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Fertility Heroes: Meet Jessica
a blog by Ellen Glazer, July 14, 2011
To read more of Ellen Glazer's Conversations with an Infertility Counselor blogs, CLICK HERE.
When I first met Jessica, she had just learned that her third in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle had failed. She was 40 years old, her doctor was pushing “the egg donor conversation” and she was feeling pretty defeated. “I know infertility is hard for anyone going through it but it is especially hard for me,” Jessica said. I had heard that phrase before, but I was surprised by what followed. “I had a baby once. I placed him for adoption when I was 20. I never thought getting pregnant would be a problem.”
Jessica, a beautiful and brilliant corporate lawyer went on to explain that she had become pregnant when she was in college. She didn’t have a relationship with the birth father and didn’t much like him. Although she loved her unborn child, she could not see trying to raise him on her own, anticipating no support from the birth father and limited support from her parents who lived far away and had their sights on their daughter continuing her successful academic path. Jessica made a careful and well thought out adoption plan, said good-bye to her son and moved on in her life, marrying at 38 and trying immediately to conceive.
Four years have passed since I first met Jessica. During that time, she has reconnected with the world of adoption, but this time from the other direction: Jessica and her husband, Ralph are the parents of two young girls adopted as newborns in open adoption.
“It was easy for me to talk with birth mothers,” Jessica said. I really knew where they were coming from and what they were going through. We connected easily.” Jessica goes on to describe how different her two birth mothers are. Madeline, the birth mother of her first child, is a college student, and Maria, the birth mother of her younger daughter, is a single mother who raised three children on public assistance. Jessica says that although Madeline is more familiar to her, talking with each young woman was comfortable and reassuring. “We had some ups and downs, but I knew that they were each resolute in their adoption plan. Having had doubts myself, I remembered how one can seem uncertain and questioning but still hold fast to the adoption plan.”
Indeed, both Madeline and Maria placed their babies with Jessica and Ralph. Soon after Abigail, her first daughter’s arrival, Jessica took a leave of absence from her job. She said that she had waited too long to be a mother to miss anything. “Some of my colleagues at work don’t understand this. They had no idea that becoming a mother was so important to me. Of course, they have no clue of what it really means.”
In private, Jessica has told me what it “really means” for her to be a mother. She says that she was very briefly a mother 20 plus years ago but that when she placed Alex, the baby she gave birth to, for adoption, “I transferred my motherhood to the woman I chose to be his mother.” Jessica says that the process of transferring motherhood felt sanctified to her and that with it she had to fully accept “non-motherhood.” At least for a time.
“When you were going through infertility, did you ever think of Alex as your child?” I asked Jessica. She looked puzzled by my question. “Not at all, “ she said emphatically. “He has a mother, and it is not me.” Jessica went on to explain that it was her fervent belief in transfer of motherhood and “the sanctification of adoption” that enabled her to so fully and naturally embrace adoption. “I knew that when someone placed a baby in my arms and said I was the mother, I would truly be that child’s mother. It may sound corny, but it was so abundantly clear to me.”
Indeed, Jessica is an awesome mother. She has two very different little girls — one shy and artistic, the other bold and athletic. It is clear in seeing them together that Jessica cherishes each child for who she is and that she loves them fully, unconditionally and with the confidence that comes from being a real, true mother.