THE PARENTS: Sarah McKay, 38, and Dan Park, 39, of Media
THE KIDS: Malen Henry, 4; Posey Joy, born July 26, 2016
AN EARLY RELATIONSHIP MILESTONE: When Sarah’s parents, who had retired to Florida, invited Dan to join the family there for a vacation.
Sarah and Dan hadn't even begun trying to conceive, though Sarah had already stocked up on prenatal vitamins and prepared spreadsheets with columns for basal body temperature and the hypothetical baby's astrological sign. But they wanted to tell Dan's mom what they were planning.
She had ovarian cancer, painful and fast-moving, and she'd told Dan, her youngest child, "I'm not afraid to die. I just want to see my baby have a baby." One January afternoon, the pair drove to her house and said they'd just taken a tour of Lifecycle WomanCare in Bryn Mawr. "We're going to start trying in two months," they told her.
Dan's mom did that thing she always did when overcome with happiness: She reached out and cradled Sarah's face in both hands.
That was the last time they saw her.
Two and a half months later, Sarah woke up after a strange dream - a glowing yellow orb in the sky - and had a feeling she was pregnant. When Dan came home from doing errands, she handed him the positive test.
They'd had 15 years to talk about kids - to talk, really, about every aspect of becoming adults. Technically, they met when their elementary schools came together once a week for band class; she was the fifth grader who played clarinet, and he was the cute sixth-grade drummer, too shy to say hello.
They reconnected in college, flirting during breaks, watching classic movies like Citizen Kane and spending hours listening to records, analyzing the connections between The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd. Sometimes, they'd toss a blanket in the car and drive to the beach, with a paper map and no particular plans.
"He would send me mixtapes in the mail," Sarah says. "We wrote letters to each other. We fell in love the old-fashioned way."
And even after 10 years, Dan wanted a memorable proposal: romantic, surprising, fun but not forced. He took Sarah to New York for her 30th birthday and proffered a ring in Central Park. They married in Florida in 2009 - a laid-back weekend of barbecues and dancing with 100 friends and relatives who flew down for the occasion.
"We'd always talked abstractly about having children, how cool we thought they would be," Sarah says. But when she first showed Dan her prenatal vitamins and timetables - she's a wedding photographer and hoped to time conception so as not to interfere with her busiest season of work - he said, "Not yet."
He was drumming and singing with a band, Big Blue Spruce, and "I still had this dream of playing music a little bit longer. I didn't think we were ready." A year changed his mind, though, and they got pregnant on the first try.
Sarah loved every moment. "I was never sick. I shot 38 weddings while I was pregnant, sometimes three in a row: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I just had so much energy."
She was determined to deliver without medication, using Hypnobabies techniques to help manage the pain. Dan so thoroughly embraced the role of birth partner that buddies began to call him "Danny doula," especially when, near the end of Sarah's pregnancy, he would forgo an Eagles game for a Hypnobabies class.
At the birth center, the day after Christmas, Sarah's labor stalled when she was 7 centimeters dilated. Hours passed; the midwives tried every strategy to help her progress. Finally, they were out of tricks: The only choice was a transfer to Delaware County Memorial Hospital and a cesarean.
"I kept crying about it, and one of the midwives said, 'I want you to stop. Freak out for a minute, then realize it's your baby's birthday.' "
Dan recalls the moment their son emerged - "It's a boy, and he has hair!" he announced - then a surreal five seconds in which the infant's entire life seemed to flash through Dan's mind. "I thought, 'He's here now, and everything's going to be OK.' "
It was winter, the Christmas tree was still standing, and they spent the early weeks of parenthood in a huddle, heat cranked high, listening to Beach House's album Bloom, and staring at their son.
They knew they wanted a second, but conception didn't happen instantly this time around; it took a year of patience, a few consults with fertility specialists, and a dose of progesterone supplements. At night, Malen would curl his body around Sarah's growing belly; sometimes he'd say, "Spit the baby out now; I want to play."
Once again, Sarah was intent to labor naturally and found a midwife who specialized in vaginal births after C-sections. She woke up one July morning with an urge to shower, shampoo her hair, and shave her legs; within an hour, her contractions began.
Determined not to have her labor stall, she and Dan went grocery shopping, stopped at the bank, ordered tacos, and walked around Media, sometimes pausing in the middle of intersections when Sarah had a contraction. "Someone stopped and said, 'When are you having this baby?' I said, 'Right now.' "
After a rush-hour ride to Einstein Medical Center Montgomery - she transitioned in the car and was nearly fully dilated by the time they arrived - they played that Beach House album in the labor room while Dan massaged Sarah's neck.
"I felt so strong," Sarah remembers. "I was so happy it was happening."
Dan recalls a buzz of anticipation in the room before Sarah's final pushes. He glanced up for a moment, out the windows, to a sky splashed pink. "There was light in some parts of the sky, then darker and rich. The most beautiful sunset I've ever seen. I took it all in. A big inhale."
Then, there was his daughter, and a pause while he made sure before saying, "It's a girl. We have our girl." His wife was screaming, crying, and laughing all at once, not even entirely sure she'd pushed this baby out until she heard someone say, "Open your arms."
WELCOME TO PARENTHOOD!
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