THE PARENTS: Emily Myers, 37; and Dana Myers, 37, of East Norriton.
THE KIDS: Julia Rose, 3; Molly Kate, 20 months; Elizabeth Joy, born April 27, 2017.
FIRST-DATE GLITCH: Dana locked the keys in his truck; they had to wait in Emily's disheveled car for an hour for roadside assistance.
It happens at the mall, at the grocery store: A stranger will smile at the toddlers, then notice the third baby, snuggled in a wrap on Emily's chest.
"Wow, you have your hands full!" they say.
And Emily replies: "Yep, I sure do. I do have my hands full. They're full of blessing."
From the beginning, this couple embraced the idea of children — "as many as God gives us," Emily says, "as long as we're able to provide for them." Their relationship accelerated fast after an initial blind date that turned into 13 hours of lunch, a walk in Big Pocono State Park, coffee, pizza, bowling, and several more hours talking in Dana's Ford truck in the restaurant parking lot.
"Right away, we started telling each other our life stories," he recalls. "The hours just kind of went by."
They introduced each other to their buddies — "My best friend said he was going to kick my butt if I let her get away," Dana says — and their families, including an awkward moment when Dana, meeting Emily's parents for the first time, choked his way through a vanilla cake Emily had made for his birthday. "It was a terrible cake," Emily says, "and he had to eat it and smile in front of my parents."
They were engaged in February 2013 and married that July, a DIY ceremony at a Presbyterian church in the Poconos, with friends providing the dinner, the decor, and the music. Emily recalls clutching Dana's hand throughout the ceremony; Dana remembers his relief when the ritual part was over and they could relax outside for photos.
The question about children was not if or even when; it was whether Emily should stop using an antiseizure medication she'd taken since she was a teen. During their road-trip honeymoon — a night in Bethlehem followed by days in Savannah, Ga., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. — she began to wean off the medicine. Within a month of their wedding, she was pregnant.
"The nice thing about a first pregnancy," she says, "is that I didn't know what was coming in labor" — an induction at 37 weeks (her blood pressure had spiked) with savage, Pitocin-fueled contractions and, by her choice, no epidural. When she wasn't insisting on quiet in the labor room, Emily asked Dana to read psalms; other times, she just gripped hands: Dana's on one side, her mother-in-law's on the other.
"I remember when [Julia's] head started to crown," Dana recalls. "It just didn't hit me that that was a baby until she came all the way out and started flailing her arms and legs: Whoa, that's my little girl."
They were sleepless, nervous first-time parents; it didn't help that Julia had jaundice and had to be rehospitalized for a night. "We just wanted to take her home and get going with everything," Dana says.
Julia was 10 months old, and still nursing, when Emily knew, from the period-tracking app on her phone, that she was pregnant. Once again, it was a smooth ride until 37 weeks, when her blood pressure rose enough to call for an induction. This time, labor was a fierce four hours.
"I didn't open my eyes when I was laboring," Emily recalls. "Molly came shooting out like a bullet, all at once, in one push. I happened to open my eyes at that moment. Dana was standing by my legs, and birth goo splashed all over him."
Molly had mild jaundice but didn't have to return to the hospital; their challenge this time was colic. Some nights, Dana would try to soothe Molly in one room while Emily slept until midnight or 1 a.m., then they'd trade off. At least Julia was in love with her little sister, declaring, "Baby!" over and over.
"I definitely wanted to keep going; I definitely wanted a third," Emily says. "I had hoped for a little more time in between." But the period app flagged her last August, just two months after they'd moved to East Norriton.
"There we were, pregnant again. I thought, 'Are people going to think we're nuts?' " Emily says. "But most people were beyond thrilled for us."
Still, she felt the wearying toll of three pregnancies in as many years. Molly still woke up multiple times each night; Emily was perpetually tired. This time, though, she delivered at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, with a midwife whose laid-back style was more in sync with her own. "Having a baby is one of the most natural things in the world," Emily says. "It's how God designed our bodies."
Even though her blood pressure rose again, and she needed an induction, she managed this third labor without Pitocin and with the hands-on support of her midwife. "My labor with Elizabeth was the first one where I felt like I had a little bit of control over things," she says. "When they laid Elizabeth on my chest, there was a sense of confidence that I felt."
That sureness has carried over into the day-to-day tumult of parenting. The anxieties they had with Julia — "Each week, you'd think: Is she going to live to the next week?" Dana recalls — have ceded to typical parental cringes when one of the kids throws a public tantrum, or when all three melt down at once.
The first night Elizabeth was home felt like a test: Molly woke up and clung to Emily's arm, screaming, "I want Mommy!" while Emily tried to nurse the baby. "I couldn't be there for each of them the way I wanted to be," she says.