Fourteen years ago, Ashley Mitchell spent the winter harboring a big secret. She was 7-and-a-half-months pregnant before her parents knew she was having a baby.
Mitchell had every intention of having an abortion. She and the guy she was with at the time decided ending the pregnancy was the best option for them, so she headed to a clinic to have the abortion. But after a consultation, a nurse told Mitchell she was too far along in her pregnancy — abortion was no longer an option.
“I went to the abortion clinic in Salt Lake City and a nurse came in and she said four words that changed my life forever,” Mitchell recalled during a recent interview on The Illuminate Podcast. “She said, ‘We can’t help you.’ She said, ‘You’re too far along.’ And in just seconds, four words completely changed the course of my life forever, changed generations, changed so much more than I even knew at the time, that didn’t even exist at the time.”
Pregnant with a baby boy, Mitchell was 26 years old.
She was immediately smacked with two options: adoption or motherhood.
“For me, at that time, adoption just became my option,” she said. “People tell me, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you for choosing life.’ And I was like, ‘You know, life kinda chose him,’ because that’s the headspace I was in. And I’m very grateful for that moment.”
“I didn’t know how much I needed him now and how amazing he is,” she continued, referring to the son she ultimately gave up for adoption. He is now 13 years old. “I look at him now and I can’t believe that I ever considered that,” Mitchell added.
So at eight months pregnant, Mitchell began the difficult process of choosing her soon-to-be-born child’s parents. She spent a full 24 hours just flipping through a scrapbook of dozens of family profiles before she ultimately narrowed it down to two couples. The trying process gave her a window into the “devastating” pain of so many adoptive parents who have lost children or struggled with infertility.
“I had narrowed it down to the two, and I went to bed — I was staying at my parents’ during this time,” said Mitchell. “I put them on the nightstand and I said, ‘This is as far as I can go. I cannot pick.’ And I just prayed, ‘Please give me clarity when I roll over in the morning and I look at their faces, because I cannot pick. This is too much.’”
“And I woke up and I knew as soon as I looked at them who it was going to be,” she continued. Mitchell said she thinks about the woman she didn’t choose “all the time,” wondering — hoping — she was picked by another person.
So when her son’s birthday came, on April 4 of that year, Mitchell vowed she wasn’t going to hold her child. She was just going to pass him to his adoptive parents. That, though proved to be too hard. As soon as he was born, Mitchell said, she reached for her son.
She explained the many “sacred” nights when it was just the two of them, before she told anyone she was pregnant. She recalled the conversations she had with him and the overwhelming emotions that came with finally meeting him.
Mitchell’s son’s adoptive family connected with him immediately over the few days after his birth. Mitchell, for her part, spent her last remaining days with her son talking with him, praying over him, and “memorizing” him, asking him for forgiveness.
Since it was an open adoption, Mitchell now has a relationship with her teenage son. She is now the mother of two children, a son and a daughter.
You can listen to the rest of Mitchell’s conversation here.