THE PARENTS: Sarah Katz, 42, and David Love, 48, of Fairmount
THE KIDS: Micah Amir Katz Love, 7; Eliana Nia Katz Love, born Oct. 24, 2016
ONE OF THE WAYS SARAH COPED WITH LOSS: Knitting; she made a baby hat for Micah and for the infants of three other women with whom she’d become close.
They jumped the broom and shattered the glass.
In blending those two rituals -- one from African American tradition and one from Judaism -- Sarah and David made public what had drawn them together as University of Pennsylvania law students: disparate cultures overlapping in a passion for social justice.
David wanted to focus on civil rights; Sarah hoped to practice public interest law related to children and families. “You don’t expect to find your spouse in law school -- at least, I didn’t,” David says. “It was a pleasant surprise.”
After graduating, they lived apart -- first, with David in New York and Sarah in Philadelphia; then in two different Fairmount apartments -- until the morning David proposed a trade: If Sarah would accompany him to the post office, he’d drive her to work.
David dashed inside and returned with a package. “He’d ordered a diamond online,” Sarah laughs. “We got engaged in our car outside the post office.”
Their wedding, in May 2006, underscored a decision they’d already made: that their children would have one religion -- Judaism -- but two cultures. Sarah felt strongly about continuing her Jewish practice, and David, who’d grown up in a diverse New York neighborhood and had been an exchange student in Japan, was open to exploring another faith.
Even before they talked about marriage, they’d come up with the perfect name for a hypothetical son: Ezra Malik Katz Love.
They became pregnant within a few weeks of trying, and Sarah felt healthy -- working full-time and exercising -- until her 33rd week. Her protein levels were high, the doctor said, but the baby looked fine. Hours later, her abdomen became rock hard, striated with unrelenting pain.
They rushed back to Pennsylvania Hospital for an ultrasound. “Then everything went silent, like in a movie,” Sarah recalls. “The doctor turned to us and said, ‘We didn’t say anything because we wanted to make sure. We’re not seeing a heartbeat.’ ”
What happened next is a blur pierced by painfully vivid moments: The way they both wailed at the doctor’s news. The delivery of a stillborn infant the following morning. The purchase of burial plots -- one for Ezra, and two for themselves -- in Montefiore Cemetery. The wordless comfort offered by some and the unwelcome comments -- "It’s for the best,” or, “God needed another angel,” or, “You can always have another one” -- from others.
Sarah stayed home from work for four months and found kinship through blogging with other women who had lost babies. David poured his grief into writing about the experience. They leaned on each other.
It took eight months to conceive again. “I was an oblivious, happy pregnant lady the first time around,” Sarah says. “This time was very different. It was fraught with anxiety. I had all these stories in my head of the women I’d met and how their babies died.”
It was an uneventful pregnancy until the last month, when Sarah’s climbing blood pressure prompted an order for partial bed rest, with a goal of reaching 37 weeks for a scheduled induction.
A 30-hour labor ended in a C-section, and a sound they’d never heard before. “When Ezra arrived, there was silence,” Sarah says. “But hearing Micah’s first cry, I started crying. It was overwhelming.”
Loss had altered them; David felt more protective of this baby, and more introspective about the mysterious workings of the universe. Sarah found herself hovering -- “there were definitely moments when we snuck in and made sure he was still breathing” -- but also more ready to seize life’s joy.
Occasionally, they talked about having another child. “We weren’t sure we could handle the anxiety of doing all this again,” Sarah says. Eventually, they gave away the baby items and told Micah there would not be a little sister or brother.
Then, on a road trip last summer, Sarah realized her period was late. She and David were lounging by a water park, watching Micah play, when she said, “I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t scream. I think I’m pregnant.”
And then they sheepishly confided what neither had had the nerve to say before: They didn’t feel quite done with children.
This time, Sarah’s blood pressure began to rise at 22 weeks; by 29 weeks, it spiked to a frightening 200. Labs showed her liver enzymes were high, another sign of pre-eclampsia. “Everything went into warp-speed,” she recalls: a hospital neonatologist outlining the risks of delivering such a small preemie (Sarah recalls nothing of what he said); an emergency C-section; a tiny, fragile infant who resembled a spider monkey in her isolette.
“She had this big mask on her face,” Sarah says. “She was jaundiced and under special lights.” Micah wasn’t allowed into the NICU to see his baby sister because it was flu season; Sarah would bundle him off to school each morning, then head to the hospital to hold her daughter for an hour. Gradually, the baby grew stronger: breathing without an oxygen mask, maintaining her body temperature, feeding from a bottle.
For years, David and Sarah had a game with Micah: They’d scoop him up and snuggle him between them. “I’m the peanut butter in the sandwich!” he’d declare. When his baby sister came home -- on Dec. 23, after eight weeks in the NICU -- Micah said, “Now we have the jelly.”
“Ezra is missing; there’s always going to be a hole,” Sarah says. “But it truly feels like our family is complete.” And it was Micah who came up with her name, calling it out one day from the shower as his parents were searching for names that would honor a host of ancestors: baby Ezra; Sarah’s grandfather, Eugene; David’s grandmother, Amy; his father, Albert, and Sarah’s grandmother, Audrey.
Eliana captured all those spirits. Then they looked it up. “It means, ‘my God has answered,’ ” Sarah says. “It was perfect. She was the answer to a question we didn’t even know we were asking.”