I expected the love. I expected the happiness. I expected the heartbreak and the sadness of the birth family—the mixed emotions coming from every direction. I am sure I even expected to be heads-over-heels in love with adoption throughout my entire life. I mean, after all, that is how my children came to me, right?

What I didn’t expect was for the sunshine and rainbows to disappear.

We left the hospital with the most beautiful baby boy I had ever seen. He was pink and plump and perfect in every way. If we didn’t believe in love at first sight before seeing him, we surely did after.

I also left the hospital that day with the biggest knot in my stomach. I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t stop thinking about his beautiful birth mother—the first mother that loved him with her whole heart—lying in that hospital bed feeling empty and lost, heartbroken and in pieces. It’s all I thought about on the way home that day.

It didn’t get better. Days passed. I fell increasingly in love with my sweet little boy every moment of every day. Yet that 10-day revocation gnawed at me. It wasn’t really that I felt anxious for it to be over. It wasn’t hope that the phone would never ring. It was quite the opposite.

I felt guilt. SO much guilt. I couldn’t shake it. I called his birth mother on day four to see how she was doing. She seemed in good spirits, but I didn’t know if she was protecting me or if she was in a good place. I assumed it was a mask. I called on day ten. I let her know that whatever she decided we would always be a part of her life and of her son’s. We weren’t going to leave her.

She cried. She admitted it was the hardest thing she had ever done. She said she thought about parenting and calling to get him back again. I hung on her every word. She told me that in the end, she was doing what was best for him and if that meant her heartbreak, so be it.

Those words still linger with me. Her heartbreak made me a mother. The guilt and pain was intense. I didn’t know what to do with it. I talked to her often, sent photos and videos, let her know how much he was loved.

I slipped into a depression I couldn’t pull myself out of alone. I had to get help. A trip to my primary care physician and a prescription later, I was starting to learn how to cope. Yes, it was a medicated version of it, but I did what I needed to do to be a good mother to my son.

It took me months and months to accept these new feelings and accept that adoption isn’t just happiness and love. Adoption has more emotions and elements than that. It’s a wild roller coaster of emotion and it is dark and gloomy. It’s pain, sacrifice, heartbreak and heartache.

I still do love adoption. Without it, I wouldn’t have the two beautiful babies that call me “Mommy.” But, my perspective has changed. Sometimes, the most amazing things in our life also come with complex emotions. Adoption is “most amazing things” times a million.

If I could tell adoptive parents one thing, always remember it isn’t you that matters. It’s your child. You can’t dismiss his/her birth family without dismissing part of who your child is biologically and emotionally. They are them as much as they are you. Be prepared for those emotions. Be prepared for all of them.