By Jasmine Michaelson
Six years ago Jill Heffner lay in a La-Z-Boy recliner in her living room with a midwife coaxing her to "get on top of the pain."
Jill had been in labor for three days and was already 18 days overdue. It would've been a ridiculous understatement to say she was ready to get this baby out. Her husband and parents had been threatening throughout the 72-hour labor to take her to the hospital. But Jill had remained stubborn despite the pain that made her mother weep as she watched.
But this was it. The baby would be coming out any second. And suddenly she realized what this meant.
"No," she told the midwife. "I don't want this. I'm not ready to be a mother!"
"You can't change your mind now!" the midwife said. "This baby's coming out!"
Last summer, Jill Heffner found herself quickly approaching 30 with a husband, two kids and a house.
She felt 30 -- but once again realization struck.
At work one day, in a conversation with a co-worker, it all came out.
"I can't believe I'm resigned to this!" she said. "And I'm just going to sit here in this office and eat crappy food and do the same thing every day!"
She felt unaccomplished.
"Maybe that's bad to say, but I did," she says now.
For more than 10 years, Jill had been in and out of Utah State University.
She had declared a handful of different majors in that time frame and edged through all of her classes with less-than-desirable grades.
"I mean just look at this!" she says, laughing and pointing to an early semester on her transcript.
D B C D.
It all started the summer of 1990. Jill graduated from Logan High School and immediately began classes at the university on the hill in her hometown of Logan, Utah, as a pre-accounting major. She attended classes for a year and did "OK."
It was the last day of finals when things began to get interesting.
Jill got a call from a high school buddy named Suzie who invited Jill to move to California with her the next day.
"I said, 'Well, let me ask my parents.' I don't know why, I mean I was 18 years old," she says.
Parents said yes, and Jill packed her bags.
After a few unsuccessful months of working for "male chauvinists" selling roof repair services, Jill turned around and headed home and back to USU, this time as a pre-law major. She spent five quarters "not doing very well," and then, as Jill puts it, "the Grateful Dead happened."
The 20-year-old Jill attended her first Grateful Dead show in Las Vegas with a new group of friends and thought, "This is it. This is what I want to do."
Follow the Grateful Dead, that is.
Unfortunately that pursuit doesn't produce much of an income, so Jill kept working at a local coffee shop with her friends where "working wasn't working," it was fun.
The make-up-less young woman with long wavy brown hair lived in a hippie's dream for several years until reality hit like a cold, hard slap in the face when $100 came up missing from the store's safe.
Since Jill was store manager at the time, a good deal of suspicion turned onto her, ending with an unfruitful questioning session with the police.
She quit shortly afterward.
"There was no trust anymore," she says now.
It was then that she took her less idealistic job at the
After the birth of her second child, Jill decided to give school another shot, this time as a business major, part time. Within a semester, she'd unofficially changed to philosophy.
"I thought I'd do something practical, and it turned out to be a real pain," she says.
Not only did philosophy hold her interest, but she was good at it. The next spring, however, she dropped out yet again.
In the midst of raising her very young children and going through the process of becoming a licensed insurance agent and going to college, her father fell ill.
"I couldn't handle it all," she says. "I decided to just do one thing at a time."
And so she remained until last summer when discontent again reared its ugly head.
"I just felt like I was standing at the end of a hallway, and I had shut all these doors, but there was one down at the end left open," she says.
Jill decided it was time to "bang it out and get it done."
Jill was going to get her degree.
A neighbor had told Jill that if she hosed down the brick exterior of her house it would do wonders to cool the place down in the summer.
And so a very pregnant and very hot Jill went outside at midnight on a sweltering summer night to wet down the walls.
It was a year after Jill had decided as her first baby was being born that she wasn't ready for motherhood. As it turned out, she took to it immediately afterward when she bathed for the first time with her happy, healthy new daughter.
On this summer night, 1-year-old Kayanna was sleeping and Jason was playing a show in a nearby city with his band when pain collapsed Jill on the front lawn.
She wasn't due for another three weeks, but the situation was clear: she was having this baby tonight.
Several hours later found her curled up in a tight ball of agony on a small bathroom rug, unable to move, while her husband and the midwife comforted her. After Jill's last birth, both thought they still had plenty of time.
Jill knew they didn't.
The midwife was still boiling water to sterilize her tools when Jill gave birth on her bedroom floor after a comparatively brief but horrendous labor.
No one had even announced the child's gender when someone screamed, "Call 911!"
The baby boy had developed with many of his internal organs in a sac outside his body. Paramedics arrived momentarily, and within four hours the infant was on a life flight helicopter to the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, and away from his mother.
As Jill wept and waved goodbye to the child she had so painfully and recently delivered, she could think of only thing one thing: to get to that hospital and her baby as fast as she could.
When she was in high school, Jill fantasized about being a speechwriter for politicians because she thought she could make a difference that way. The dream had since faded, but something clicked when she saw that job listed under Public Relations in a Communications major requirements sheet her husband had.
To her dismay Jill had found that despite the wide range of education that she'd absorbed over the past 12 years, there wasn't enough method to madness to make a degree out of it. And, sadly, maturity had told her that if she continued to major in philosophy, she'd most likely get nothing out of it after she graduated. So she was once again on the hunt for a major.
The memory of reading an article shortly after 9/11 that was so poorly written, it was "beyond bad" steered Jill in the direction of the journalism and ommunication department.
"I just thought, wow, something needs to be done,"
Classes were tough and time consuming, and Jill, surrounded by ambitious early 20-somethings felt inadequate, uncomfortable and unsure of herself.
But for the first time Jill knew what she was doing there.
"I figured out how important this is for me," she says, "not for my dad or my mom--this is for me. (I realized) it's not about the grades. It's about what you're actually learning."
And she knew if she didn't do this fast and full-bore,
she wouldn't do it.
The intense semester put strain on her family, but her recently completed spring semester was a lot easier.
Sitting in her tidy, sunny living room on a brightly colored floral couch in a white tee-shirt and cropped blue pants and sandals, her wavy brown hair pulled back in a messy bun, glasses on her nose and still no make-up on her face, she's pleased to announce that she hopes to receive As and Bs again this semester.
And it will all be over this December when Jill receives her bachelor of science in public relations, with a minor in philosophy. After that the family is picking up and heading out. Jill smiles like she's got a delicious secret when she announces where to.
Jason's parents sent her and Jason there for there 30th birthdays, which they celebrated around the same time, and they fell in love with the place.
"It's a slower pace, a different atmosphere," she says. "We just fit."
She glances outside at 6-year-old Kayanna and 5-year-old Raine, who recovered quickly and completely after his terrifying, whirlwind ordeal as an infant. They're chasing the dog in the back yard.
"If that doesn't work out, we'll do something else," she says. "But you only live once. And I still feel young. Well, not at school," she laughs, "but in my life."