“My name is Callie Mitchell. I’m 25 years old and a junior at the University of Iowa. I’m majoring in psychology and journalism, and two months ago I had a baby.”
As Mitchell, a photographer, explains in the multimedia account -- which consists of an essay, 25 photos and three videos -- she became pregnant in March, 2012. It was a “surprise,” she writes. “Not a mistake.” After the baby’s father broke up with her (“The lies had caught up with me, and he couldn’t stand the thought of raising a baby that might not be his,” she writes), she ultimately made the painful decision to give their baby boy, Leo, up for adoption.
Mitchell's diary begins on the day she took her pregnancy test and ends on Feb. 24, 2013, when she notes that she’s planning her first visit to Leo and his parents in March. It includes reflections on the first three months of her baby’s life, and powerful moments that reflect how difficult it was for Mitchell to come to this decision.
In a phone interview with HuffPost Parents, Mitchell explained: “I was never completely sure that I was making the right decision until I saw Leo in his parents' arms. And I saw them together, and I knew that that was exactly what was supposed to happen. He was supposed to be with these people; they were supposed to raise him -- it was just so natural for them to hold him.”
For Mitchell, giving Leo to his adoptive parents was an exercise in extreme selflessness. “It's not about the birth parent, it's about the child being born,” she said.
Before she got pregnant, Mitchell said, she hadn’t envisioned adoption as part of her life story. “I just always thought if I got pregnant, I was going to raise it -- and even if the dad left, I thought I was gonna raise it by myself; I was gonna be a single mom.”
When Leo’s birth father suggested adoption, Mitchell was initially horrified. “He was asking me to give away our son,” she said via phone. But he asked her to think carefully, and after much consideration, she agreed that it was the right choice for her and her baby.
Throughout her pregnancy, Mitchell said, she felt intensely alone.
“Mostly everybody in my life had left me, and I was kind of just here fending for myself,” she told HuffPost. Although her family was excited when they first heard about the pregnancy, her mother and grandmother ultimately took a step back. They disagreed with some of Mitchell's decisions, and they were unhappy that she had decided to give one of their relatives to another family to raise.
Even now, only her oldest sister has actually met Leo, Mitchell said.
Those feelings of loneliness were at odds with the tremendous attachment she felt for her unborn son -- a dichotomy that’s clear from her photos. “You kind of feel like you're being consumed by darkness, and it's weird because at the same time there's this thing growing inside of you that you have endless love for, and you love something so much yet you feel so alone," Mitchell told HuffPost.
Can Mitchell imagine having more children in the future?
“As of right now, having gone through what I went through -- no, I don't think that I would want to have kids again. I think I did it right the first time. I think I birthed a pretty amazing kid. And his parents will say the same thing.”
As for what she hopes to accomplish by sharing her story, Mitchell said she wants to let others know that adoption can be a beautiful thing (a perspective she realizes it may be easier to appreciate now that her pregnancy is over).
“I just want people to know that it's OK to admit that you can't take care of a baby. It's OK to admit that you can't take care of your child. And it's OK to give your child to somebody who can.”