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‘My Baby, Not My Child’: Brave Woman Documents Giving Up Her Infant for Adoption (PHOTOS)

Callie Mitchell

Photographer Callie Mitchell documents her journey for The Daily Iowan

Callie Mitchell is a 25-year-old photographer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her dream, she writes, is to “wander the world and capture the miniscule moments of [her] surroundings.”

That dream, however, was recently interrupted.

She got pregnant with her boyfriend’s child and because of what she calls her “countless lies,” the relationship didn’t stand a “fighting chance.”

Realizing the struggle of being a single mom and student just wasn’t in her, she made the heartbreaking decision to give up her baby for adoption. And then she made the brave and incredibly generous decision to document her pregnancy and adoption journey through a series of photos and journal entries.

“I just want to present adoption as a very amazing and beautiful option to unplanned pregnancy,” Callie told Babble.  “I want people to understand that it’s not giving away your baby, it’s giving a couple an opportunity to have something amazing that they might not otherwise be able to have. I am very grateful [to my son's adoptive parents].”

Here are some of her poignant words and pictures (Note: The dates and essay excerpts don’t necessarily correspond to the photos):

nggallery id=’130553′

  • March 25, 2012 1 of 15
    March 25, 2012
    "I am a day late with my period and woke up in his bed, worried I was pregnant. I got up, walked to the store to get a pregnancy test, and immediately took it when I got back to his apartment. As I sat on the toilet with the pregnancy test on the counter, waiting for the results, my mind raced. I was excited at the thought of being a mom and loving my own child. I had the perfect boyfriend who I was in love with, and we had talked about getting married and having children someday — someday just came sooner than we expected.

    When the test showed a positive reading, I sat on the toilet and started crying. All of a sudden I was worried about how he would respond. After I told him, he and I talked for hours. At times, we just sat in silence. He was thinking. At that time, we decided to keep the baby and start the family we had talked about."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • March 26, 2012 2 of 15
    March 26, 2012
    "We told our families today. All of our parents are excited about a new grandchild. I think my dad almost started crying he was so happy. After the father told his mom, she called and talked to me for an hour. Everyone has been very supportive."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • May 18, 2012 3 of 15
    May 18, 2012
    "He left me. It's no one's fault but my own. The lies had caught up with me, and he couldn't stand the thought of raising a baby that might not be his. He couldn't start a family with a girl that gave him every reason not to trust her. I've never hated myself so much in my entire life."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • May 21, 2012 4 of 15
    May 21, 2012
    "He wants me to give our baby up for adoption. He says I won't be a good mother. He says he's too emotionally damaged to be a good father, and it's my fault. Everything is my fault. I don't want to give our baby up. Abortion was never an option, in my mind. I can't carry a child for nine months, feel it grow, and feel it kick. I can't have a baby be a part of me and give it up. I can't give up a piece of me. I can't give birth, be in labor for hours, and feel the pain of my baby. I can't give all of that love and just give it away like nothing happened."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • July 25, 2012 5 of 15
    July 25, 2012
    "Today, I have decided I am going to keep my baby. I never wanted to give my baby away. I've been thinking about it for a while. I want to look at him every day and tell him that I love him. I can feel him fluttering around in my belly, and I want to meet him so badly. I can't wait to see the amazing boy he grows up to be. Already, I'm so proud of him, so proud to be his mom. I have so much love for this little being. I can figure out a way to make my schedule work so that he is the center of my life. I can still work part-time. I can take online classes so that I can be at home with him more. I'm not telling the adoption agency yet. I want to get everything set up and be absolutely sure I can keep my baby."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • August 2, 2012 6 of 15
    August 2, 2012
    "I told him I wanted to keep our baby. We fought. I then promised him I'd put our baby up for adoption. I just want this constant fighting to end."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • August 14, 2012 7 of 15
    August 14, 2012
    [On June 6, Callie's mom got her the number for an agency called Graceful Adoptions whose owner is Karen Nissley, and a few weeks later she received three parent profiles.]

    "I like a couple named Kristen and Brian. I think they would be perfect for my son. They both have college degrees. They are very active and like to spend time outdoors. They are both very hard-working, but how do you judge what makes a good parent? What kind of questions do you ask that would make it easier to decide if these are the best people to raise him? Is it reckless of me to trust two complete strangers with my baby based on a four-page profile and an hourlong phone conversation? What if they don't like me?"

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • October 17, 2012 8 of 15
    October 17, 2012
    "Karen drove from Des Moines to see me. We went out to lunch and discussed my birth plan. She asked me if I wanted to hold the baby when he was born. This was a question I thought a lot about over the last few months. I said no, I wanted the first person to hold him to be his parents because that first touch is so important. It is the first and most powerful moment when a bond is formed between parent and child, and I didn't want to steal that from Kristen and Brian. I was also terrified of getting too attached to him and then not being able to handle it when he is gone."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • October 25, 2012 9 of 15
    October 25, 2012
    "Alone and pregnant, I took a hard look at my life and the choices I've made. I have never felt so low in my life. I spend hours daily lost in depression, curled up in the fetal position with my body wrapped around my growing belly, drowning in my endless sobbing. Wadded up toilet paper litters the floor of my apartment. I've lost complete control of my emotions. I missed classes because I can't stop crying. I constantly leave lecture and hurry to the bathroom just so I can cry for 10 minutes. My heart has never felt so heavy and hard to hold. I really want to meet his parents. After a two-day conversation with his parents, we have settled on naming him Leo Arthur after his adopted grandpa."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • December 5, 2012 10 of 15
    December 5, 2012
    "These are definitely contractions. I can't breathe, the pain is so bad. I don't care if the hospital sends me home, at least they will send me home with something to dull the pain. I sent him a text to tell him I was going to the hospital. We've been in contact throughout my pregnancy but continually fighting."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • December 6, 2012 11 of 15
    December 6, 2012
    "My beautiful baby boy Leo was born this morning. The hospital admitted me around 6 p.m. After the epidural, it was a waiting game. I didn't sleep. He lay down on the couch by my bed and fell asleep. Kristen and Brian got to the hospital at 2 a.m. I said I wanted to meet them right before I started pushing. I wanted to meet my son's parents before I gave them this amazing gift. I started wondering what they were like, what it was going to be like meeting them. I thought about what it was going to be like hearing my son cry for the first time. What would it be like to not have him anymore? The moment I saw her, then him, enter my hospital room, a big smile came across my face. They both rushed over and each gave me a hug. Soon they left, and it was time to push.

    I held him today. I was so scared to hold him. I have held so many babies before, but holding my baby was different. I was amazed that just a few hours ago this being was inside of me. Even living through the process of giving birth, I still couldn't understand how he was finally here. I just stared at him thinking, 'This is my baby.'"

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • December 8, 2012 12 of 15
    December 8, 2012
    "The first night, we all had dinner together in Kristen's and Brian's hospital room. They were given their own room so they could stay in the hospital with Leo. We spent all night getting to know each other. I hadn't spoken to them directly since the interview a few months ago. I feel comfortable with them. I don't think any of us are nervous around each other. We all get along so well, it's like spending time with friends while taking turns holding the most precious child in the world. All of us standing around with nothing but endless love to give to our son. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever been a part of. Kristen and Brian love Leo so much. Brian holds Leo every second he can; it's precious."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • December 9, 2012 13 of 15
    December 9, 2012
    "The birth father and I met Kristen, Brian, and Karen to sign the final paperwork, giving up parental rights of our son. Graceful Adoptions has temporary custody of Leo until the court hearing in a few weeks. After we signed the paperwork, we all went to lunch. He and I spent time holding Leo. This was one of the last moments we got to spend with him."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • December 13, 2012 14 of 15
    December 13, 2012
    "Leo went home with his parents today. We all met at the Hamburg Inn and had breakfast together. Kristen started crying when we were all saying goodbye. I could tell she was devastated to be taking Leo from me, but there was also such deep gratitude in her eyes for giving them this precious being. I could not have picked better parents for my son. I'm excited to see what the future brings for them and for all of us. I can't wait to see them again. I miss him already."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen
  • February 24, 2012 15 of 15
    February 24, 2012
    "Leo is almost 3 months old now. Since leaving Iowa, he's grown so much. Kristen and I talk at least once a day. She tells me about their lives, and I keep her updated on things going on in my life. She sends me at least one picture of Leo almost every day. She sends a video of Leo and a list of all the new things he is doing at least once a month. He is really strong and is already trying to sit himself up. He loves being held up on his feet but hates "tummy time." We anticipate he will be walking in no time. He makes squeaking noises and babbles a lot. Kristen says he sings and dances to music. He smiles a lot.

    I'm very thankful she takes the time every day to let me into their lives and keeps me up to date on Leo. Life is busy and stressful enough with a newborn baby, but adding to it taking pictures and keeping the birth mom updated every day — it's a lot of energy. I miss him a lot."

    Photo credit: The Daily Iowan/Callie Mitchell and Rachel Jessen

To read Callie’s full story and see more photos, visit The Daily Iowan

All photos and captions used with permission from Callie Mitchell

More from Meredith on Babble’s Mom blog:

Read (even) more from Meredith at Babble’s Toddler blog, follow her on Twitter, and check out her weekly column on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post at MeredithCarroll.com

MORE ON BABBLE:
25 powerful photos of women giving birth
The most age-inappropriate baby gear (What were they thinking?!)
7 things you should never say to the mom of a newborn
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The 7 dumbest things I thought before I had a baby

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