In September 2015, I decided to share my story of adoption after finally giving in to the steady promptings I’d been given for several months to do so. As a birth mother, there is always risk of opening yourself up to scrutiny by sharing something so personal, but I charged ahead, willing to accept whatever adversity might come my way.

My story began as a senior in high school. I got pregnant in early 1999, and, as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had broken the “Law of Chastity,” I somehow determined that hiding the pregnancy from my friends and family was a logical course of action. I was young, scared, and spent much of the time in a fierce swirl of denial. Yet, besides the risk of being judged and criticized for the mistake I’d made, the bigger fear was that I’d let down my family and friends.

Even though the experience was excruciating at the time, and I often felt that there was NO hope of surviving, I made it through and delivered a healthy 7lb 2oz baby girl on September 29, 1999. Only then were people brought into my reality.

Because of the protective nature I had on my own situation, ultimately I was able to make the decision to place my birth daughter for adoption without any strong outside influences telling me what to do. I’d known, somehow, along the way that there was an important purpose to this experience for me. I felt a great responsibility to get this perfect little newborn into the arms of her parents.

For me, it was confirmed multiple times by the Holy Spirit that this was not my child. When adoption finally clicked into my mind as the right choice for my daughter, I felt a rush of emotion and spiritual confirmation. Her parents had already been praying and preparing diligently to provide a home for children, with a mother and father, and temporal stability that I couldn’t offer on my own as an unwed 18-year-old woman who was still living under my parents’ roof.

The love I felt for my daughter was the most powerful force I’d ever felt in my life. I ached at the thought of missing out on watching her grow. I considered that many other women had been faced with this decision and they chose to parent the child, and things eventually worked out. I knew that if I kept my daughter, she would, no doubt, be loved and cherished, but for me, that wasn’t enough. For me, I felt her purpose was to complete the family she was intended to be a part of.

Don’t put up walls because of the fear of what other people will think, especially those who haven’t walked in your shoes or understand the full scope of your world.

During the past eight months, I’ve had many people reach out to me regarding my story. Many have been positive and filled with gratitude and hope. Others, a small handful, have been hard for me to read because they are quite negative.

This past Mother’s Day I received a message from someone expressing deep sorrow and remorse on my behalf for HAVING to place my baby for adoption. For the lifetime of regret I must be feeling; the feelings of abandonment that my daughter is surely suffering through.

I was, and still remain, in shock. Not only is that the opposite of how I feel, but it is a heavy burden that this woman has opted to take upon herself for a situation she had/has nothing to do with. I jogged my memory in effort to determine at what point I may have insinuated publicly that I regret my choice, or that I have yet to heal and move forward in my journey.

I’ve concluded that, as in many cases of sharing powerful, true, raw stories, people will interpret the information differently depending on their personal experience, or lack of experience.

I’ve learned that having the courage to share a true story also means that you are going to continue to build courage to stay true to yourself and your journey despite those who will try and derail your mission or push their own agenda by hijacking your experience and twisting it into what they perceive as an outsider.

I share this experience as a testament to be resolute with your truth. Share your stories—the good, the bad, the everything-in-between—with the confidence that your story makes you who you are. It is worth sharing your story, even if it only touches one person. And if that ONE person is YOU, then it’s still worth hearing your own story again so you can be empowered by your own unique journey.

Don’t put up walls because of the fear of what other people will think, especially those who haven’t walked in your shoes or understand the full scope of your world. Be proud of your individuality. Be brave in accepting your triumphs and failures. Be bold by celebrating what others may call “flaws.”

Live your story valiantly. There is only one you. Don’t let someone else’s misunderstandings or misguided intentions shake the foundation you have built for yourself. No one can take away your truth.