"The hardest part was loving him so much when I gave birth to him," Money tells PEOPLE
After finding out she was pregnant at 15, former The Bachelor contestant Michelle Money made the difficult decision to place her son for adoption – and while she doesn’t regret her choice, that hasn’t made it any easier.
“The hardest part was loving him so much when I gave birth to him and feeling that love after having carried him for 9 months,” Money tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into, but once I went through the birthing experience and held him in my arms and loved him so much … it was a lot of emotion to deal with at such a young age.”
“If I hadn’t had the spiritual confirmation and support and love from my family, I don’t know that I could have followed through with it,” Money admits. “Because it goes against everything that your heart and body and soul believe as a woman.”
And the process of grief that came afterwards was even harder, Money says.
“It took me a long, long time – you kind of go through the grieving process, as if he died,” she says. “I had to really grieve the loss of him and that process took years and years. And still to this day you always wonder if you – I know that I made the right decision, I just would love to have the conversation with him and get caught up on his life and know that he’s happy.”
“My fear is that he was raised feeling that I didn’t love him or didn’t want him – my biggest fear is him thinking for one second that I didn’t want to have him,” Money continues. “Truly, I just really couldn’t. I was a child myself.”
Though Money isn’t disclosing the identity of the birth father, she has only kind words for how he handled the situation.
“He was wonderful and an amazing boyfriend and was very supportive,” she says, explaining that he was adopted himself and had a great experience with it, which gave them some insight into the process.
Money says she hasn’t been in communication with her now 19-year-old son’s adoptive parents – but hopes that when he’s ready, he might reach out.
“After we placed him up for adoption, we were able to get letters and pictures for the first few years of his life, but that’s it,” she says. “I really don’t want to initiate any contact. It’s one of those things you have to be so fragile with. When he’s ready, if he’s ready, if they’re ready to tell him and he wants to reach out to me, then I would be so excited. I don’t want to put him in a position where he has to make that decision if he’s not ready to make it.”
Still, Money says she would “love to have him” in her life to “whatever degree.”
“I would love to, more than anything, just know that he has had a good life,” she says. “For peace of mind for me, just knowing that I did make the right decision, that he’s had every opportunity that I hoped for him and that he’s been able to find happiness and love and success with his family and his life.”
“I am hopeful that I’ll be able to have some sort of a friendship with him, a relationship of some sort – but definitely when he’s ready for it,” she adds.
As for who’s also hoping he might come into their lives? Money’s daughter Brielle, 11, whom she shares with her ex-husband.
“Brielle has always told me that she wishes she had a big brother and in the back of my head I’ve always been like, ‘Gosh, that would be pretty magical if that ended up happening for her,'” Money says.
“When I told her, she was just really excited and was crying and emotional and couldn’t believe that she really does have a big brother,” Money said. “But I also had to be so careful not to give her false hopes. I had to remind her that he’s out there somewhere, but we might not ever meet him. She needed to be okay with that – more than anything, I just want to make sure that I don’t get her hopes up for something that might not ever happen.”
At the end of the day, Money says she’s glad to finally be able to open up about her experience – after all, “it’s one of those big events in your life that really defines you,” she says.
“To talk about it publicly has been a really big step for me, because I never thought that my life would be so public,” she says. “Having this son that I would love to have a relationship with, I have to also take him and his family into consideration when bringing them into my life. And so for a long time I really battled with it and struggled with needing to protect everyone else but I just was able to finally get to this place where I had to let all that go and just speak my truth and know that this is my life. And it’s a beautiful life.”
“They get to decide if they want to be a part of my life or not or how much they want to be involved in it, but I have to live my truth,” she adds. “And all the love and support I’ve received since has given me confidence and reassurance in that decision. I know that this was the right timing for me.”