For women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy, adoption may be one of the options they consider. Unfortunately, much of what the general public knows about adoption is learned from made-for-TV movies and over-dramatized scenarios in television shows that get ratings by playing to everyone’s worst fears. If you’ve found yourself unexpectedly pregnant and you don’t feel that parenting the child is in yours or the child’s best interests, you deserve to hear what adoption is actually like. That way, the impression you have of what adoption can be isn’t just secondhand knowledge gleaned from the media.

I’m a mom to two children who were added to our family through open adoption as infants. While we believe openness is best, there are still closed and semi-open adoptions happening every day. The reason we chose open adoption is because a new generation of adoptees who were raised in open adoptions have now become adults, and they’re able to tell us how much better the openness made their lives, whereas adoptees who had no contact with their birth families often felt a need for belonging and a detachment from their sense of self, and often fantasized about why they were placed in an adoptive family. With semi-open and open adoptions, adoptees often get the benefit of hearing firsthand from their birth families how wanted they were, how hard the decision was to place them, and how valued they will always be. While open adoption can be emotionally tough on the adult parties sometimes, birth parents get to see their children grow up, and adoptive parents get to know their children better by knowing the people who gave them life. Like any meaningful relationship, it takes work, but children who are conceived deserve a chance at life, and if parenting is not an option, adoption can be a viable way to do the very best you can for your child.

Did you know one in five couples struggles with infertility? The numbers are higher than ever, which means there are more families than ever to choose from when you’re looking for the perfect family for your baby. It’s important to be on the same page with the family you choose about the level of contact you’d like to have with your child post-placement, and you need to know that choosing a family (and matching with them) doesn’t mean you are obligated to place your baby with them. A mother has a right to choose up until the very last second before she signs her legal rights away (the period of time between birth and termination of parental rights can vary from 24 hours to months, depending on the state, so research the laws in your state). Matching with a family is done in good faith and shouldn’t be done unless adoption is a true possibility for you. But you should always know that parenting is 100 percent your right up until you sign away your rights. Having discussions before the birth of your child about post-placement contact and how you hope your relationship will develop with your child and his or her new family will lay a foundation for respect and managed expectations after you’ve placed your baby. Communication is the key to every good marriage, and the union a birth parent and adoptive parents enter into after the placement of a child mirrors marriage in many ways. Adoption does not mean you are forgotten or that you have to be out of the picture. Adoption means you are now called “birth mom” and that another woman loves, nurtures, and cares for your child. If you choose an adoptive mom who is ready to fully invest herself in her child, she’ll appreciate you, respect you, involve you, love you, and will show you her gratitude by giving your child the very best life she possibly can, and she’ll share all the highlights with you along the way.

Adoption shouldn’t be painted as an easy option, but many women who have experienced both abortion and adoption say that they’d choose adoption again a million times over but would never choose abortion again. Many women expect to have an abortion and simply move on with their lives, but reminders are everywhere, and guilt can be haunting. Adoption is not for the faint of heart either, but you’re giving a child a chance at life, and you have every right to add to the quality of that child’s life by staying present and assuring that child that she was never given away—she was given the very best chance you could offer her.