“She Was Meant To Be Ours”
Despite all the magic of becoming a parent for the first time, from the tiny newborn clothing to big snuggles, most parents would rather forget the lack of sleep.
That is, unless, you are Jackson Smith. The proud new father of baby Adele relishes these late nights, likening the experience to his time in the United States Marine Corps.
“I’m a lawyer now, which is difficult, but it’s just a job,” he says. “For me, as good as it ever got was being a platoon commander, getting my unit ready for war. It didn’t matter if was 2 a.m…when one of my guys needed help, it was my duty to make sure he was taken care of. I haven’t had that feeling again until I became a parent.”
Holding Adele is something wife Leigh says Jackson was born to do. “He’s always been the guy who jumps in to help,” she says. “He was made to be her dad.”
Leigh and Jackson met at law school in New Orleans, and quickly fell in love. After three COVID-related delays, the pair eventually wed in a small ceremony. “We decided to just run off,” Jackson jokes. “We are both in our mid-30’s and wanted to start a family right away.”
After trying to conceive for nearly a year, the Smith’s discovered they were part of an unwelcome club. Infertility in the United States is a common issue, with nearly 20% of couples experiencing difficulty getting—and staying—pregnant.
“We did all the testing, and time wasn’t on our side,” says Jackson. “We decided to start IVF right away.” Leigh and Jackson had heard from friends how difficult and costly the process could be. And while Jackson had some disability ratings from the VA related to a diagnosis of PTSD, the couple did not qualify for infertility support.
Jackson reached out to fellow marine Mike Wilson for advice, who he calls his “go-to guy” when other veterans needed help. “Mike is really involved with the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and he let me know they had a program dedicated to fertility support,” says Jackson.
Over the course of a 20-minute conversation with their VIVA coordinator, Leigh and Jackson learned about the program, which provides guidance and financial support to veterans and their families experiencing infertility. A day and a half later, the Smiths were approved for a grant through the foundation.
Both say that throughout their IVF journey, momentum was key.
“I was so shocked that we were having trouble conceiving,” says Leigh. “No one thinks it will happen to them. Usually, this kind of support is wrapped up in lots of red tape, but BWF was ready as soon as we needed them. It allowed us to make a plan and keep moving forward. That felt invaluable.”
Says Jackson, “Once you take the step of reaching out, these people will drop everything to make you successful. VIVA can’t change the ending, but they can do almost everything else.”
Adele was born on St. Patricks Day 2022, joining 30 other babies born to VIVA parents. As difficult as infertility was, says Leigh, “We wouldn’t have Adele it weren’t for this experience. She was meant to be ours.”
Someday, the Smiths look forward to telling baby Adele how hard they fought for her, and how easy loving her is, no matter the late nights. “I’ll be holding her through a tough spell at 2:30am, and all I can think is, ‘Man, this is great. Dad isn’t leaving your side.”
For more information on how the Bob Woodruff Foundation helps military families struggling with infertility, visit our VIVA homepage.