When I first found out I was pregnant, I was the ripe young age of 18. Sure, I knew there were other teen moms and actually knew a girl I went to high school with who had placed her baby for adoption when she was just 16, but I didn’t know their stories. I often wonder if I might have made different choices if I had known the facts behind why they chose the way they did. I wish I had known their reasoning.

Within the first two months of my pregnancy, I started attending a support group for women who were either pregnant and trying to make a decision between single parenting and placing their child for adoption or had already placed their child for adoption and were now birth moms. When I walked into the room where our group met for the first time, my immediate thoughts were, “Man, I thought I was the only one.” I was blown away by the number of girls in the room. There were probably only eight or nine girls, but to me, that seemed like a lot, and oddly, it felt good to not be alone in my situation. It was these women and their stories that would change my life forever.

I am thankful that these women were brave enough to share their voice and give their opinions on the matters at hand. It was by their examples and their truths that I was able to come to my decision of placing my little girl for adoption. I am not sure how I would have made my choice without them, and heaven knows it would have been a lot harder to do without their examples. Week after week, I sat in the group room listening to other expecting girls talk about why they might choose adoption or why they might parent. Week after week I sat in the group room listening to birth moms tell their stories of why they placed for adoption and why it was the right choice for them. I learned from each of them. I grew from each of them.

I have a distinct memory of one girl who had placed her baby three years prior to my getting pregnant. She was 100% raw and didn’t sugar coat anything. I LOVED that she still came to group, and I LOVED that she was there to share her story. She talked about all the pains and trials that came with placing her child for adoption, but she also talked about how she was surviving and how each day things got better. Each time she shared her story, she also talked about the love she had for her child, and it was undeniable how much love she really did have for the baby she placed into another mother’s arms.

It was because of her (and many others) that I knew I had to make the best decision for my baby. These women taught me that no matter the choice, whether it be single parenting, or placing my child for adoption, I had to make that choice for my child and not for me. These women taught me how to be selfless. They taught me to love.

I share my story in hopes that it might touch someone out there the way these women’s stories touched me. In adoption, not every story is the same– in fact, they are all quite different– but with each story shared, there is opportunity to learn. I’ve never really been shy about the fact that I placed a baby for adoption, but it wasn’t until recently that I started really sharing my truths and my thoughts with the world.

I have continued to go to support groups over the years and have done so with the mentality that I might be that girl that makes a difference to one other expecting mom. I have felt it is important to let people know that life can go on, and will go on, no matter the heart ache. Reality is, though, not everyone has the opportunity to attend a group, and there are so many expecting girls out there that don’t know where to turn. This is why my voice matters. This is why my story matters.

Just as we all have different personalities, we all have different adoption stories. We all relate in different ways. Just as I related with some of those women from group, there may be others who might relate with me. It’s important for my voice and my story to be heard. I have learned so much from others in the adoption world, and I can only hope that some might be able to learn from me. I long to read of others stories, and although I am no longer able to make it to a group setting as frequently as I was able to in the past, I have the world of social media at my fingers. It is important that we share our stories. You never know the life or lives you are going to touch simply by opening up. There is healing in sharing, and in adoption we all know there is room to heal. So let your voice be heard.