Jillian Sobol was born in 1984 on the campus of San Francisco State University. Her 19-year-old mother carried Jillian to term in secret, delivered her in secret, and left her in a cardboard box in a dorm. Found by a young male student who quickly sought help from a nursing student nearby, Jillian beat the risks of hypothermia and infection related to the circumstances of her delivery and abandonment. And this year, at age 31, Jillian graduated from the very school where her life began.
Jillian’s birth mother was a 19-year-old San Francisco State student and her father was a 20-year-old student. The two had met at a party, and the father did not know about Jillian or the pregnancy until after her birth. Jillian was placed with loving adoptive parents, Sam and Helene Sobol, who had a young son, also adopted. Jillian was raised and cared for in a loving environment. During her school years, Jillian learned that she had learning disabilities, including dyslexia. Sam and Helene worked to ensure that Jillian had access to the learning environment best suited to her needs.
When she was a teen, Jillian’s adoptive parents told her about the circumstances of her birth and abandonment, and the miraculous series of events that led to her adoption. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
In 2001, when Jillian was 16, her mother told her the story of the student at San Francisco State “and how she must have been very young and scared,” Jillian Sobol said. “I’m not certain of her actual words. It’s more the feelings of feeling special and feeling loved.”
Then came the shock: “That couldn’t be me!” She and her father visited the library and read the old newspaper articles together. “There was an outpouring of love from the people who found me, and the people at the hospital. And this army of people trying to help me and find (the parents). I do feel so grateful for all of that — and how it led me to my amazing parents and family.”
Jillian has since tracked down her biological father, and has reached out to her biological mother, although the two have not formed the same strong relationship that Jillian now has with her birth father. Jillian was also able to locate the nursing student – now a pediatric nurse – who administered care to her during her first crucial hours of life before paramedics arrived. Jillian’s decision to attend San Francisco State ultimately led to her graduation this year.
Jillian does not harbor resentment toward her birth mother. In a letter to the president of San Francisco State chronicling her own personal history and ties to the school, Jillian shared something poignant. She said, “Hope is the thing I believe my mother had when she made her choice.” Indeed, hope makes all the difference for women facing unplanned pregnancies. We may never know the source of Jillian’s mother’s hope, but in what must have been frightening circumstances, something compelled her mother to choose Life.
Although the two do not yet have a relationship, Jillian said she is grateful that her mother chose Life. “The biggest thing I needed her to know was that I didn’t hate her,” she said of a letter she wrote to her mom in 2013. “I wrote her a letter to thank her for giving me the gift of life.” She added that she told her mom about her choice to go to San Francisco State, and that she “had grown up with a wonderful family.”