THE PARENTS: Megan Murphy, 35, and Patrick Murphy, 33, of Collegeville
THE KIDS: Patrick Owen Jr. (Owen), 5; Maxwell Richard (Max), 3; Dean Bernard and Flynn Joseph, born August 6, 2017
PRIZED MOMENT FROM THEIR WEDDING: The photographer's "art shot" of the two silhouetted against fog and moonlight; Megan sobbed — "it was all so surreal" — when she first saw it.
For a while, she didn't even know his first name. He was just "Murph," a high school pal of her brother's, a guy with a wildcat reputation — the one banished from some Doylestown bars for fighting with bouncers, the one with a brilliant idea to inner-tube down the Delaware River after a night of partying.
But Patrick's sense of humor hooked her. His gregarious storytelling. And the softer, quieter side of him that most people didn't get to see.
"The difference between Megan and other dates in the past was my ability to be open and honest," Patrick says. "We were able to have those deeper conversations."
Soon, they were dating exclusively. But what clinched their relationship was a 1,500-mile move from Philadelphia to Dallas in 2008. Patrick, chasing a promotion, moved first; Megan followed six months later. "That's where we really became a couple," Patrick says. "We started our life in Texas."
He proposed the next Christmas, when the couple returned to Philadelphia to visit family. Megan's siblings gathered in front of the tree, so ebullient they barely noticed Patrick was kneeling. Her sister yelled, "It's happening! It's happening!" and someone caught the moment with a camera.
He gave Megan a jewelry armoire with eight drawers — some containing a necklace or earrings, some with notes. "Look up," said one message. And there was Patrick, ring in hand.
They'd been married less than a year when Megan tapped Patrick on the shoulder one morning: "I'm pregnant." He lifted his palm to offer a groggy high-five.
Megan recalls that first pregnancy as a mostly positive experience — sure, some swelling; yes, a minor case of preeclampsia. Patrick remembers the video — a woman giving birth on all fours — that made the other men in their labor class cringe but that prompted surprised giggles from him.
When the midwife advised an induction at 38 weeks, with a 5 a.m. appointment at the hospital, Megan and Patrick figured they'd be cuddling their infant son well before lunchtime. Instead, she endured a day of contractions and two arduous hours of pushing before Owen emerged, only to be whisked to the NICU for some breathing problems and low blood sugar.
"It wasn't my dream first birth. He was under bilirubin lights, with little shades over his eyes. Huge cheeks. I just wanted to pick him up," Megan remembers. Life didn't get any easier at home: Breastfeeding hurt. Owen still had jaundice and needed frequent heel-sticks and weight checks. But he was a serene baby, content to sleep in the car or be passed from arm to arm at a party.
For baby No. 2, Megan thought they should try natural family planning. And — naturally — she became pregnant again when Owen was 15 months old. She took a photo of him in a "Big Brother" T-shirt and gave it to Patrick on Valentine's Day.
It was during her pregnancy that the couple decided to return to Pennsylvania; visiting family just once a year, trying to see everyone they loved in two weeks, with a toddler in tow and a baby on the way, felt untenable.
They'd moved to Texas with little more than their clothes; now, they were coming back with a 40-foot truck towing Patrick's car, a four-months-pregnant Megan following in the SUV with their dog and Owen.
This birth was easier: an impromptu dance party in the hallway at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, 12 hours of labor, less than 20 minutes of pushing. Like his older brother, Max needed some time in the NICU to resolve breathing problems. They celebrated both boys' birthdays — Owen turned 2 the day after his sibling arrived — in the hospital.
Patrick might describe Max as a "bad baby"; Megan calls him a "Stage 5 clinger" who sobbed if he wasn't in her arms. The family was living in Megan's parents' house — six people sharing a bathroom and tripping over toys — while they looked for a home. They moved to Collegeville on their fourth wedding anniversary.
"We still wanted three," Megan says. "But we decided it would be smart to space them a little further apart." This time, she kept her pregnancy secret, even from Patrick, until Christmas, when she presented him with a custom-made tree ornament that said, "Baby #3, due August 2017."
At the first ultrasound, two techs stared at the screen as though it were broken. "Do you see what we're seeing?" they asked.
They pointed: two heartbeats, two bean-sized babies.
"Is this real life?" Megan said.
It was her favorite pregnancy — maybe because she felt healthy, maybe because she knew it was her last. At 14 weeks, they learned the twins were boys; when they talked about names, they couldn't agree. Finally, they decided to each jot their favorites and choose from that array.
Patrick handed Megan his index card: Rocky, Major, Ace, and Cash. What? She flipped the card over to find a short roster of other names. She picked Flynn from his list; he chose Dean from hers.
The twins emerged after a labor that lasted less than four hours — two pushes for Dean, one for Flynn. Megan worried she wouldn't be able to tell her sons apart; after the hospital ankle bracelets came off, she painted one of Dean's toenails blue and one of Flynn's green.
There are nights when the whole family is up — someone sobbing, someone pushing the dog from his bed, a baby screaming to nurse — at 3:30 a.m. There was the time Megan fled Target, pushing her unbought clothing into another shopper's hands, because the twins were wailing and the older boys were racing around the store.