When you think of the words courageous, single mother, world traveler and successful business woman, Jackie Cohen comes to mind.
Born and raised in New York City to immigrant parents, Jackie left an unfulfilled life on Wall Street behind to rediscover her passions on a ‘round the world journey that led her back to her family jewelry business and into the arms of her adopted daughter, Julia. After a passionate love affair left her wanting more out of life, Jackie embarked on a long and tortuous infertility path that ended after 9 failed attempts at IVF and several pregnancy losses. Not being one to take no for an answer, Jackie chose a new path to fulfilling her dream of becoming a mother and created a family of her own. Her little miracle baby then led to the launch of her jewelry line, My Story, because quite simply, every Mother has a story. Here’s hers…
We’re so inspired by your journey to start a family. To recap, you were 40, single and dating Mr. Wrong when you realized you really wanted a baby. What was the catalyst that made you decide to do this on your own?
At 40 I was dating this Italian guy, who was also 40 and single and never married. He was lusty, crazy, rich, exciting and wild. He flew me to Italy to meet his family. I had this romantic idea of leading an adorned and bohemian lifestyle between Italy and NYC. But, in my heart I knew he was just a fling and not a life partner. After a crazy breakup, I knew I wanted a family. I was never scared to do it on my own. I have an amazing family and support system. I didn’t think motherhood would be a tenth the amount of work it is, or as rich, wonderful and fulfilling as it is, so I am glad I was never scared to do it. I always knew that I would do it on my own if I didn’t have a life partner. I always knew I wanted to be a mother and the partner was sort of secondary.
What was your journey like with IVF? It can be really hard going in thinking you’re going to have a baby right away and it take 2, 3, 4, times and sometimes it doesn’t work….
It was HORRIBLE! I always say that suffering from infertility and going through IVF is the cruelest thing you can do to your body and emotions. I found it devastating every 28 days to get your hopes up, only to be disappointed that you weren’t pregnant. Or, you do get pregnant but suffer a loss. Personally, I had many complications and two pregnancy losses. This, compounded by the cost is the worst. You’re constantly thinking, “I hope I get pregnant this time, otherwise it’s another $10,000.” It’s insane to think that way. Everything costs money, it’s a total mind f*&%.
Turns out, that worst day of my life, was the best decision I ever made!
Why did you keep going with IVF for so long? What was the point when you really decided to go to adoption?
I kept trying IVF because I wanted a baby. Period. After the 9th time, I made peace with my body that it was just not meant to make a baby. I drank a lot of wine, cried myself to sleep and picked myself up. The next day, made the decision to adopt and never looked back. Turns out, that worst day of my life, was the best decision I ever made!
Was there any advice that really helped you to get through this process?
Only one piece of advice actually stands out. It was from a woman who had adopted a child, she said to me..there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will get a baby and I closed my eyes and for the first time, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Once you decided to go the adoption route, what happened? Tell us your adoption story….
I have the most amazing story – it’s a miracle! The whole process, from the first phone call I received from a potential birth mother, to the day my daughter, Julia was born, was only 8 days! The birth mother was a single mom, so she didn’t care that I was a single mom as well, and we clicked. At the end of a two hour call, we decided to take it the next step. Sheepishly she said, “I hope this doesn’t freak you out, but I am due on Thursday!” – it was Monday. I jumped on a plane, the moment my lawyer told me I was allowed to and the birth mom and I met for lunch and then went for a pre-natal check-up at a small regional hospital. The doctor came in and did his exam and exclaimed, “There’s the baby’s head!! We’re having a baby!” I called my mom and told her to jump on the next plane. Three hours later, Julia was born! I was there to help deliver her and cut the umbilical cord. It was magical that I could share in the experience of her birth.
Sheepishly she said, “I hope this doesn’t freak you out, but I am due on Thursday!” – it was Monday.
Wow. After years of trying, you had a daughter in 8 days? What was going through your head?
It honestly happened so fast, I didn’t have time for thoughts. My only thought was, I hope the birth mom likes me. Because of the IVF journey, I didn’t want to buy anything in advance and sit there looking at a room full of baby stuff and get even more depressed, so I flew out there with nothing. I also wanted to protect myself in case it didn’t work out. My mom and I stayed in a hotel with nothing. Looking back, it’s crazy how much stuff we buy for kids and how little you can survive with. When my mom came she brought some hand me downs, but they were all in boy colors, blue and green. We went to the local Walmart and bought her some pink stuff, so she would have a pink onesie to fly home in. We had to wash the clothes in the sink by hand and let them dry overnight. I cherish the journey now, and of course I saved the Walmart onesie! Since it all happened so quickly, my friends threw me a shower, buying me everything I needed from a stroller to diaper genie. I wouldn’t change a thing about any of the crazy and wild ride.
Knowing now how everything worked out, what would you share with a woman in a similar situation trying to get pregnant?
I would say to never give up and to believe. Believe in yourself. I know it sounds so cliche, but I felt like the desire to become a mom burns inside of you, and in my case was insatiable, so I didn’t give up. If you keep fighting for what you want, you will get it. Sometimes the reward is an unexpected inspiration and additional strength and courage that will bring you to new places you didn’t know you needed. Julia’s adoption and happiness has brought me to give back. Currently I work with HELPUSADOPT.ORG and have recently been asked to be on the board. I am thrilled to help others build their families through adoption.
How did this experience and finding your daughter inspire your jewelry line?
When Julia was born, I wanted a piece of jewelry to celebrate her. When I couldn’t find anything that fit my style, I created a simple birthstone ring with skinny diamonds on the band for myself and had her name and birth date inscribed on the inside. When people commented on it, I shared my adoption story and I found people sharing their stories back and wanting a ring for their loved ones as well. Today, the collection has grown to include necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more stackable rings! Proudly, a portion of the sales from each piece goes to HELPUSADOPT.ORG. I’ll be showing my line here in New York at the Saks on 5th and 50th st. November 15th & 16th, from 11am-8:30pm. Everyone’s invited!
I’ll be showing my line here in New York at the Saks on 5th and 50th st. November 15th & 16th, from 11am-8:30pm. Everyone’s invited!
That’s amazing (and inspiring!). How did you get into the jewelry business?
My dad started the company almost 50 years ago after immigrating from Cuba, so it’s in my DNA. After college however, I spent 12 years on Wall Street. I was successful, but burnt out, and unfulfilled in my career and personal life. After a year of traveling the world, from Africa, India, Europe and Israel, I came back to an invitation to join the family business! The rest is history.
We hear that the collection is going to be in Saks Fifth Avenue for the holidays. Congratulations! That’s quite an accomplishment to be picked up in such a big door after just launching in February of 2016. How did that happen?
It was amazing to meet the Saks Fifth Avenue team and as they say, I was at the right place at the right time. A few months earlier, Saks hosted an event for Mother’s Day, where they sold personalized lockets. It was super successful so they planned another one for the Christmas season and that’s when they came to me. I was floored when they suggested I might be a good fit for this Christmas season!
Can you share 3 “Pearls of Wisdom” about career and motherhood?
1. Don’t care about what other people think. So many people felt compelled to give me their opinions when I decided to adopt, regardless of whether I asked for it. To this day, people still question my decision. I say, “screw them!” So what if she isn’t my blood or if I birthed her? I take care of her like any mom would. I watch her breathe when she sleeps, cry when she hurts, and want to give her the best life in the world.
2. Be open to change and be flexible. I have made some pretty crazy decisions in my life. From radical career changes to quitting my job, from traveling around the world to adopting my daughter. With every change, I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. So many people are afraid of change and the unknown. With every change in my life, I didn’t know where I would end up, but I knew it was going to be better and bring me more happiness, love and success.
3. Never give up. This goes without saying or I wouldn’t have found my special angel baby.
The idea that every woman has a story truly resonates with us at heymama. Some of us are just starting our families, some have endured years of fertility treatments and others have created the family they always dreamed of through donors or adoption. If we’ve learned anything through it all, the community of incredible heymama women, like Jackie, has made us feel like we aren’t alone. Knowing that if you want a family, you will find a way to make it happen, it just might not be how you originally planned and that’s all part of our journey as mothers.