THE PARENTS: Elizabeth Fox, 33, and Noah Fox, 35, of Wynnewood
THE CHILD: Noah Balfour, born July 31, 2019
HIS NAME: Balfour — which Elizabeth considered using as a first name — runs back at least five generations on Noah’s father’s side of the family. “I love the uniqueness of it,” he said.
Noah opened his gift on Christmas morning and stared in puzzlement: a clear glass ornament with a small photo inside that looked like a grayish blob. Then he opened the next present from Elizabeth: a mug reading “Dad.”
He got it. They kissed. Then the rest of the family opened their gifts: mugs reading “Uncle Scott, Aunt Meghan, Pop-pop” and, for Elizabeth’s mother, who is Vietnamese, the word for grandmother, “bà ngoại,” in her native language.
Elizabeth had known for a couple of weeks; she’d even faked drinking shots during a trip to Las Vegas by asking the bartender to pour her only water. Keeping the pregnancy secret until Christmas was worth it, she says, so she could record Noah’s reaction.
“I was overwhelmed and happy and excited,” he said.
Their relationship had begun nine years earlier as fun and games: Elizabeth joined Noah’s two-hand touch football team through Manayunk Sport and Social Club, generously trading her spot on a winning team for his losing-streak squad. Later, the two played Words With Friends online.
Once, another player used the word “ziti,” and Noah direct-messaged Elizabeth: “Mmm …ziti.” The two began talking and realized the breadth of their shared interests: sushi, snowboarding, family togetherness.
Their first impromptu date — Elizabeth had just finished a softball game, and the two decided to meet at the Blue Dog Family Tavern in Chalfont — lasted until 2 in the morning. “We ended up staying until the tavern closed,” Noah said. “We were there, just talking. I was pleasantly shocked at how fast the time went.”
He won her over with domesticity: Noah cooked shrimp, pesto, steak, and teriyaki chicken with pita bread. He was also attentive to household chores. “He stayed over one time, I left for work, and I came home to a nicely made bed,” Elizabeth said.
For Noah, it was a long meander around a lake in Peace Valley Park that clinched the relationship. “It felt really comfortable being with her. By the time we finished that walk, I fell for her. It took me less than two weeks to fall in love.”
To propose, in December 2014, Noah arranged another trip to that park — a few friends and Noah’s sister were hidden in a strategic location — where he dropped to one knee on the dock and popped the question. The friends burst from hiding to cheer and snap pictures.
Their wedding was in character: a walk out of the church as guests blew bubbles; a reception that included outdoor games of Jenga and bocce; a send-off with flashing sparklers. But what they remember most is the moment when they locked eyes just after the priest’s opening remarks. “I love you,” they mouthed, and then Elizabeth, never much of a crier, began to weep. Noah handed over his pocket square to blot her tears.
They wanted kids. First, they wanted a house: a place in Wynnewood that needed air conditioning, a new roof, and extensive landscaping to remove trees that had tangled around power lines.
At a friend’s late-November wedding last year, someone snapped a photo of five women, including Elizabeth. All were the significant others of Noah and four of his best buddies, guys who had been close since college. All five women were pregnant — though Elizabeth didn’t know it at the time.
She was hoping for a boy, an older brother to protect his not-yet-conceived younger siblings. And she got her wish at a gender reveal party with a Beauty and the Beast theme. Elizabeth wore a T-shirt reading “Beauty and the bump,” while Noah’s read “The beast behind the bump.” The cake’s icing was blue.
“I was literally jumping for joy,” Noah said. “Hopping up and down. One of the first things I remember telling people was, ‘I can’t wait for the time when we get to have our first baseball catch.’ ”
The months rolled along so easily that Elizabeth sometimes didn’t remember that she was pregnant; at seven months, she volunteered to wear a mermaid costume at school — she teaches at the Overbrook School for the Blind — forgetting that she’d never be able to fit into the slinky dress.
Even when her labor began, she thought the heartburn, cramps, and nausea must be food poisoning, until a coworker gave her a cookie from Wawa and Elizabeth rejected it. “Nothing tasted good,” she said — and the colleague said, “I think you’re in labor.”
At home, she asked Noah to make her spaghetti twirled with cheese. She walked laps around the house, labored in the shower, and endured a late-night ride to Lankenau Medical Center that she describes as “brutal.”
Dressed in a tank top and yoga pants, she insisted on walking to triage. And when she realized she was about to be sick, two nurses and Noah managed, fire-brigade style, to pop open an emesis bag and position it just in time. “I couldn’t help but cheer: That was some ultimate teamwork,” Noah said.
Her water broke around 1 a.m. The last two centimeters of dilation seemed to take eons, but finally she was ready to push, with her mother counting — in slow motion, it seemed — a doula standing close by and Noah positioned behind her bed.
Elizabeth recalls pushing with her eyes closed. She remembers feeling the baby’s fuzzed head. And then he was there, on her chest, Noah leaning in and looking stunned, Elizabeth’s mother capturing it all in a fusillade of photos.
Now they seesaw between looking ahead — that first baseball catch, feeding the ducks at Valley Green, summers at Noah’s family’s lake house in Vermont, Sundays of church followed by breakfast and family visits — and savoring the immersive, fleeting present.