing it for over eight years. I said it out loud without even realizing what my words would do.

Everyone was taking turns around the room, and I noticed the anxiety written on their faces. This was the first support group I’d ever been too. I wasn’t nervous at all. I felt sorry for those that struggled to introduce themselves and was silently grateful that I’ve never experienced a fear of speaking.

Finally, my turn came. As customary, I stood to address the group of fourteen women. My mouth opened, and I was even smiling. “My name is Courtney and– ” that’s when I choked. I tried again, “My name is Courtney and I’m– ” again, my throat constricted and my heart raced. I felt panicked. I felt sick. Tears formed in my eyes, and suddenly a sob came from within that frightened me. I stood before them … tears streaming down my face, and tried one more time, “My name is Courtney … I am … a … birth mother.” As soon as the word came crashing out of my mouth, I broke into a thousand pieces and sobbed.

I had said it out loud, in person, for the very first time to a room full of others who knew exactly what it meant, and the release sent me spinning out of control. Thus far I had spoken with family and friends, never referring to myself as a “birth mother,” but instead, we talked about “my son.” I’d never spoken to strangers about who or what I was. I had just recently been hired to freelance write on adoption issues and had called myself and others “birth mom” via my keyboard to online friends. I’d never actually said the words out loud. Once the words came out of my mouth, emotions I didn’t know had been hiding came ripping up and out of me as well. That day in that support group I said every single thing I’d always feared to say, and I said it all out loud. And when I was through everyone sat shocked, not sure what to say or how to react. But something inside of me had changed.

I got in the car to go home, and before I turned the key, I shrugged my shoulders and tried it again, “I am a birth mother. My name is Courtney.”

Since then I’ve said it at least a thousand times. I say it to honor myself and the journey I’m on. I say it to respect the life of my son. I say it out loud to confirm for myself that I am not ashamed of who I am. I choose where I say it and to whom I say it to, because I will not cast my pearls before swine.

I encourage you to say who you are out loud when you have the opportunity. Say it out loud to a group of others who know and understand the enormous emotion of your words. Say it to honor who you are. Admitting who I was lifted a tremendous burden off of me that day.

Say who you are out loud. Give yourself the right to be exactly who you are.