CF Didn’t Stop Me From My Dream of Becoming a Mom

I never let my diagnosis of cystic fibrosis deter me from my dream of becoming a mother. I persevered despite the naysayers and, today, I have a beautiful son.

| 5 min read
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Jennifer Stump
Jennifer-Stump-And-Son-Featured-Rectangle

I always wanted to become a mother. From an incredibly young age, there was always a doll in my arms. Whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always “a mommy.” There was never a doubt in my mind. It was woven into the fibers of who I was and who I would become. That is, until cystic fibrosis came into play when I was 16.

Not long after my diagnosis, I asked my team about motherhood. I remember sitting in clinic alongside my mother and asking them about my chances of someday becoming a mother -- the one thing I had always wanted for my life. And I remember the quiet hush that came over the room, and how Dr. Weinberg and Dr. Orenstein (better known as Dr. O), shared a silent, somber glance before addressing me. In that silence, I laughed uncomfortably and reassured them that I didn't need to know out of any urgent need, but that I was someone who planned. I was someone who wanted to know exactly what she was up against. I needed to know -- just how big was the mountain before me?

For a while after they told me it would be difficult to have children, I sat in my grief, which was mixed with a growing determination to not give up on my dreams of motherhood.

I remember searching and searching and searching for someone -- anyone -- who had cystic fibrosis and had become a mother.  One person. I prayed to find one person who could give me hope -- someone who could show me that it could be possible and that it was appropriate to want what I so desperately wanted for my life. All I needed was one person.

I remember the tears I cried upon finding her -- when grief was replaced with hope. I still had a mountain to climb -- and I knew that -- but now, I had a guide. Somehow, I'd make that climb.

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Jenny with her son, Henry James.

Now, I can't say this with certainty, but I'd venture to guess that mountaineers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were met with a lot of naysayers when they announced their plans to tackle the “unclimbable” Mount Everest. Surely there were those people who expressed their concerns that they'd face insurmountable challenges, or they'd never survive it; that even if they did reach the summit, the descent could still kill them. Still, they defied the odds and became the first to reach the summit in 1953.

Suffice it to say, my climb of this particular mountain had its fair share of naysayers, too. I remember my dentist (of all people) sharing a story of his niece with CF dying after trying to have a child and how she “had wanted too much.” I remember walking out of his office -- mid-appointment -- with hot tears streaking down my cheeks. I remember the primary care physician who asked Kevin, upon his request for genetic testing, if it would impact his decision to marry me. I remember the conversations and concerns of family members, hushed in some cases, of whether or not we should even try for this -- that it would be hard on my husband to be a single parent and raise a child alone. Because clearly in this scenario, everyone assumed I'd be dead.

Jennifer-Stump-And-Son-Featured-Rectangle

Still, I knew. I knew that motherhood was my mountain to climb. Because like Hillary said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” I would not be content until I had conquered this, and so, I climbed. For month after month, I climbed. 

And then came those two pink lines.
A heartbeat.
A flutter.
A kick.
A wide world of possibilities.
My every wish imagined.
Motherhood.

The day they placed my sweet Henry James in my arms, I knew I'd never do anything else as monumental with my life. This was my reason for being.

There is no greater joy than his giggle, no warmth quite like his sleepy morning snuggles.

There's no better sound than his soft little, “I love you, Momma.” I was made to be his mom, to make that climb, against all odds.

I know as he grows, there will be times that will be tough -- times that will test my resolve. There will be moments where CF will throw new boulders and mountains upon the path of my life. And when it does, I'll look at Henry James -- my sun rising over the summit -- and I'll smile and start climbing, because I've already conquered my Everest.

Interested in sharing your story? The CF Community Blog wants to hear from you.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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Jennifer, 36, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 16 years old. A northern Virginia resident and Pittsburgh native, she spends her days teaching elementary school. Outside of the classroom, Jennifer focuses her energy on supporting other moms with cystic fibrosis throughout their motherhood journeys. She enjoys cooking, writing children's books, and memory keeping. Above all, she loves spending time outdoors, hitting the trails with her two dogs, husband, and sweet son, Henry James.

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