THE PARENTS: Kimber Hamilton, 39, and Jackie Hamilton, 30, of Wynnewood
THE CHILDREN: Abigail Jane, 3; Quinn Charlotte, born April 16, 2019
It was July 4, 2013, and they were on opposite coasts: Jackie in California for work, while Kimber attended a friend’s wedding in Hoboken, a reception with a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline, fireworks blooming in the air.
She caught the bouquet that night. And she had no idea that Jackie, several hours earlier, had ordered an engagement ring — a champagne sapphire on a delicate diamond band — from a jeweler in Canada.
Jackie didn’t reveal the ring until the following month. They were in Washington Square Park, a favorite Philly hangout, eating breakfast burritos and watching a man do tai chi in the morning sun. Kimber began reading the card Jackie handed her. She started to cry. When she looked up, Jackie was on one knee.
“There was a woman sitting on a park bench,” Kimber recalls. “She just started clapping — this one woman’s beautiful, singular applause. She clapped and rushed over and took our picture.”
The couple had met at a CrossFit gym, where Kimber was charmed by Jackie’s smile and awed by her athleticism; with friends, she wryly referred to her as “Smiley McHotlegs.” At a happy hour with gym buddies, Kimber made sure the two sat together.
“I really liked that Kimber came and sat by me,” Jackie recalls. “That she was a go-getter. We enjoyed hanging out.” Both loved music, though their age difference became apparent when Whitney Houston died; Kimber felt devastated, while Jackie barely registered the loss.
At the time they became engaged, Pennsylvania had yet to approve marriage equality. So they decamped for Vermont — a cold, windy day on Lake Champlain — for a wedding that included cider doughnuts and pumpkin beer. They cherish a series of photographs that capture the gamut of emotions as they walked back up the aisle: in one picture, their mouths are agape; in the next, they’re high-fiving; in the third, sharing a tearful embrace.
Jackie was “1,000 percent” certain that she wanted children. But Kimber, who worked as an educator and literacy specialist, wasn’t sure. “I worked with kids all day, every day. I couldn’t imagine coming home to another one. I loved my adult life.”
Being with Jackie changed her mind; her wife was, after all, the one who shucked off her formal shoes, shed her jacket, and hopped across an inlet on their wedding day. “Jackie is the biggest kid in any situation. I thought: Wow, she’s going to be so much fun as a mom.’ ”
They decided that Kimber would carry the baby, that they would use a sperm bank and choose an open-identity donor who shared Jackie’s athleticism. They nicknamed their first donor “Iron Man” because he’d done a triathalon, but after five unsuccessful rounds of intrauterine inseminations, they switched to a different donor.
After one ectopic pregnancy, their fertility specialist recommended IVF. Kimber was at work when the nurse called. “I cried for 20 straight minutes on the phone with her. Then I called Jackie. I called my mom. Then I left work because I couldn’t even manage the rest of the day.”
Kimber did not enjoy pregnancy, though she did relish the “undeniably specific” sensation of feeling the baby move. The pre-labor and hospital experience were not ideal — a class at Pennsylvania Hospital in which the instructor kept referring to Jackie and another participant’s female birth partner as “daddies”; a birth that left them feeling confused and shaken.
“It was scary,” Kimber recalls. “Neither of us knew I would be trembling so hard it would look like I was seizing, or that I would say one curse word, on repeat, loudly, for hours.” Jackie recalls the utter relief of seeing Abigail emerge: “She’s breathing and she’s healthy. She’s in the world, she’s ours, nothing else matters.”
But something else did matter that autumn of 2016. On Election Day, they dressed Abigail in a onesie that said “Future President,” drove to Belmont Plateau for a view of the sunrise, then went to vote.
“We thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. We fell asleep in front of the TV, woke up at 2 a.m. and felt like the world was on fire,” Jackie recalls. “We didn’t go to work. We couldn’t talk.”
They weren’t sure about having a second child. But for Christmas, Kimber gave Jackie a picture frame with four squares: one held a bit of fabric from Jackie’s wedding bow tie; the second, a scrap of Kimber’s wedding dress; the third, a one-inch bit of Abigail’s hospital hat. The fourth square held an ellipsis.
This time, they tried IVF using one of Jackie’s eggs. It was early morning when Kimber saw a barely there pink line on a pregnancy test, shook her wife awake, and said, “It worked!”
Toward the end of her first trimester, Kimber began feeling dizzy, nearly passing out multiple times a day. She stopped driving. She couldn’t chase after Abigail. Eventually, she left her job. The problem, it turned out, was an ear infection that finally subsided on its own.
If the pregnancy was rough, the birth, this time, was smooth. They hired a doula and planned an induction at 40 weeks. But Kimber’s labor began a few days before that; her labor, at Lankenau Medical Center, was the calm experience they’d craved. Jackie caught Quinn, and Kimber sobbed. “Tears of complete happiness,” she says.
Parenthood shifts your perspective, Jackie says. “You don’t want to think of the world as the place where Donald Trump won the election; you want to see a world of endless possibility.”
And Kimber, who wasn’t sure she wanted children, says now that “being a mom to my kids is the biggest part of my identity. Sometimes that’s amazing; sometimes it’s suffocating. These little human beings come into your world, and they are your world. Abigail taught me what love truly is, and Quinn taught me that there’s no end to it.”