THE PARENTS: Kim Seese, 32, and Sean Seese, 33, of Rydal
THE KIDS: Stella Mae, 3; Greyson John, born December 14, 2016
WHAT “DOWN TIME” LOOKS LIKE NOW: For Sean, a round of golf with buddies; for Kim, a massage or lunch with a friend. Weekend naps — for adults, anyway — are a treat of the past.
Their first date was also their last date. Because after that 2007 dinner at Legal Seafood in King of Prussia, Kim and Sean were a couple: opposites drawn to each other for the duration.
Both were graduates of St. Joseph’s University, though they didn’t really meet until after college, at a Manayunk bar. Sean was a numbers guy, an extrovert, a golf enthusiast who’d been playing since he was 5. Kim was more analytical and introverted; she preferred an evening at home to a raucous party.
Two years after meeting, they bought a townhouse together, and two months after that, on a balcony overlooking the Sea of Cortez, Sean proffered a refashioned family ring.
“My exact words were, ‘Oh, my God, are you bleeping kidding me?’ ” Kim recalls. That trip — whale-watching, lazy afternoons, wandering through Cabo San Lucas — was just the first of their travels; later vacations included the splurge of a “before children” safari in Africa.
Both wanted kids. Both figured two would be a good number. And both wanted to adhere to a long-term plan: marriage, then a “keeper” house, then conception.
They didn’t know part three of that plan would take nearly a year. “You try your whole life not to get pregnant; then you try [to conceive] and it doesn’t work,” Kim says. Sean was sanguine — “everything will work out” was his laid-back mantra — while Kim sweated through the hot flashes and mood swings brought on by doses of Clomid.
The positive pregnancy test also flagged an emotional question mark. “It’s a big unknown,” Sean says. “You know you have time, but you also know that your life changes that day, too. I think I was surprised, excited, and scared — all of the above.” Hearing the heartbeat for the first time — the two recorded the thumps on an iPhone and sent the file to their parents — made the baby real, he says.
Kim had friends who seemed to float through pregnancy, marveling at the changes in their bodies. She was not one of those women. She needed medication to control her vomiting; she suffered preterm bleeding and spent five weeks on modified bed rest: a lot of HGTV, a lot of naps with their French bulldog, Gizmo.
Even before a sonogram revealed the baby’s gender, Kim was certain she was having a girl. They called the baby Stella. “I’d always kept that name in my back pocket,” Kim says.
She hoped for an unmedicated delivery. Instead, her water broke at 38 weeks, she labored for 12 fierce hours on Pitocin, said yes to the epidural, and pushed for 90 minutes — “the longest hour and a half of my life,” she recalls. “I said I would never, ever do it again.”
That vow didn’t last. Kim had a miscarriage a little over a year after Stella was born, then another a few months later. The first was an ectopic pregnancy; the second, a fluke, doctors said.
Once again, Sean was pragmatic: “It wasn’t meant to be.” But for Kim, a self-described “control freak,” the losses hit hard. “It was happening in my body, and I couldn’t control it. That was the toughest part.”
So when another pregnancy test proved positive, she curbed her excitement. “The whole pregnancy, I was convinced that something was going to go wrong.” This time, though, she couldn’t spend hours googling “pregnancy complications” and twisting herself into anxiety; she had a toddler to chase.
Kim, who had supported herself in college and relished her work in pharmaceutical marketing, surprised herself by deciding to work part-time after Stella was born, then quitting when she became pregnant with Greyson.
“I was on the career path; I didn’t plan on staying home,” she says. A moms’ group helped anchor shapeless days; so did outings to swim class, play dates, and trips to Target. “Being at home is really rewarding, but it can also be really isolating. It’s a different dynamic than being in the workforce,” she says.
The couple figured this second baby would emulate his big sister and arrive early. They didn’t know his birth would follow five days of contractions, two round-trips to the hospital (“Go home; you’re not in full labor yet,” doctors said.), and, finally, 11 minutes of pushing that delivered their 8-pound, 3-ounce son.
They knew what to do with a baby. The challenge was to manage the needs of two, Kim says. “I try to nurse Greyson, get him in a sleep suit, sing him a song, and get him in his crib. I’ll put him down while Sean reads Stella a story or two. I haven’t figured out how to get her off the mommy-puts-me-to-bed train. I have to put her to bed or there’s a complete meltdown.”
Some nights, it works, and the two can steal half an hour to nest on the couch, drink a little wine, and watch The Blacklist before Kim crashes, knowing Greyson will be up before she can blink.
Both remember the well-intentioned advice they got before they became parents. “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” Kim recites, laughing. “I found it impossible.” Now, they’re on intimate terms with the counsel people didn’t offer: How, in spite of their intentions to parent equitably, “the mom does 90% of the heavy lifting at the beginning.” How 6:15 a.m. would become the “new normal” wake-up hour. How insurmountable it can seem to do an errand with an infant who doesn’t yet sit up and a toddler who wants only to dash away from the shopping cart.
No one told Kim how her son would stare and stare at his older sister. No one warned Sean about the nights when he would feel crushed by exhaustion and exasperation … and then, the baby would sleep a little bit longer, and the next day would bring reprieve: kid-size pink golf clubs and the promise of playing with Stella; dog kisses that make Greyson smile.