They left Abington Hospital with newborn Della in February 2017. Even though Ian had nearly fainted during the delivery — he was breathing into a bag when it was time to cut the cord — this birth had been easier than the previous one, a 21-hour labor that brought Kora, their stoic firstborn, into the world.

Krista turned to Ian in the car, her eyes smarting with tears. “You know, we’re not done.”

She remembers thinking, on the night they first met at a Sinatra bar in Tampa, where Ian’s band played a regular gig, that this man would make a great father. Both of them had babysat as teens, Krista worked with kids who have disabilities, and Ian was quick to nurture their dog, cat, and the horses she rode as a competitive show jumper.

“We definitely clicked immediately,” Ian recalls. “When you’re not looking for love, it finds you.”

But back in 2010, parenthood seemed remote. Even a stable home wasn’t on the couple’s radar: Ian switchbacked from Tampa to Nashville as a full-time musician, while Krista traveled to horse shows around the country.

The following spring, Krista bought an old bungalow, and the two rehabbed it; both leaned toward tidiness in housekeeping, even if Krista could never quite twist the caps back onto pantry or bathroom items.

In 2013, she was about to compete in a summertime horse show in Traverse City, Mich. — helmet positioned, boots on — when Ian suddenly appeared (he was supposed to be at home), wearing a shirt that read, “I’m about to do something awesome.”

He dropped to one knee and froze, speechless. “He needed help. I think I just said yes,” Krista recalls. “We hugged. I had an engagement ring on my finger, and I had to get on a horse and focus.” She rode Indy, a Danish Warmblood, that day, and though she didn’t win, she couldn’t stop smiling.

They married in September 2014, a weekend-long celebration in North Carolina that included zip lining, hiking, and an indelible moment when Ian sang “Boogie Shoes” while Krista jangled the tambourine someone had thrust into her hand.

Just after the new year, Krista had a craving for spicy Thai food. They’d been trying to conceive — their approach was “let’s just be relaxed about it” — but didn’t expect to become pregnant so quickly.

What followed was a whiplash of events: a move from Florida to Ambler, near Krista’s parents; a career shift for Ian from full-time music to residential real estate; an end to Krista’s competitive show jumping.

She woke up with contractions on the morning of their first anniversary. At Abington Hospital, they impulsively ordered pizza. “Silly us,” Krista says. “I labored all night, then pushed for four hours in every position known to man. We went through three shifts of nurses, and finally she came. She wrapped her hand around my finger and just stared at us.”

Kora was eight months old — she’d just started sleeping through the night — when Krista became pregnant again. This time, she hoped for an easier birth; she talked to friends, found a doula, and learned how to advocate for herself amid hospital protocols. “I was in labor for eight hours. Pushed for 15 minutes. She came out screaming her head off.”

They didn’t have a time frame in mind for conceiving a third. But both believe that “children choose their parents.” Just before their five-year anniversary, the next baby chose them.

As with her earlier pregnancies, Krista felt nauseated for the first four months. “And I had a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. Not that you forget you’re pregnant, but things are busy. The pregnancy flies by.”

Ian and Krista Koteles with daughters Kora (left), Della, and baby Jemma, born at home in the midst of the pandemic.
Brittany Tran
Ian and Krista Koteles with daughters Kora (left), Della, and baby Jemma, born at home in the midst of the pandemic.

That is, until March, when it became clear that the coronavirus was not confined to China or to the West Coast. Krista and Ian had planned to deliver at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery this time, but she started to feel wary of any hospital; meantime, she’d met women who’d had home births and who urged her to consider the option.

“My doula had always been an advocate for home birth. She gave me confidence that my body could do it, that I could do it.”

She prepared for this baby in a different way: with Kora, she’d had a traditional baby shower, and with Della, a special lunch with her mother and sister. This time, friends gathered for a “blessing way” that included henna (on Krista’s belly and her friends’ hands), gifts of hand-me-down clothes and well-loved children’s books, and a necklace made of beads brought by each guest.

Both Kora and Della had arrived exactly on time. So on Krista’s due date, she assured her mother-in-law, via Zoom, “There will be a baby here tomorrow.” She was already having contractions; when she woke up at 3 a.m., she rustled Ian: “This is happening.”

They called the midwife, the doula, and Krista’s parents, who live next door. Ian pulled on his “I’m about to do something awesome shirt,” which he’s worn for all three of their daughters’ births. They got the birthing ball and filled the tub with warm water.

“Things progressed so quickly. I was relaxed. They got me out of the tub, and out came Jemma a couple of minutes later. I was in labor for three hours,” Krista recalls. The sky lightened, the older girls woke up and padded into the bedroom in their Christmas pajamas. Della offered her beloved blankie to her infant sister; Kora just stared and stared.

Now they are parenting through a pandemic, in a world that feels both frightening and precious. Ian tries to cherish each quotidian moment. Krista works to cultivate patience.

“If anything, you come out of this knowing what you’re capable of,” she says. “It brings you together as a family. You have to talk to each other in those really vulnerable, challenging moments. You have to get through together.”