I’m an adoptive mom, but I have many friends who are birth moms. Two of my very best friends are my children’s birth moms. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all these women, it’s that people can say really hurtful things to women who place their children for adoption. If you’re considering adoption, or if you’ve placed your baby with an adoptive family, don’t listen when people say adoption is “giving your baby up” for adoption. You didn’t give up.

Sometimes statements and questions are intentionally hurtful. Other times, the pain they inflict is accidental—a casualty of people not being educated about adoption. Take into account that the only experience most people have with adoption is what they see on television and in the movies, and those scenarios are highly sensationalized. They have never been in your shoes, and they don’t know the thoughts swirling around in your brain. They don’t know all your reasons or the depths of the pain you feel over your loss. All they know is what’s in black and white, when really all the emotions you feel about not having your child with you live within the gray area.

You may have to give yourself a pep talk every once in a while. When you do, I want you to think about what “giving up” would have actually looked like. Did you throw your arms up in the air and say you didn’t care about what happened to your child? Did you walk away and never look back, never cry, never think about that child again? Were you able to successfully pretend that child had never been born or that you don’t remember the first time she kicked? Do you not miss him on holidays or find yourself lost in thought, wondering what your child is doing right that minute? Or do you press on, living your life, pausing sometimes to think about that child? Do you maybe go out of your way to do special things for your child to feel close to him, or feel a familiar mix of joy and relief when you receive a photo in the mail or via text? Did you choose her parents or look for specific things about her family that made you feel like you were giving her the very best? Whatever your path through adoption has looked like, I’m betting you haven’t given up at all. What you did was give the title of “Mom” to someone else, and that mother probably feels more grateful for being chosen to parent your child than you will ever be able to comprehend. You turned something as earth-shaking as an unexpected pregnancy into a situation that built a family. You made a sacrifice for your child, putting the needs of that child first, and you did what you felt was best in that moment.

To give up means to quit, and adoption doesn’t mean you quit your child. Being a good mother means so many things, and I can’t help but think that mothers who choose adoption for their children are some of the only ones who understand the meaning of true sacrifice. You made a choice that will be part of you forever, just as you’ll always be a part of your child, and you will always be linked. Making the choice to give your child the very best doesn’t mean you gave up; it means you gave the very best you could. So hold your head high, and don’t listen when people say you gave your baby up. Tell them you gave your child life, and then you gave your child a chance at the very best life, even when that meant putting your child’s needs before your own. You didn’t give up.