My Story – Birthmother Jess

3486_10100155891055329_526647867_nMy name is Jess Urban – wife, mother to a rambunctious 2-year old daughter – Adalynn Zoe, and birthmother to my first born daughter- Celine “Zoe” Grace, age 12.
My journey to motherhood has not been an easy one. I had the opportunity to become a mother at the tender age of 17. However, I know how important it is for a child to have two loving parents and how hard it is emotionally for kids that come from a split home. Unfortunately, I know the feeling too well as I grew up in a split home – just like ¾ of today’s kids. I knew I didn’t have the tools, maturity and resources to take care of my first born. I also knew there were many couples looking to adopt and I would have the honor to give a couple one of God’s most precious gifts.
The road to Zoe’s final placement was very difficult. In the state of MN, birthparents have 10 working days from date of birth to decide if they want to place or parent. In those 10 working days, babies go to foster care. While Zoe was in foster care, her birthfather brought me to court for custody of her. This meant that I would bring her into my home and take care of her. I was thrown into parenting in just a few shorts days when others have years to plan. I had the privilege of having my daughter with me for 7 wonderful weeks. While I was with her, I brought her to an audiologist as she did not pass the newborn hearing test. She had severe hearing loss in one ear, then moderate to severe hearing loss in the other. This is tough news for any parent to swallow – let alone a 17 year old who was just skating by.
Zoe’s birthfather did eventually sign off his rights, which meant Zoe was to go with the family I had chosen for her. But I could also change my mind. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I wanted to keep her with all my heart and soul, but 192799_10100155199196819_1770890871_oI also knew I wasn’t what she needed. I live in southern MN and we have zero resources for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and I knew I couldn’t give her the tools she needed to be successful in my home area. Taking care of her also reinforced how immature I was and that she desperately needed a stable environment. So, I relinquished my rights a 2nd time (1st time leaving the hospital). She went to the family I had chosen for her and everything was perfect.
A few months later, my social worker called me and said the family I had chosen decided they were unable to care for Zoe due to her progressive hearing loss, which eventually turned into permanent hearing loss/deafness. So, I needed to either pick another family for her or parent her. CAN YOU IMAGINE?! I was in college at this point. I had another decision to make – drop out and parent or find another family. I had to go back to my original reasons for placing – a child needs a stable environment with two parents. I didn’t want us to be another statistic. I wanted so much more for my daughter and I was not at a place in my life to be able to provide stability and the resources she needed. Therefore, I chose another family for her – Brandi & Tim Rarus.
10985867_10204209795548098_6696714477147465854_nBrandi lost her hearing to spinal meningitis at age 6 and Tim was born deaf. Deafness has been in Tim’s family for 125 years – so it really is part of his family’s legacy. They have 3 biological boys that can hear and who absolutely adore their little sister.
I have been able to see Zoe 6 times since she was placed with Brandi and Tim. One of those times was during my wedding – she was my junior bridesmaid. I will always be Zoe’s birthmother, but Brandi will always be her Mom.
In 2014, I was finally able to be a Mommy. I had waited for this moment for a decade. I had this picture painted in my head that I was going to do everything ‘right’ this time. I took prenatal vitamins 6 months before we started trying, I was going to breastfeed every 2 hours and things were going to be ‘perfect’. BOY, WAS I EVER WRONG!!
When my second daughter, Adalynn, was born, all the emotions and memories of Zoe’s birth came flooding back. I couldn’t believe Adalynn was mine… forever! I didn’t have an immediate connection – in fact, it took me 7 months before that happened. I had always associated pregnancy/birth with loss and grief. Motherhood was not at all what I thought it was. Granted, I was given a taste of it with Zoe- but it was temporary and I was in a complete blur during that time. I attempted breastfeeding for 3 weeks and was not able to produce enough milk. That GUILT is overwhelming. I remember one night when Adalynn was crying uncontrollably due to being so hungry and I just couldn’t give her the milk she needed. I mixed up formula, my husband fed her and I went to our basement and cried just as hard as Adalynn was. I felt like a complete failure. I wanted everything to be ‘perfect’ with this baby. It took me a very long time to let go of that guilt – and still not so sure that I have totally let it go.
11169910_10100789446260619_2715860724357999706_nWhen I was little, I always knew I would be a mother someday, but I never thought the journey would be as difficult and as beautiful as it has been. As parents, we strive to give our kids everything we can, but still try to maintain a balance. I knew I wasn’t capable to be Zoe’s Mom, but I was more than capable to be her Birthmom. Adoption is such a beautiful gift. Having faith in each other and having the most faith in God led me to the Rarus family. We were all put on the same path with different directions, but eventually met in the middle.
Brandi has written a book about her journey growing up deaf in a hearing world, as well as our adoption story. Open adoption isn’t for everyone, but it has sure helped fill the hole and yearning in my heart. Zoe was able to meet Adalynn just under a year ago, and words cannot even describe how full my heart was watching Zoe share a book with Adalynn. I will be forever grateful for Brandi and her family for allowing me to be part of their life and share in the joy of seeing our daughter grow up!
Brandi’s book is called ‘Finding Zoe: A Deaf Woman’s Journey of Identity, Love, and Adoption’. It can be purchased at or a signed copy by Brandi at Books will be available at the retreat as well – but the sooner you get the book, the sooner you will be able to read the whole story and share your thoughts during the retreat!
Thank you so much for reading this and I look forward to meeting you this summer!
God Bless You!
Jess Urban


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