How four ordinary women weathered life-altering events and emotional challenges during their pregnancies and not only survived, but thrived, nurtured their new babies and rebuilt their lives.
Jennifer Gillette, 29
Mother of William, 11 months. Abandoned by her husband when she was five months pregnant.
In January 2005, Jennifer Gillette figured her life was just about perfect. She was five months pregnant with her first child, had a great job as a graphic designer and was married to a man she loved and who, as far as she knew, loved her back. But then, her husband, Reed, dropped the bomb: He was unhappy and wanted to divorce.
"I was completely blindsided," Gillette says. "I honestly had no clue. I thought we were happy." At first, Reed's complaints were vague. So, determined to save the marriage, Gillette suggested counseling. But she mostly ended up going alone. Eventually, the truth came out: There was another woman.
Reeling from grief and hormone-fueled emotions, Gillette confided only in her therapist. "I couldn't even acknowledge it to myself, much less tell my friends," she says. "I was so humiliated." Instead, she cried all the way to work, "then all the way through lunch, sitting in my cubicle," and all the way home. "And then I'd cry until I went to bed."
Gillette's emotional turning point came when she began sobbing in her prenatal-exercise class. "I completely lost it," she says. When her trainer asked what was wrong, Gillette blurted everything out. "Hey," the trainer replied. "My husband took off when my baby was a newborn. It's terrible, but you'll get through it." That conversation made Gillette realize it was time to start building a support network.
"I began by picking two women at my office and reaching out to them," she says. "Women are amazing, and when you open up to them, they'll share the most awesome stories of their own." Gillette also hired a doula to give her emotional support during labor and delivery. "Asking for help was really big for me," she says. "But I found that nobody can help unless you tell them what you need."
Now, Gillette says, she's finding joy in single motherhood. "I knew I had to take care of my baby, and that meant I had to take care of myself," she says. "Things aren't perfect yet, but they're good, especially when I look into my son's face."