On my 18th birthday, my life changed. I was kicked out of my home, and my boyfriend at the time took me in. Our relationship from the start was based on me needing him and was never how a real relationship should be. I was young, scared and alone. I wanted someone to take care of me and be there for me. I felt alone, and I felt like he was my only option, so I stayed even though I was unhappy.
A couple months after living with my boyfriend, I found out I was pregnant at age 18. I was devastated. I had no parents in my life and was in a new relationship that I was uncertain about. A baby was the last thing I was thinking about. I was nowhere near ready to be a mother, and the idea was terrifying.
I thought maybe having a baby was a good thing; maybe my boyfriend and I could grow closer and we could have a real relationship, but that thought changed pretty quickly. When I told him I was pregnant, he was upset and accused me of trapping him to be with me. Even though he did not want to be with me or have a baby, we stayed together. He quickly changed after I told him I was pregnant, and not for the better. He began drinking heavily and could not go even an hour without a drink and eventually quit working. He became controlling; he would not let me leave the house or let me use a phone, so my connection to the outside world ended. I felt like a prisoner. I was unhappy and knew I did not want to be with him or have a child, but I was scared and didn’t know what to do.
I thought about my options and what I could do to get out of the situation I was in. I struggled with my decision for months. My sisters all had children young, and I watched all of them struggle to raise them. I watched them put their lives on hold, and I watched their lives change for both the good and bad. I thought about all the happy moments my sisters had, and I thought a baby could make me happy. But I also thought about the struggle they had raising their kids and all the things they put on hold. I thought about how unhappy I was and if I wanted this man to be in my life forever. The more I thought about it, I knew what my decision was.
As hard as it was, I knew that placing my daughter for adoption was the best option for her and me. I wanted to give my daughter the best life possible, and as selfish as it felt, I wanted to give myself the best life possible. I wanted to not feel stuck, I wanted to have options, and I didn’t want to have her dad tied to me for the rest of my life.
Starting the adoption process was uncanny, thinking about letting someone else raise my child. I looked through dozens of the potential parents’ stories, reading about their struggles and their desire for a family. Choosing someone from a piece of paper to be a parent to your child is not easy. It only tells you so much about a person; there is no connection, no feeling that they are “the one.” But there was one family that stood out to me, one family that I kept going back to even after looking at all the other families — my daughter’s family.
I knew that I wanted to meet them, and the moment I did, I knew I wanted them to raise my daughter. I felt a sense of contentment for the first time. I knew I was doing the right thing.
The months leading to my daughter’s birth were difficult. I felt my daughter growing inside me every day. I heard her heartbeat every week. I felt connected to her in a way only I could understand because she was a part of me. As hard as the months were, I never changed my mind about giving my daughter up for adoption.
When the time came for me to deliver my daughter, I called her parents. I was excited for them to meet her, and I still knew I wanted them to raise her. But nothing prepares you for the moment you hear your child’s cry for the first time, or the moment you hold your child for the first time. Holding my daughter was one of the happiest moments of my life. She was so small and perfect. I could not believe she was finally in my arms. Everything felt real for the first time; I finally had my daughter in my arms, and I did not want to let her go. I decided that I wanted to keep her, that letting her go was too hard.
This decision was not easy. While in the hospital, I was questioning my decision, but every time I looked at her, I was scared to let her go. I took my daughter home for a week. For that week, I struggled with my decision — I wanted her in my life, wanted to watch her grow up, wanted to see the woman she would become. But I was unhappy. I had a man in my life who was nonexistent, I had no family, and I had no friends because I had cut everyone out of my life when I met my daughter’s dad.
I felt lost. I felt like I would be stuck in an unhappy life, and my daughter would suffer because of that. I called my adoption agency and told them I changed my mind and wanted my daughter’s parents to adopt her. The moment I said those words, I knew it was what I really wanted. That week with my daughter helped me to realize that giving her up for adoption was the right thing. It gave me a chance to meet her and bond with her, but most importantly, it gave me the chance to say goodbye to her.
The time finally came when my daughter’s parents got to meet her. Placing her in their arms and seeing the way they looked at her, I could see so much love in their eyes, and I knew they would give my daughter the world.
In the months and years after my daughter’s birth, I tried not to think about her too much. I kept busy and moved on with my life. But twice a year, when I receive a letter from my daughter’s parents, packed with photos and life updates, my wounds tear open. I read that my daughter loves The Lion King, jewelry and makeup. That she has a big sister who she loves and looks up to, that she has a cow named Strawberry Shortcake. I read about all of her little moments, her accomplishments — her first word, when her first steps were. I cling to every word in the letters they send me, reading them over and over again.
It never gets easier not being a part of your child’s life, missing out on all the big and little moments. I always wonder, “What if I kept my daughter?” but I know that I made the right choice giving her to parents who were ready for her.
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