THE PARENTS: Bridget Bolton, 32, and Ryan Bolton, 30, of Newtown Square
THE CHILD: Maeve Harper, born Jan. 26, 2021
HER NAME: After Bridget proposed “Maeve,” an Irish name, “Harper” popped into Ryan’s mind for a middle name. “I thought it was strong-sounding but beautiful, a name she’d feel confident about later in life.”
Even the priest paused.
It was a mild June day in 2017. At St. Philip Neri Church in Queen Village, where 100 people were gathered for Bridget and Ryan’s wedding, sunlight ribboned through the stained glass.
“Some windows were open, and you could hear birds. It was like something out of a movie,” Ryan remembers. “It paused everything for a second.”
The unscripted, cinematic moment felt apt for a couple who became engaged on a mountainside overlook in San Diego, a couple who, to celebrate Bridget’s completion of graduate school, flew to Costa Rica with two suitcases and not a single plan.
Even their meeting was a matter of serendipity: Bridget happened into the Verizon store where Ryan was a sales rep, her sister and father in tow, so all three could upgrade to iPhones. Shortly afterward, she got a flirty Facebook message from Ryan.
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Bridget was dating someone at the time; she and Ryan remained Facebook friends, but didn’t talk for three years — until she reached out on Facebook for advice about her father’s mobile phone plan. Ryan responded. “I remembered him: He was the guy who hit on me after he sold me a cell phone.”
After another face-to-face (again, accompanied by Bridget’s father) at a different Verizon store, the pair went on an actual date — dinner at La Viola, followed by drinks until closing time at Monk’s Cafe.
“I felt comfortable around him. I liked how he engaged with my dad and was very respectful,” Bridget recalls. As for Ryan, aside from being drawn by “the curliest hair I’ve ever seen in my life,” he was struck by Bridget’s kindness.
He lived in Bensalem then; she was with her parents in Flourtown, and when a storm struck the region in January 2014, Ryan was snowbound with Bridget’s family for four days. “Her parents broke tradition big-time and let me stay in the basement,” he remembers. “The power was out. It was two Boston terriers, her mom and dad, all of us having a good time.”
Both come from large Irish clans — Bridget’s father is one of nine siblings, and Ryan’s mother is one of eight. “I always knew I wanted to have a family,” Bridget says. “It was a matter of when.”
And “when” became clear to both of them after nearly three years of marriage. “We got to the point where we were [living] in the suburbs, watching The Office for the seventh time that week. We were so ready for a new chapter: Why wouldn’t we have kids right now?” Ryan says.
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Bridget was pregnant within a month of trying. At her birthday gathering, a small back yard barbecue, she announced to her family, “Mark your calendars for January, because I’m going to be having a baby. Everyone gushed. My mom was in tears.”
Both marveled at the pregnancy’s milestones: the first time they heard the heartbeat, the increasingly decisive kicks. “It was a crazy feeling: Oh, wow, I’m never alone,” Bridget says. “I have a little friend in there.”
Ryan was equally amazed. “I was fascinated with the fact that there was a person in there. I’d lie in bed next to Bridget, and the baby would kick my arm, and I didn’t know who this third person in our bed was, for so long.”
He watched birth videos to prepare himself; Bridget read books, listened to podcasts, and worked with midwives at LifeCycle Womancare birth center, hoping for a natural delivery.
What happened, a week after her due date, was two nights of intense contractions and virtually no sleep; in the midst of that, they went to the birth center and were advised to go home until her labor was further along.
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By the time they returned, Bridget was 5 centimeters dilated and already exhausted. “I thought: I still have to deliver this baby. I am so deprived of sleep and energy.” She labored all day, through fierce contractions, as Ryan and Bridget’s sister took turns putting counterpressure on her back.
“Bridget was borderline blacking out,” Ryan recalls. “There was this feeling of a sports team at halftime, losing by 20: We’re stuck here, and something’s got to change.” Midwives suggested a switch to Bryn Mawr Hospital, where Bridget could get an epidural.
The car ride, though it took less than five minutes, “was completely unbearable,” she says. “I was losing consciousness. But once I got in the room, the midwife checked me. I was at 10 centimeters. She said, ‘Do you want to try to push?’
“It was animal instinct that took over. I pushed for almost two hours. I just tried to focus on the baby and tried to tell myself: Soon you’re going to meet him or her.”
They’d opted not to know the gender, and when Maeve emerged, with the swollen labia common for newborn girls, Ryan was baffled. Then he figured it out: “This was not a little boy I was looking at; this was our daughter.”
The first weeks of parenthood were an exercise in extremity. “I had never done anything that hard,” Ryan says. “I remember having to psych myself up, moments when I was struggling and had to regroup.”
It helped to remember that infancy wasn’t permanent, and that each parenting challenge would build their sense of competence. “There’s this can-do attitude about everything now, because you don’t have a choice,” Ryan says. “If there’s baby poop on the pillow, you’ve got to clean the pillow.”
There are also moments of serendipity, like the first time Maeve glimpsed the sun. “It was gray and rainy and dark when she came home, but the sun was out the next day,” Ryan says. “We pulled the curtains, and I turned her toward the sun … she just cracked this huge smile. I was floored by the realization that everything is new to her.”