THE PARENTS: Danielle McCoy, 31, and Brendan McCoy, 30, of Roxborough
THE CHILD: Claire Marie, born Aug. 13, 2019
HOW PARENTHOOD HAS CHANGED THEM: Brendan finds himself more insouciant at work — “Does this really matter that much?” he’ll wonder, while Danielle is less interested in being punctual. If Claire needs to eat, then they’ll simply be late. “We’re on her time now.”
Her cycle had always been regular, so Danielle figured a week’s delay was probably due to her recent running: a half-marathon on Saturday, Nov. 17, of last year, followed by the full marathon on Sunday.
When her period was two weeks late, she thought, “This isn’t normal.” At three weeks, she took a pregnancy test. The answer was clear even before she finished reading the instructions.
“It was excitement, but also a kind of relief,” Brendan says.
“A sense of relief that everything works,” Danielle adds. “It really is a miracle.”
The two joke that they met in a bar; technically, it was at a gathering of friends in Roxborough, a setup engineered by two mutual pals. The party did drift to a bar, and that’s where the two began talking.
“He was athletic. He had a job. He made me laugh. He came from Boston but didn’t have a Boston accent,” Danielle remembers. Brendan recalls a conversation that flowed easily … and continued on their first date, when they talked for three hours in an Italian restaurant in Manayunk.
They saw each other as often as they could, though he lived in Manayunk with friends and she was in Chalfont with her parents. What’s more, Brendan’s work as a civilian engineer for the Navy took him on the road — to San Diego, Virginia Beach, and Japan — as many as 100 nights a year.
It was a slow “aha.” After three years, Brendan says, “I realized I didn’t see myself ever breaking up with her. There wasn’t some immediate revelation. Just that it was going well, and I didn’t see myself wanting to change it.”
He tried three times to propose. Once, Danielle’s family scotched his plan for a romantic dinner out on Memorial Day weekend, suggesting an at-home barbecue instead. The next time, he figured on a hike or a golf outing somewhere secluded; a downpour washed out that adventure.
Finally, on June 6, 2015, after a dinner of mediocre clam strips at an Avalon restaurant, Brendan suggested a walk on the beach. He knelt in the sand. He’d already asked Danielle’s parents for permission to marry her. “What do you think?” he asked.
“Let’s see if the ring fits,” she said. It did. They were married the following year, at St. Thomas of Villanova Church, Brendan’s alma mater. A carriage drawn by two Clydesdales — some of Danielle’s childhood neighbors had a farm and provided the horses — carried them around campus after the ceremony, with college students gaping and posing for selfies.
“We always said we wanted to have children,” Danielle says. “I always wanted to take care of someone.” As a teenager, she babysat; later, she studied education and became the director of children’s services at North Light Community Center.
The only question regarding children was when. “I didn’t want to do it too early, to make sure we had time to go on vacations and travel, just the two of us,” Brendan says. He also preferred to wait until some of their friends had leaped the parenthood hurdle. “I didn’t want to be the pioneer. I like having friends who are a little bit ahead of us — kind of a support group.”
First, they traveled: New Zealand and Fiji, Belfast and Barcelona, Athens and Zurich. They were about to leave for one more trip — Spain and Portugal — when they learned that Danielle was pregnant.
“I was tired,” she recalls — a feeling that continued for the next nine months. “I’d run a marathon, and now I couldn’t even walk up steps without getting winded.” Still, she ran the Broad Street 10-miler in May, crossing the finish line hand-in-hand with two friends.
Pregnancy had its own mileposts: the day her belly finally popped — “I was so excited because there was finally something to show and feel proud of” — and the day they first heard the heartbeat, which reminded Brendan of a pile driver at a construction site.
Because of the position of her placenta, doctors said it was likely Danielle would need a C-section. But at her 32-week ultrasound, they saw that the baby’s head was down and the placenta had moved, all cues for a natural birth.
“I was scared of the whole process,” Danielle says. “You have this being, this human, inside of you, and — wait — it has to come out? And you have to take care of it?” A birthing class sobered them with videos of worst-case scenarios: a woman screaming through 16 hours of labor; births that required forceps, suction, or episiotomies.
The final three-and-a-half weeks of pregnancy were nerve-racking; Danielle was already several centimeters dilated and figured labor could begin at any moment. But the baby held off until the day before her due date; at midnight, Danielle would be exactly 40 weeks pregnant.
She labored through the night — an epidural, some Pitocin — and by sunrise, was ready to push. Outside her windows at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the sky pinked up as Claire emerged.
“Is she healthy? Is she breathing?” Danielle remembers thinking. “They put her on my chest. It was a big sense of relief. She was on me, skin to skin, loving life and relaxing.” For the first 36 hours, until Danielle and Brendan settled on a name — “Marie” for Danielle’s grandmother, and “Claire” because they wanted a name that couldn’t be shortened — the nurses called the baby “Peanut.”
Leaving the hospital felt chaotic — one nurse checking them out, another with a sheaf of paperwork for the birth certificate, a friend on hand with a box of cannoli — and the drive to Roxborough, in rush-hour traffic, felt endless. Brendan drove while Danielle sat in the back with Claire — their first car ride in the long journey of parenthood — watching the baby’s every breath, wincing at each bump in the road.