Autumn and Me { Champlin Senior Portraits }

I have to take a break from all of my regular, fall, photo session blogging…and I have to jump ahead to Autumn. Not the season. The girl. I’ve been dying to write this blog for awhile now; and, on this cool, rainy, quiet afternoon it’s the perfect time to write. I was thinking that I would try to write this blog from her point of view…but, the more I thought about that, the more I realized that the side I know about the most is my side, and the feelings I can share the easiest, are mine. This is my story about my first born…

Actually, I think to start this story, I need to go backwards…back to 1997. <insert grunge music, flannel shirts, lip smackers, vanilla fields and high school hallways here> I was 16 and a sophomore in high school. I was in the band. I played hockey. I had really great parents. I had pretty okay grades. I loved art. I had never drank, done drugs, skipped school or even smoked a cigarette. Just a weirdish, yet normal girl, in the regular world. I adored Gwen Staffani, and Smashing Pumpkins and I loved, so deeply, my boyfriend. Him and I were the best when we were good. We planned to get married, had wedding colors picked out and spent all of the time we could together. He made me laugh so hard and he made me feel like if the world were to end–I would be okay, as long as I was with him. When him and I weren’t at our best though–we were at the absolute worst. He would cheat on me, he would disappear and forget all about me, he would say terrible things and he would hurt me in every way possible. He made me cry so hard. Yet…he always apologized, and we stayed together. At that point, I had never been more in love with anyone, ever, in my whole life.

After a year and a half of riding the emotional roller coaster that we were on, I realized that I had missed my period. And, then, I missed another one. I told him and, together, we walked to the local clinic where I could get a free pregnancy test. (Anyone who wants to tell me that Planned Parenthood does more harm than good can leave now. I didn’t know where to go and they were there to help me, to hold me up, to give me resources, to council me and to continue caring for me if I needed it.) As you can probably guess, that pregnancy test came back quite positive. I remember walking home with him, in almost complete silence, not having any idea what to do next. I remember the tears in my eyes made me feel so short. I knew I had to talk to my parents, and he had to talk to his–but, formulating those words, when I wasn’t even able to tell my mom I had been having sex, was the scariest thing I had ever had to do. Ever.

I, within minutes, went from feeling like a regular girl, to a freak. All of my normal suddenly became empty. Nothing felt fun, or light anymore…it all just seemed terrifying. I kept hoping I would wake up. The only thing I was able to concentrate on was this tiny, little, soul growing inside of me. My, entire, world changed immediately–I stopped feeling young, and I stopped feeling pride in who I was. I felt like an embarrassment to my entire family. My boyfriend never left, but, in so many ways, he was never there again. He was no more ready than I was; however, he didn’t have that same, physical, connection to the tiny one growing inside of me, that I did. His answer to much of this, was the same as a lot of guys…find a new girlfriend. My answer to all of this was to protect. Period.

Months later…after all of the awful conversations, all of the tears, all of the disappointed looks, all of the questions, and all of the silence–I found myself completely content, and accepting of everything I was going through. I didn’t care what anyone thought, they weren’t me, they weren’t going through this, and they had no idea what it was like to be me. (Teenage hormones, and pregnancy hormones…yikes.) I kept going to school. I kept getting good grades. I kept riding the roller coaster with my boyfriend, I kept listening to my favorite music and I kept staying healthy. I started seeing a counselor who was so sweet, and kind, and was there to listen–even when I didn’t want anything to do with her. My only goal, at this point, (about 6 months pregnant), was to be a mom. I couldn’t even IMAGINE carrying this little girl for nine months and then handing her off to someone else. It was also around this time when I started to look around through eyes that didn’t feel like mine…

I looked around my home and realized that I still shared a room with my younger sister. I had no place to have a sleeping infant, let alone set up a baby’s room. I looked at my parents–a single mom who worked full time, and a dad who worked full time. Yes, I was close to them both–but neither of them were there to help me much before finding out I was pregnant, I knew they couldn’t be there MORE, after the baby was born. I looked around at my peers. I wasn’t, mentally, capable of being older than them. I was still just a teenager…despite my life circumstances. Sure, I was always a responsible teen, but, I still would forget to shower, I couldn’t cook much outside of what went in the toaster, or microwave, I was too young to hold a decent paying job, and I didn’t even know how to drive. I looked at my relationship, and, after one, final, terrifying, ride with my boyfriend…I realized it was time to get off the roller coaster. I realized that the only way I knew how to protect my daughter, and raise her the way she needed, and deserved to be raised, was to let someone else do it. I never, once, didn’t love her–and, I never, once, didn’t do everything I could to protect her. It was then that I started speaking to my counselor about adoption.

After coming to grips with my decision, and having it being met with both praise and resentment, I started looking though mounds, and mounds, of family case files. All of these parents wanted, so badly, a baby of their own. They all seemed so good and kind. I found strength, and encouragement within those files–I couldn’t be what this little baby needed, but, any of them could. The problem was though, that I had NO idea how to choose. None of them just felt ‘right’.

It was around this same time that my mom came to me, as I sat at my kitchen table, surrounded by folders of very deserving couples, and told me that my aunt, and my uncle, who lived in Montana, had been hoping to adopt. They had been trying to conceive a baby for years, with no luck. They had went through all of their background checks and home studies already, in hopes that they would, someday, be able to adopt and/or foster children. Being 16, I had never known any of this. It was adult business. I did know that my aunt Vicky was always my favorite. She was the one who would play games with me until I was tired when I was little. She was the goofy one. She was the one who made the best food. She was the one who made me, and everyone around her, feel amazing–she was also the one who I, secretly, wished was MY mom whenever I got angry at home. Needless to say, I never, once, opened another case file. I knew, exactly, where my daughter was going to go. I had never felt more comfort, security, or strength, throughout my pregnancy–for either me, or my baby.

From there…time went on and Autumn was born in October, here in Minnesota. My friends brought me Skittles, and flowers, and we were all in love with that tiny baby. Within days, Autumn flew to Montana, however. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t the strangest, quietest, period of my life. I went from making plans, having people all around me, feeling the excitement of knowing I would finally get to meet the little one who had been growing inside of me and feeling a baby, physically, moving and bouncing around, inside of me…to nothing. There was nothing. No one told my my boobs would still fill up with milk. No one told me that my favorite clothes wouldn’t just fit again right away. No one told me that people would tiptoe around me and stare. No one told me that I would have stitches, and bleed. No one told me that life wouldn’t just go back to normal. No one told me how alone both my body, and mind, would suddenly feel.

So, there I was…I missed Autumn so much, but had huge confidence in where she was. I kept thinking about how hard it must be for my aunt and uncle to adjust–as it was for me. I kept wondering if Autumn knew something wasn’t right–or, if she was just happy, and content, like I hoped she would be. I felt like an empty vessel though. I tried to stay in touch, but didn’t want to stay too in touch, as so I didn’t appear needy. I wrote a lot to myself, mostly. I slept a lot. I prayed a lot. And, I listened to a lot of music. Eventually life became normal again. I spoke at local high schools about my story, and at local teen pregnancy centers. I went back to pep band, and good grades, and arguing with my sister over clothes and friends. I learned to drive. I kept my old friends, and also made new ones. I found a new boyfriend, a normal one who was so good to me, all the time. And I smiled, and laughed a lot again. Autumn was also laughing, and smiling, and happy, and healthy, and safe, and content. Everything felt like the way it was supposed to be.

Through the years, Autumn was always raised knowing her birth story. I was birth mom, and was always introduced accordingly when I went to visit. I always tell everyone about my first daughter when they ask how many children I have, or ask about my pregnancies. I knew this wouldn’t always be easy though. When I had Autumn, I was a teenager, and I feared the day she became my age. I knew, in my heart, that if she was anything like me, those years would be the most painful for her. Her entire life, all I’ve wanted to be is her backbone whenever she needed me without getting in the way of her and her parents relationship, as well. For the last few years, she has been making the flight to MN, alone, to stay with me for chunks of time. Her parents, and I, love her so much, and work together, on the same page, to try to carry her, the best we can, through the rough spots. It’s amazing how no matter what, your child is your child–and, just like when I was pregnant with her, my desire to protect her, and give her all she needs has never faded, nor will it.

Anyway…Autumn was here a few weeks ago, and I was gifted the opportunity to take her senior photos. Never did I think, 18 years ago, that someday, I would be a photographer, and that I would be capturing this moment in her life. I am so proud of her, and who she has grown to be. I know it hasn’t been easy for her. I know that in my heart and soul. I also know that we haven’t seen the best of her yet…this girl has a beautiful road ahead of her and I can’t wait to continue to watch as she navigates through it all. I’m proud of the small role I have been allowed to play with her–but, am even prouder of the role her parents have played. I really, truly, love our story. ❤

12 thoughts on “Autumn and Me { Champlin Senior Portraits }

  1. Jeez, I probably shouldn’t be reading this as i sit here nursing my new baby. lol Such a touching story Mel. I can’t begin to imagine riding that rollercoaster. I am so glad you are able to have such a part in Autumn’s life. What beautiful photos of her. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love you. I love your story. I love your writing. I love your gifts. I love your smile. I love your friendship. I love how you love.

    The world is a better place with you in it. A much brighter better place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love love your story. This made me cry a little. You’ve told me about Autumn and I’m glad you two are well connected. 😚.. such sad story, yet so sad. But at the end everyone is happy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful pictures. And thanks for telling this story – it’s very timely since it’s adoption awareness month! I’m adopted and used to be a birth parent counselor so I love when people are able to share their stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t even know it was Adoption Awareness Month! Funny. 🙂

      I love to share my story…I needed to hear stories from others when I was going through all of this, so, I hope mine will connect with someone, somewhere, too.

      Like

  5. I still remember the day that you guys told me that I was gonna be an aunt! I was soo happy and I cried for hours and told everyone, even strangers. Thank you for writing something so beautiful about not only Autumn’s life, but all of your guy’s too. Makes me think back to those days again. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were some tough days…but, I’d never, in a million years, change a thing about them. Things are meant to be for a reason. 🙂 I love that this made you think back. It seems like forever ago–but also, just yesterday!

      Like

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