Read the previous article in this series: My Very Visible Pregnancy Taught Me to be Open and Courageous

There are numerous reasons a woman considers placing a child for adoption. Whether she is single or married, a teenager or not, with a good support system or not so much, the ultimate decision to abort, keep, or place is one that will haunt her for the rest of her life. For me, I was 16 years old, with a loving, supportive family and an awesome boyfriend. I was simply too young. It was 1984 and choosing to place was a forever deal—closed and sealed with no choice about who the parents would be and with no option of ever seeing your baby again. This is my story about grief and healing but most of all, about love. I dedicate this series for all birth moms, whether their adoption was closed, partial, or open, for their sacrifice and grief and loss that is so profound and so deep and complex that even their closest loved ones don’t truly understand. May you find healing and peace.

I became a mother before I became a birth mom. My own mother was with me during the hours of labor and delivery and my dad paced the floors of the waiting room. There were complications during delivery, and the forceps left my son with crinkled ears and me with a crazy amount of stitches. Because of how long the doctor needed to work on me after my son was born, my son was taken by the nurse. They had all been told, of course, about my plans to place him for adoption. Usually, the baby is given to mom right away, but this time, he was cleaned and bundled before the nurse asked if I wanted him. But before I was able to hold him, there was a tentative moment where one nurse wasn’t sure if I should hold him (she said, “It will only make it harder”) and the other was adamant that my every wish would be granted (that nurse was my angel).

I don’t think any new momma ever forgets that moment when the child who became more important than your own body, your own self, your own soul, is placed in her arms. I looked down at this perfect, eight-pound bundle. He was ten days late, and I wondered if that was part of his personality—was he stubborn, or would he be late to everything, or both? My mom ooooed and ahhhhhed and unwrapped him to make sure he was perfect. He had lots of brown hair, and his ears were crinkled (would be for the rest of his life), and his face was scratched from the forceps. The love that I already had for him only became infinitely deeper the second I held him. I was his momma, and he was mine.

The doctor suggested that I not hold him for a little bit because he needed to finish, and it might not be comfortable, and I would need to concentrate on other things, and then they would have to clean me up and somehow get me moved from the delivery room to the postpartum room. Mom took my Joey (I had named him Joseph) out to the waiting room so that my dad could meet his grandson.

I got stitched up, cleaned up, and moved, and then I was given back my son. Because of the difficult delivery, the doctor suggested that I stay in the hospital longer than usual. For three days, Joey rarely left my side. I sang to him and told him everything about me and my life and my family. I shared my hopes and dreams with him. I know that I did sleep, but I also know that in the darkness and the relative quiet of the hospital at night, I tried to give him a lifetime of mothering. He never cried. Even though he didn’t speak words, our spirits communicated.

When I wasn’t talking with him and we were alone, I was praying. I didn’t waver in my decision. I knew that he was God’s before he was mine, and that he had another mom and dad and an entire family that had been praying for him.

Even though I was sure in my decision, the exquisite pain of needing to let him go was simply more than I thought I could bear. The social worker came, and I signed the papers. Mom and Dad came and said their good-byes. Everyone left me alone with my son. My whole body shook as I talked with him one last time. I told him how much he was loved. I told him that because he was loved so very much that I had to let him go. He deserved everything that a single 17-year-old girl in high school couldn’t give him.

Suddenly, the deepest part of my sorrow spilled forth. I told my Joey how sorry I was. I asked him to forgive me. I pleaded and pleaded for him to somehow understand that I wasn’t giving him up—I was giving him more. I said over and over and over again, “Please don’t hate me, please don’t hate me, please don’t hate me. I love you, forever—more than anything on this Earth. Please don’t hate me. Please understand. I love you.”

Then something happened that I can’t explain. Even though I know it isn’t possible, I also know that it happened. I looked down at my son, and tears splashed on him. He looked back at me with piercing, brown eyes, and he said, “I understand, Mom. I love you.” His mouth didn’t move, but I heard the words with my physical ears.

Peace washed through me. Then another voice said, “Lisa. You will know him in this life.”

Tears of joy mixed with my tears of sorrow as I rocked my baby one last time. I was able to let him go only because I knew that he understood that he was loved by the one who gave him life, and I knew that I would know him someday. Court records, laws, and the era of closed adoptions would, someday, be opened, and I would know my son again in this life. It was only through that knowledge was I able to let him go. It was at that moment that I became a birth mom.

Read the next article in this series: Life After Placement Was Made Bearable by My Truest Friend

Read this author’s other series: “Silenced by Society: A Birth Mom’s Tale.”

If you are pregnant and considering adoption, you may want to spend some time browsing the profiles on Adoption.com Parent Profiles. In this amazing new world of open adoptions, you can choose the family that’s just right for your child.