Many things come to mind when I think back to before I started the process of placement . . . so many things I wish I’d known.

Part of me wishes that I’d known when Benjamin was born that I was going to place him . . . part of me is grateful I didn’t. Thankful that I didn’t have the knowledge of not always being his mom hanging over my head for the few precious months I had with him. Maybe I would have held him just a little more, or took a few dozen more pictures. But then again, each moment would have been filled with a bit of pain, knowing our time was limited. I truly believe God blessed me with those few sweet months with Benjamin so that I’d be able to fill my heart with him before I had to say good-bye. Those months are something I wouldn’t change for anything. In that case, ignorance was truly bliss.

What I do wish I had known is that it would be so painful. I wish I had known the depth of the grief and longing I would feel after placing my sweet boy with his forever family. I wish I’d been more prepared for the ache I would feel, for the way I would lie awake and wish I could hold him again, to actually long for the midnight crying I had previously dreaded–that I had known as I bathed him, wishing he wouldn’t wriggle so much as I tried to wash his hair, that I would one day wish I could wash it one more time. I wish that I had known I would weep for my baby for weeks after placement, and that my heart would literally ache with missing him, my arms would literally ache to cuddle him. I wish I had known just how deep the pain would go and how badly I would long for my baby, how I would feel as though part of me had died. However, I think that some things are best left to the unknown, because summoning the courage to place knowing what I did was difficult enough. I may not have found that same courage knowing what I know now about the grief a birth mother feels post-placement.

I also wish I’d known the pain wouldn’t last forever. That I would wake up one day and wouldn’t feel that ache in my chest, that I wouldn’t feel that profound sense of loss before I’d even opened my eyes. I wish I had realized that one day, I would be okay and functioning instead of sad and broken.  In the immediate aftermath of placing a child, there is a darkness so deep you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. It seems impossible you will ever feel better, ever enjoy your life the way you did before reality, circumstances, and love would make you a birth mother. You can’t see past your own sadness to see what your life could become. I wish I could have told myself, “Hey, it’s going to be okay.” Because looking back over a year later, I am okay. I wish I had known, before entering into it, that grief isn’t permanent, that there is life after placement . . . that becoming a birth mother can be not only a painful sacrifice, but a life changer, a reality check, a wake up call to get your life together. It changed me forever, and showed me who I was, and who I wanted to be.

I wish I had known that not every open adoption is the same, that not every bump in the road is the end of the world, that no adoption is perfect, but flawed in its own way. I wish I had known that there would be things in adoption that would break my heart. That it wasn’t going to be all rainbows and smiles and fat, furry puppies. Adoption is HARD. In one moment, you feel profound hurt and anger that you aren’t allowed to know your birth child’s address, and you will fume and cry and feel inadequate because something MUST be wrong with you if you aren’t allowed this information. But then, in the next moment, you will hug your child’s mother and you will feel equally profound gratitude at the fantastic woman that she is, and you will feel immense joy as you watch your birth child interact with his dad. I wish I had known that I would have these moments, moments in which I would feel certain that what I did was so right, and so incredible. That I would thank God that I have been given wonderful adoptive parents who are trustworthy,  watching as another birth mother crumbles because her couple was NOT what she thought, and they’ve closed the adoption and taken her sweet baby with them. I wish I had known that despite the times of pain or frustration, there are far more times of love and understanding. I wish I had known that there must be pain in order to have joy, and that even when you and your child’s parents don’t see eye to eye, you love each other anyway.

Adoption is so complex and there will never be a situation that everyone thinks is perfect, or that everyone thinks is awful. Not everything in your own adoption will always feel great, but there isn’t anything that is always great. Heck, there is nothing perfect in this world, and that’s okay. I wish I had known so much, but I am also so grateful for all I have learned. Honestly, if you can say that you have learned something from the powerful, painful, wonderful things in your life, then I think that’s all you can hope for.