Baby Jane Doe graduates from college

Here’s your daily dose of sweetness:

In 1984, a woman who gave birth in her dorm room at San Francisco State University, put it in a box in the laundry room, and walked away.

It was hours before another student, a woman taking a course in newborn care, found her. Her body temperature had dropped precipitously and her skin had turned blue. She’s been putting up a fight ever since.

Photo: Jill Sobol vis Facebook.On Friday, the 31-year-old girl graduated from the same school, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“I know I’m a capable person, but I had difficulties in high school,” Jill Sobol, now 31, said. “I had dyslexia, and some ADD (attention deficit disorder) and learning disabilities. I’ve gone to a lot of tutors, and people who taught me learning techniques.”

As San Franciscans offered to adopt the girl, authorities found her birth mother and father. Her mother concealed her pregnancy from the man she met at a party. Both relinquished their parental rights and the baby was adopted, the Chronicle says.

Success in school eluded Jillian, but not because she wasn’t bright. When she read, letters appeared flipped around, evidence of a learning disability. She suffered from migraines. At 12, depression settled in. Her adoptive father, who had graduated from Yale, and mother, a UC Berkeley grad, loved education and didn’t hesitate to let her try a new school if the old one wasn’t working.

In all, Jillian attended four high schools, the last a boarding school in Costa Rica for underachieving students.

“Puberty was tough,” Sobol said, sitting for an interview across the San Francisco State campus from the tennis courts now on the site where she was born. “I was definitely different from my parents. They were more reserved. Professionals. I was more rambunctious.”

The Sobols told Jillian and Jeffrey from their earliest years that they had been adopted. What Jillian didn’t know, though, were the circumstances of her birth.

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.”


She wrote a letter to her birth mother years ago but got no reply. The woman friended, then unfriended, Sobol on Facebook.

Last month, Sobol learned that some Facebook messages can be hidden from view, so she poked around to see if she had any. She found one. It had been sitting, unseen, for nearly two years.

“I have something to tell you,” her biological mother had written. “I’m very proud of you. And thank you for being you.”

The stunning message capped off the years Sobol had spent considering her mother’s predicament.

“That’s a horrible spot to be in for a woman, where the only choice she had was to abandon her child in a box,” Sobol said. “I’ve faced it by not letting it dictate my life. The love and support I’ve been raised with has allowed me to embrace it and not run from it or be scared by it.”

Still, she said, she’s not quite ready to respond to her mother’s message. “This summer, I hope to think about it,” she said.

Joining her at commencement was Esther Raiger, 53, the student who found a baby in a box in a laundry room. Her biological father was there, too.

Sobol is starting work at an events company in San Francisco.

“I take a lot of pride in San Francisco,” she said of the city that once helped her. Now, “I think they need my help.”