THE PARENTS: Kristy Campbell, 43, and Matt Noonan, 42, of Conshohocken
THE CHILDREN: Fiona Catherine, 6; Joseph Avery, 9 months, adopted Feb. 7, 2020
THE SECOND TIME AROUND: “I feel older, and dumber,” Kristy says. “I look at Matt and say, ‘What did we do with Fiona?’ and he says, ‘I don’t know.’ ”
It was the most colorful dream Kristy had ever had: bright, primary hues. She woke up and Googled “vivid dreams, pregnancy.” The websites said it was a sign. A few days later — while Kristy was on a run — the fertility clinic called to corroborate the hunch.
They’d been trying for a year: first on their own, starting after Kristy ran the 2012 Boston Marathon, then on the counsel of a reproductive endocrinologist, with one cycle of IVF with ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.
“We were pretty shocked that it worked on the first try,” Kristy says. After that, the pregnancy was easy. The baby — they had an early premonition that it was a girl — became her “running buddy” as she continued to clock half marathons throughout her pregnancy. Getting pregnant had involved so much surrender: to the medications, to the odds. Running was something Kristy could control.
By that point, she and Matt had been together for more than a decade, ever since meeting as chemistry majors at St. Joseph’s University. Matt remembers Kristy from a first-year chem class — “corduroy and flannel and lots of long, curly hair” — but it wasn’t until sophomore year that the two became part of a tight group of classmates who studied diligently during the week and unwound at happy hours on weekends.
Just before winter break of their senior year, the two found themselves alone at Matt’s apartment, up all night, talking. Matt posed a teasing question: “If you were to date someone in our friend group, who would it be?” It was mutual: They’d had secret crushes on one another for years.
After that, Kristy says, there was no flash of epiphany, just the gradual realization that they would be together for the rest of their lives. “We just wanted to spend time with each other,” Matt says.
They did — while attending graduate school (law for him, pharmacology for her) in Washington, then back in Philadelphia. “Getting engaged and married wasn’t in the forefront,” Kristy says. “For our 20s, we just hung out and dated and had fun.”
When Matt proposed, in front of the science center at St. Joe’s, the college president happened to be walking by. “Did you two just get engaged?” he asked. “You’re hawk-mates!” Later, they gave another nod to their alma mater by naming their miniature schnauzer Hawk.
They married in 2009 — Kristy danced so much that she managed to nibble only chicken fingers and fries from the children’s menu. They traveled: a Mediterranean cruise; trips to Australia, Ireland, Hawaii, London, and Paris.
Matt, the youngest of seven siblings, was an obvious kid person, the rare 20-year-old who could easily and confidently cradle an infant. Kristy figured kids would come … but maybe later. That Boston Marathon became their starting mark. And once they began working with the fertility clinic, they decided to pursue adoption simultaneously.
Two of Matt’s sisters had adopted children from Ethiopia; the couple hoped to do the same. But once Kristy became pregnant, they put the adoption plan on hold. Fiona came eight days late, after an induction and a doctor’s declaration that “I will have the baby out in 12 hours.” Eleven hours and 50 minutes later, she arrived — “just looking right at us as if she was instantly connecting with us,” Matt remembers.
They wanted a second child, and they were not eager to sign on for another depleting round of IVF. So they returned to their application to adopt from Ethiopia: a long year of paperwork, then news that the country was restricting international adoptions.
Plan B was a domestic adoption through the same agency. In September 2017, they were matched: a “stork-drop,” when a woman decides at the time of delivery that she wants to make an adoption plan.
“We brought the baby home and parented her for a month,” Kristy says. But in Pennsylvania, birth mothers have 30 days in which to change their minds — and this mom did. “That was a big blow,” Kristy says. “We had a baby who we loved and just wanted to cuddle with. But we do not at all blame the birth mother; she was in crisis, and she needed help.”
After that disappointment, they considered calling it quits. “We were tired of the wait, tired of wondering what our family would look like,” Kristy says. “Matt was OK with just having Fiona. What kept me going was a thought that we would regret it — and that Fiona is a natural big sister.”
They found a different agency — one with compassionate social workers who wept along with them when they described the disrupted adoption — and waited. Seventeen months went by. Then, the day after Mother’s Day, an email arrived: “Urgent. Baby boy, born at Temple.” They had an hour to respond. They texted YES.
Four hours later, they met him: a baby with light, long hair and blue-tinged eyes, who looked uncannily like them. The nurse held him up and said, “Who wants him first?” They stayed at Temple University Hospital until late that night, holding and cuddling Joseph.
This time, they were more circumspect with Fiona. “We said, ‘We’re hoping he gets to stay with us, but we’re not sure,’ ” Kristy says. Meanwhile, they were falling in love with their son. “You’re doing it; he needs you; you’re with him,” Matt says. “You’re calling him your son, you’re getting up at two o’clock in the morning … and you’re praying.”
At the 30-day mark, they stayed up until midnight. No news was good news. “We woke up and felt like we could breathe,” Kristy says. “We have our family, a boy and a girl.”