THE PARENTS: Adrienne Bishop, 38, and Jonathan Bishop, 39, of Erdenheim
THE KIDS: Ella Jane, 7; Finn Joseph, 4; Macklin Charles, born August 18, 2017
HOW JON DESCRIBES THE THREE BIRTHS: “Ella was a marathon, Finn was feet-up-on-the-couch, and Macklin was a sprint.”
They were at Creperie Beau Monde when Jon posed an existential question.
The cafe had been the site of their first real date, the one on which they’d talked about Margaret Mead, Tibet, and the post-9/11 state of the world.
This time, Adrienne had her mouth full. “I was in the middle of a dessert crepe, and he said, ‘Do you think you’re happy?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’m eating a crepe with Nutella and bananas.’ He said, ‘I think I can make you happier.’ ”
What followed, she says, was a “movie moment” — Jon on his knee, something glittering in a tiny box, strangers applauding around them.
“I said, ‘Put it on. The ring.’ He said, ‘Is that a yes?’ ”
In the three years since meeting, the pair had already weathered some catastrophes: the Saturday they were about to move to their first apartment together, their possessions packed in a truck, only to learn that the landlord had botched his timing and the current tenant would be staying for another month.
Or the time, while prepping food for a joint birthday party, when Adrienne sliced her ring finger with a serrated knife, deep enough to expose bone, gush blood, and require 15 stitches.
The two had different styles — Jon’s a computer guy who minored in philosophy; Adrienne bolsters her intuition with obsessive research — but shared core qualities and experiences. Both were raised by strong, independent mothers. Both were July babies (“I guessed he was a Cancer on our first or second date,” Adrienne says.)
And both wanted kids. Jon liked to test people’s reactions by announcing that he pictured a brood of 12. Adrienne said she’d be happy with three or four. But not right away; after their wedding in 2006, they settled into their West Philly house, cared for the rescue dogs they were fostering, and fed their careers as a software writer (Jon) and music teacher (Adrienne).
The day she called him to report that the sight of ink in her pen made her want to vomit, he said, “Either you’re having a stroke or you’re pregnant.” It wasn’t a surprise; they’d been trying for six months, with Adrienne glued to the website Fertility Friend and fantasizing about making cupcakes with her not-yet-conceived child.
“I wanted a nonmedicated birth. I read everything I could get my hands on. Jon was going to be my coach,” Adrienne says. And they remained a team from the moment her water broke, nine days early, through the squats and lunges she did in the corridors of Pennsylvania Hospital, until a baby with “seriously orange” hair emerged after 20 hours of labor. Her cries — “eehhlll, eehhlll” — sounded like the name they’d already chosen.
Ella was a toddler when life threw them another series of stressors. Adrienne’s father, who suffered from mental illness, took his life in December 2012. Around the same time, one of their dogs bit Ella in the face, and the other refused to be house-trained.
“Two months after my dad died, I said to Jon, ‘I’m done feeling like crap. I think I’m ready to have a second baby.’ We got pregnant in February and lost the baby in six weeks.”
Soon she was pregnant again, but her body still held the story of those emotionally wracked months. Adrienne had foot pain so intense she worried she might never run again. It wasn’t until after Finn was born — an induced labor eased with an epidural and ending with just two pushes — that she began to untangle the mind/body knot.
She was nursing Finn while reading a book about people who had recovered from severe back pain by confronting their emotional trauma. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is me.’ I went to therapy. I focused on improving how I deal with difficult situations. It was a spiritual awakening.”
Jon liked to joke that they’d named their son “Finn” because they were finished having children. Their house had three bedrooms; their Honda CRV fit four. A reminder on Jon’s phone said, “Get a vasectomy.”
“But ever since Finn turned 18 months old, my body and gut feeling were: I need to have a third kid,” Adrienne remembers. A month after she gave away her maternity clothes, she got in the car and felt a familiar surge of nausea. She stopped at Target for a pregnancy test on the way home.
“I had gone through this emotional mourning,” Adrienne says. “Then I had to readjust: Oh, this is actually real.” It was also exhausting: teaching music all day at Germantown Academy, napping in her office during breaks, parenting two kids, caving into bed at 8 each night only to wake up at 3 a.m., ravenous enough to gobble protein bars under the covers.
This birth began calmly: Adrienne played cards with her mother-in-law while sitting on a yoga ball, Finn hanging on her neck during the early stages of labor. But soon she was wracked with fierce contractions: two in the car on the way to Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, one as Jon opened the door, another in the wheelchair.
“I was in so much pain. I couldn’t get a breath. I couldn’t relax. I looked at my doula and said, ‘I can’t do this.’ She said, ‘That baby is coming now.’ ” And he was — all 8½ pounds of him, scarlet and healthy and crazy-long on Adrienne’s chest.
Ella and Finn were in awe: “He was in my belly, and now he’s not anymore. They couldn’t figure it out.” Now, they scramble into bed with their parents and baby brother each morning, snuggling and chattering and reaching for Macklin’s tiny hands: an ever-changing configuration Adrienne likes to call “the collective us.”
Rewind seven years, to the moment Jon knew it was time to have kids: “You know when you’re reading a book and getting close to the end of a chapter?” he says. “I was ready to turn that page.”