I could have never imagined or predicted the reality of my decision to place my son before I made it. Through my experience, I learned many lessons that I will carry with my throughout my life. I have learned more lessons than I can count, and I am positive I will continue to learn as my journey continues, but I have narrowed down five most important realities I learned after placement.

1. Some people will not agree with your decision

After I decided adoption was the best for my birth son, I thought that everyone would see how great this decision was. I just knew that everyone would see that adoption was the best thing I could do for him. Yet, I came across someone who did not agree with my decision. The first person I came across was quite brazen. The comment shocked me initially because I really believed that people would see my adoption how I saw it. I quickly learned that not all individuals look at adoption the same. Not everyone has had the same experience as I have, and that is okay. The first comments of disagreement hurt. As the years have gone by, I now take the opportunity to explain to others my decision and experience. I am confident in my testimony of adoption. When others hear my convictions on adoption, they become more understanding.

2. Family and friends might move forward before you do

The social worker who helped in the placement of my birth son had wise advice for me soon after placement. She informed me that family and friends typically “moved on” quicker and might question why I had not yet moved forward. She warned me that those closest to me might wonder why I was still grieving. I had a hard time believing that those I loved would question why I was still grieving, and then it happened to me! Those I loved began asking me why I was still crying and why I had not moved on. I was shocked, yet relieved, that my social worker had informed me this could happen. Since I was prepared for the comments, I was able to explain that it might take me much longer to grieve. Explaining my feelings and getting appropriate counseling showed my loved ones that my birth mother experience was not the same as their experience.

3. The birth parent network is bigger than you think

When I chose adoption for my birth son, the only other birth parent I knew was my own birth mother. I had never met a birth mother or birth parent–or so I thought. After placement, people began sharing their stories with my, and some were people I would never have believed were birth parents. Birth mothers, birth fathers, birth grandparents, and birth aunts and uncles started coming out of the shadows. As people began to open up to me, I soon realized I had this enormous network of people that had my support. It was an awesome feeling to know that I was not alone. To this day, I am still finding more and more birth parents in my network. The network of birth families is centered on love. Every birth family has a different story, but the emotions are often the same. It is a great experience to know that this network knows what I am feeling.

4. People will be inspired by your story

After placement, I was a mess. I cried so much I thought I would never find the tears to cry again. Yet somehow, the tears would find a way to come. When I felt like I was a huge mess, I never imagined my story would inspire others. How could depression and crying help someone? But as I started to share my story, others began asking me to aid other young women with unplanned pregnancies. I was asked to speak at church events and in classrooms. People would come up to me with tears in their eyes and tell me I changed their view on adoption. I am inspired when I hear another birth mother’s story. They touch my heart and often leave me in tears. I think it is because of the sacrifice of that birth mother. I know that the infinite love she has for her birth child allowed her to break her own heart. I know that infinite love will aid her throughout her life as she inspires others.

5. You will not truly understand the impact of your decision till years later

As I am typing this, I am looking at a letter and picture of my almost 8-year-old birth son. He is smiling and so happy. I always knew I did the right thing, but it was not until my birth son was 5 that I truly saw the impact of my decision.

A few years ago, I ran into my birth son and his family at Target. He knows who I am because of letters and pictures, but I had not seen him in person since he was four months old. I knew there was a chance we could run into each other because we have family in the same city. On this fateful summer night two years ago, it finally happened. He looked at me strangely because he knew who I was, but seeing me in person must have seemed odd to him. As I watched him, it hit me. He had a family–a mom and a dad. He was thriving in that family. He fit perfectly into that family. In that moment, my heart was full and everything came full-circle. I saw what his life was supposed to be: the life that I had envisioned for him. That simple night at Target showed me that not only was he in the right place, he was with the right family. I had received countless pictures and letters, but something about that night confirmed every decision I had made for him.

If you choose adoption for your birth child or if you already have chosen adoption, you might learn different things. Your journey will be different from mine. However, I know if you share your story with others, they will be inspired by the love that you have for your child.

My mom and I admiring my birth son at 4 days old