Jennifer Justice—better known as JJ—is the CEO of The Justice Dept. and mother to twins Nico and Jack, age 7. An established NYC entertainment attorney, Justice launched her company to advise, consult, and advocate for female founders, talent, executives, and brands. Here, shares her story.
I didn’t always want to have kids. I grew up in a family with very meager means. My mother didn’t graduate high school—she just got pregnant and had kids over and over again. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I was hyper-focused on going to school and I was the first in my extended family to do that. I really wasn’t thinking about what would happen once I got there.
After law school, I got to Wall Street and I thought, what do I really want to do now? I got all this way, came from nothing, and I’m in my mid-thirties. There’s got to be more than the glamour, the lights, the clothes, the bags, and the shoes. There’s got to be a reason that I’m here. I’m not religious, but I still believe there was some force out there telling me I need to have kids.
I knew I had bad taste in men and I didn’t want to subject my future kids to that. Factoring in my age, it just became more and more clear that doing it on my own was going to be the best idea.
I didn’t tell anybody. I think a common thing with women is that when you tell people what you’re going to do they respond “Oh, you can’t do that. Women don’t do that.” I was very careful about telling people what my moves were. Finally, at one point, I just said, “Guess what? I’m pregnant.”
There still aren’t really any books about [getting pregnant on your own. I asked myself, is it adoption? Is it IVF? Where does the donor come from? I started researching by reading what people who had done this themselves had to say and I tried to understand what would be best for me. Every doctor is different and the whole process is very word-of-mouth. I found my doctor through a friend who was successful with IVF twice.
When you’re going through the process, it’s very emotional. Once you find your doctor, you begin to prime your body for the process and see how it reacts. The doctor makes sure there are no physical obstacles and then you just go for it. You wait for your blood levels to increase and then you pick a donor. Statistically, it works the third time most frequently. That’s when it worked for me.
When I was picking my donor, I thought about what would make my life easiest as a human being. Some people care about religion, race, or whether the donor has five engineering degrees. For me, it was personality. People are drawn to a good personality. When you’re young in school, people ask a lot of questions very early. Kids don’t have filters. So, I also wanted to pick a donor who had similar physical characteristics to me to limit those questions for my children.
After I chose my donor, I bought the vials and the California Cryobank held onto them for me until I was ready to have the embryos made. I went through all of the drugs. Next comes egg retrieval day and then they fertilize the egg. They watch it grow for a couple of days to see which embryos are the best and then comes the implantation.
Your mental state is very important when you’re going through something like this because it’s extremely traumatic. The hormones in your body, it hurts, it’s expensive, and nothing is comfortable about it. You’re constantly wondering “is this going to happen?” You’re really scared to get that call. You’re wondering what they’re going to say on the other end.
I’m a Scorpio, so I’m very singularly focused. If I set my mind on something, it’s happening. My mental state was pretty consistent throughout the process. I was pretty even keeled about it and it was a very Zen experience, especially towards the end. Right before the third treatment. I said to myself, “this is going to happen.” And it did, I just had to be very positive about it.
I went in to do a blood test and was told they’d call me in 24 hours to tell me if I was pregnant. The next day, you’re just staring at the phone hoping you’re not in the middle of something you can’t walk away from. For me, Jay-Z could be standing in the middle of my office or something! I had my door closed most of the day and then I finally got the call.
I ran up and down the stairs and called my friends who were there to help me. I was super excited.
Next, you have to worry about making sure it sticks. Next, you find out it’s twins. Next, you find out it’s a boy and a girl. That’s when I realized I had to have both and they both had to be okay. I was by myself, so they needed each other. It couldn’t be just one. Until they got here, every time I went to the doctor—especially before I was able to actually feel them—I was asking, “are they still there?” It’s scary. You’re just doing everything you can to take care of them.
I barely got sick during my pregnancy. I never threw up. I ate a lot of ginger candy, which, to this day, I really love. I was lucky. I had a really great pregnancy.
I didn’t find it difficult to work while I was pregnant. I felt very accepted by my colleagues, even in such a male-dominated field. Jay-Z and Beyoncé had just had Blue and she wasn’t even a year old when I got pregnant, so they totally got it. Being pregnant turned out to be a great equalizer and got me to stop focusing too much on work. My colleagues were super supportive.
My company was new, so we didn’t really have maternity leave. No one had had a baby there and I had been the only attorney there for years. Privacy is a huge issue with my job. I mean, who can you just let in to work with clients of that level of fame? It was a little stressful, but it was also great and I felt super celebrated.
I went to 38 weeks and then I had a C-section. My doctor had me continue with my pregnancy as though I wasn’t going to have one but held a date for the procedure anyway. My daughter was sideways, and my son was down; he was lighter, and she was heavier. It was likely not going to be a pretty labor.
I didn’t have any feelings about getting a C-section. I just felt lucky to have them and lucky that they were healthy and weighed enough to not be in the NICU.
[Drug-free] birth doesn’t really make sense to me. People used to get their dental work done without anything, too, but then came anesthesia. I seriously doubt anyone would say “Take me back to the days before anesthesia.” I wanted what was healthiest for the kids. I don’t judge anybody, but for me, I didn’t want that. If I asked my grandmother—who had to do it [without drugs]—what she would do if she could change it, I know what her answer would be.
My C-section was scheduled, and I was excited going into it. It’s a weird feeling leaving your house knowing that it will never be the same there again. This is no longer my house. I’m going to come home with a family.
I gave birth at Lenox Hill. I was scheduled to be there at 7:30, got there at 6 to check in and do paperwork. My son came out at 8:28 and my daughter at 8:32. It was just so fast. They have this curtain up and you don’t really know what’s going on until all of a sudden, you hear her cry, they show her to you, and burrito her up.
One of my best girlfriends came to the hospital with me. I was able to have my whole posse of friends waiting in the waiting room kind of there on and off all day. It was very fun.
The nurses taught me how to breastfeed immediately. I was moved into a hospital room and for about four days I was just waiting for my body to recover.
I was exhausted after the C-Section. I think it’s so much worse than people say. It’s major surgery. Your intestines work the same way your entire life and then they take them out, and have they put them back in. It’s crazy. And then, you have these kids that you’re trying to breastfeed, if you choose to. You’re starving and you’re trying to nurse an open wound on your body all at the same time.
I enjoyed breastfeeding and, luckily, they both took to it quickly. With twins, you have to breastfeed them at the same time otherwise you’ll never sleep and neither will they. I luckily had a baby nurse for three months who was a Godsend because I could sleep through the night to recover. I had to supplement with formula because it’s really hard to keep enough milk for both kids to eat constantly.
The twins turned seven in March. My son’s name is Jack and my daughter is Nico. I started to tell them very early on that they come from a single-mom family. They look around and they see this other person [in some families] so you just have to be honest. You’ll get to the nitty gritty a bit later. There are other moms at their school that are in the same position. They have friends with two dads, they have friends with two moms…
All kids really need is true love and true attention. And of course, they say things like, “I want a dad.” I ask, “Why? What is it?” “To play sports. To let me play video games. To let me watch scary movies.” Those are the three answers I get. I let them watch a scary movie recently and now my daughter won’t leave my side.
Every woman who is contemplating having children alone should do it, do it, do it, and do it! Every single woman who has done it wonders why they didn’t do it sooner. Reach out to people who have done it. I tell all of my friends that I will talk to any woman who is thinking about doing it because there weren’t any women at all that I knew that had done it.
Everybody has issues. I have a client who has never met her father. I have friends with dads or moms that they have horrible relationships with. Everybody has a family story, whether they’re admitting it or not. It’s definitely a job nobody gets right. You’re always going to do something wrong. You just have to understand that going into it.
Whenever anybody talks about twins they say, “it gets better.” It goes from a lot of admin—twice as many diaper changes, bottle washes, and watching—to actually flipping at around three-years-old and being easier because they take care of each other. They find each other hilarious and they can’t do anything without each other. It’s a short time “a lot” to a long-term, massive gain. They’re obsessed with each other.
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