I am often asked, when people find out I am a birth mother, “Why did you decide on adoption? Didn’t you want her?” In the tidy nutshell version of my response it was the logistical factors of being pregnant at just 16-years-old that was my why. Being a junior in high school when I saw those two pink lines in October of 2004, I still needed to graduate, plus I wanted to attend college. I did not have a job to support us. In fact, I did not have my driver’s license or even the few dollars it took to buy the pregnancy test I peed on. And her birth father? He chose to end our already-strained relationship and I knew I would be signing up for a single mom gig.

The truth is though that my why is more complex than just money and time. I did not want those logistics to be my why because I loved her so deeply from the moment I knew of her existence that I was willing to sacrifice my life for her. I was willing to give up going away to school and go to a community college instead. I was willing to be a single mom, working a part-time job and going to school to better myself and our future. And my heart—oh my heart—I wanted to be her mother desperately.

But it wouldn’t have been fair to her.

Yes, we could have made it work. I had wonderful support in family, friends, counselors, and teachers around me—but even with all the love in the world, it still wouldn’t have been fair to her childhood. I grew up in a separated home myself, visiting my dad on the weekends and having to share holidays. I did not want that for her. I grew up with a single mom dividing her time between college classes and a full-time job. I grew up in daycares and with babysitters when I just wanted my mom to be home with me.

I wanted more for her than the life I had—isn’t that what all parents want for their children?

Truthfully, parenting never felt right in my stubborn heart. Though I was willing to be all she needed, it did not feel enough. There was no peace thinking about what that path may look like as I gazed at the crossroad, trying to decide which road to take. Deep down I knew adoption was the best choice for her, though my heart resisted it for many months. It was a battle that tormented me daily, my head and heart playing tug of war within every breath for seven months of pregnancy. It was not an easy choice by any means and I cried many tears in the process. I still do some days, 13 years later, but something magical happened in the moment I surrendered to the idea and path of adoption: peace came. I felt a weight lifted as the two enemies fighting within my soul retreated. Once I made my decision our adoption plan came about quickly. I chose her parents from the first profile I saw. I knew they were the ones just like I knew my husband was the one I was to marry. Your soul knows.

However, my one stipulation to adoption was that it had to be an open adoption, no exceptions. I couldn’t place my heart in the form of a little baby in another mother’s arms and never know what she looked like, her interests, or simply how she was doing. Thankfully, her adoptive parents agreed and have stayed true to their word over the years. It has been beautiful and the best of both worlds for me, and she tells me now, 13 years later that it is for her as well. I was able to continue my education, get married, and have more children down the road while she was in a stable two-parent home with a great big brother. In turn, I’ve watched her grow into a beautiful teen who knows she has two families who love her fiercely.

I was pregnant with this little baby girl whose presence changed my course in life—for the better. Teen pregnancy wasn’t a death sentence, but a catalyst to growth. Her mere existence has taught me so much in life and helped form me into the woman I am today; to make better choices in life, to pursue my mothering of five children with new eyes, and she sparked my writing passion as I wrote to heal and capture memories.

In the process, I’ve learned over the years that open adoption is much like any relationship—it takes work. It takes commitment and dedication to keep the child’s best interest at the center. It takes communication to talk about the struggles and issues that may arise. It especially takes counseling for your own healing. After all, if you are an emotionally healthy person it helps you be able to have healthy relationships around you.

Adoption has taught me that I can do hard things in life; that storms may push me but they will not drown me. In fact, I only rise up stronger.

It has taught me to treasure motherhood because not everyone gets that chance. It has taught me to trust my gut sooner. It has taught me love in ways I could have never known before, like the love of family that isn’t blood related. That kind of love isn’t just for her, but in how our families have merged into one giant extended family over the love of our girl at the center. Adoption has taught me that lovely things can happen when we put others best interest first. It has taught me that I can be simultaneously grieving, peaceful, and joyful at the same time because adoption is bittersweet. It has made me grateful for technology and promises that remain unbroken. Adoption has taught me to use my voice for a purpose. Most of all, adoption has taught me about the sacrifice within love—whether that is within adoption, marriage, friendship, or motherhood.

This road is less traveled for a reason—it is a treacherous one at times. But, it can be oh so worth the view down the road.

You may also like:

Adoption Is Love

Five Things to Know About Adoption

Why Tired Mothers Stay Up So Late

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Leah Outten

Leah hails from the friendly south, has an addiction to cute coffee mugs, a proud birth mom, and is a mom to 5. Her passion for writing blooms from her experiences in life where God has taught her things to pass along to others—especially in open adoption, natural birth, and encouragement in the trenches of motherhood. Read more at The Grace Bond and on Facebook.

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