THE PARENTS: Christina Kraynak, 28, and Sam Kraynak, 27, of Hatfield
THE CHILD: William (Bill) Anatoly, born January 24, 2019
AN EARLY CONNECTION: Sam mentioned one day that he’d downloaded the entire discography of an obscure band called the Mars Volta; Christina immediately said she wanted a copy. “It was as if we’d been friends for a long time,” Sam says.
The gleeful, giddy phase of their courtship lasted about 10 days.
That’s because, in late March 2012, not long after Christina and Sam had shared their first St. Patrick’s Day kiss, Christina received grim news: the fiancé of a good friend had died after being hit by a drunken driver while riding his motorcycle. What’s more, the friends had just learned that they were pregnant.
For Christina, it was the first test of a fledgling relationship. “Sam would send me text messages here and there, saying he was thinking of me. He came to the funeral. He didn’t miss a beat. He stuck around. He was caring and thoughtful — not just to me, but to my friend.”
For Sam, it was a simple calculus: “I just loved Christina and I knew that she was in pain. That meant I needed to be there for her.” And for both, that tragedy vaulted their partnership beyond small talk, into the realm of seriousness.
At the time, they were students at Montgomery County Community College; Christina, recently back from a church mission trip to Siberia, wasn’t interested in dating anyone, including the friendly guy with the long hair and scruffy beard who rollerbladed — 10 minutes late — into a basic computer class and introduced himself as Sam something, a last name Christina joked she’d never remember.
But Sam turned out to be a technology whiz, and soon Christina was asking for help with homework. He generously complied. When he complained of a hand injury but confided that he was afraid to go to the doctor because a diagnosis and treatment might mean he couldn’t play the drums, Christina not only pushed him to make an appointment but said she would come along.
“Right off the bat, she was probably the most caring and selfless and loving person I’ve ever met in my life,” Sam recalls. When he brought her to his family’s Easter party — an extravaganza, really, with many of the dozen aunts and uncles and 50 cousins on his mother’s side — Christina hopped eagerly into the hubbub, offering to help prep food and set the tables.
They began living together in the summer of 2013. “I always knew I wanted kids, and I wasn’t afraid to say it,” Sam says. “I brought it up—what do you think about kids?—in the first year of our relationship.”
But he could already guess Christina’s answer. She’d been working as a nanny, paying her way through college. Like Sam, she was one of five children in a large, close family. “To me, there wasn’t even any question [about children],” she says. “Coming from a Russian family” — Christina was 2 when her parents emigrated from the Republic of Belarus — “and a religious family, that’s what you were expected to do.”
Sam proposed on a chilly March evening — he’d coaxed her to take a walk in Doylestown — and the two were married six months later, Sept. 2016, at a church in Lansdale that felt like neutral ground between his family’s Catholic faith and her Pentecostal roots.
In the midst of the officiant’s words, Christina noticed that Sam, who tends to sweat profusely, had beads of perspiration dripping from his brow. She pulled out a tissue and dabbed at his forehead —unobtrusively, she thought. The assembled guests let out a reflexive, “Awww….”
For two years, they lived with Sam’s parents and his three college-age siblings in order to save money for a house. That’s where they were when Sam came home from a taco feast with friends, pulled back the bedsheet and gaped at a positive pregnancy test. They’d been trying for a year.
“I looked at that sheet and thought: Nothing else really matters. Whoa. Wow. OK. This is real. Well, Sam, get ready to learn … everything. There was that, along with the excitement,” he recalls.
It was a fairly textbook pregnancy: nausea that limited Christina’s diet to such bland foods as eggs, ramen noodles and milk; some nerve pain in the last trimester that made it hard for her to grasp a doorknob or tug the blanket. She researched obsessively — “that, for me, alleviated anxiety” — and decided, mid-pregnancy, to switch from an obstetrician to a midwife practice. She hoped for an unmedicated labor.
But after three days of on-and-off contractions, an induction with Pitocin at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery ramped up the pain so fiercely that Christina asked for an epidural. For 90 minutes, the baby’s heart rate kept decelerating. “I ended up pushing him out in 12 minutes because I was terrified of a C-section,” she says.
Then, for about two weeks, it was a different kind of honeymoon. “You’re adjusting to a baby,” Christina says. “Then the reality sets in.” Their son had reflux, so they had to hold him upright in order to help him sleep. Even a slight cold exacerbated his symptoms, so he might wake up 13 times during a single night.
Unpredictability, they are learning, is the parental rule. “It’s constantly reacting to whatever the new situation is, which is ever-changing,” Christina says.
Sometimes, those unscripted moments are profound, including one that happened even before the baby’s birth. When Sam’s beloved grandfather was diagnosed last September with ALS, the couple decided to name their son after him. And when, a few days after Thanksgiving, Sam’s grandmother called to say that her husband had fallen and she couldn’t help him off the floor, Christina was the first relative to rush to their home.