THE PARENTS: Kate Harr-Sponsler, 46, and Bob Sponsler, 46, of East Falls
THE KIDS: Noah Ian, 9; Anna Elizabeth, born February 13, 2019
THE FIRST PERSON KATE TOLD ABOUT THE PREGNANCY: The clerk at Whole Foods who sold her prenatal vitamins, just hours after the drugstore test came up positive.
The first time wasn’t the right time. Yes, they were drawn to each other’s online dating profiles: another adult obsessed with Lego toys! Yes, they left Le Pain Quotidien in Fairmount, on a snowy Saturday, wanting to see each other again.
But Bob was still disentangling himself from a difficult marriage, and co-parenting his 7-year-old son, Noah; Kate had recently ended a relationship and felt wary of jumping in too soon. So both backed off to pursue their separate lives.
Over the next two years, Bob dated and took breaks from dating. He bought a Jeep and—though he winces at the cliché—learned to like himself. “I was at a point where I was good being single: I have my son; I have this great Jeep.”
Kate, meantime, had begun co-parenting her roommate’s baby son. She’d always wanted children, but felt scared to become a single mother. “I finally resolved: I’m in my mid-40s. I’m just going to adopt.”
Kate and her roommate had a ritual of watching “This Is Us.” A character in the show reminded her of Bob; from public Facebook posts, Kate was pretty sure he was still single. Finally, her friend convinced her to reach out.
“I was floored,” Bob says. “I was still really enamored with Kate. I’d do that look-off-in-the-distance thing when I’d think about her.” Within five minutes of her friending him on Facebook, he messaged back: “Hey, Kate, what’s up?”
The second time around, they stayed so long at Lou Bird’s, talking and talking, that they ordered a second round of entrees. After that date, they were together constantly. Kate told Bob about her plan to adopt; she’d already completed a home study and was hard at work on her profile book.
“Just watching her process, how emotionally invested she was in it, was all very moving to me,” Bob recalls. He thought about his own deep joy in parenting Noah. He did the math: Both were in their mid-40s. He lined up mental pros and cons of having another child. And then he said it:
“Why don’t we just hedge our bets, pull the goalies and see what happens?”
They were pregnant, they calculate now, within a week.
When Kate told Bob about the pregnancy test she’d taken at 4 a.m., he was stunned. “My brain went to: What do the next 20 years look like? What do the next 20 minutes look like?”
That night, the two attended a Paul Simon concert—the singer’s farewell tour—and something about the music felt both cathartic and reassuring. For a few hours, Kate stopped worrying about miscarriage and Down Syndrome and being of advanced maternal age. “I felt like everything was going to be great,” Bob says.
Genetic testing indicated that the baby—a girl, they learned—was developing normally. When they told Noah, who had been asking since the age of 2 for a baby brother or sister, he wept with delight: “I’m going to be a sibling!”
Meantime, Kate had backed out of the adoption process and Bob had proposed, dropping to one knee at the Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey, a site both love. Once the test results came back, and they could relax a bit about the pregnancy, they cobbled together a wedding in three weeks. Their ceremony—Kate’s cousin as best man, Bob’s sister as matron of honor and Noah as ring-bearer—also featured a Lego cake (curtains of fondant lifted to reveal Lego-like pastry bricks) and, as place cards, Lego figures they’d fashioned to resemble each guest.
The venue, Pomme in Radnor, was accommodating about Kate’s pregnancy diet: no alcohol, no underdone fish or meat. The fall foliage was in lush display. The minister Kate had found online turned out to be thoughtful and kind.
“There were all these weird, lucky things,” Bob says.
After the wedding, more serendipity: They closed on a house in East Falls the next day, then sold their Mt. Airy house to acquaintances. The pregnancy—aside from a bit of heartburn and twice-weekly monitoring toward the end—was easy.
Still, Kate worried: “What’s it like to have a baby and not sleep? I was scared of all the unknowns and of being out of control.” By the time of her scheduled C-section, Kate was a coil of anxiety. She’d requested Taylor Swift as birth music, but when Pandora served up Britney Spears’ “Toxic” just as her panic was peaking, the OB ordered, “Kill the music. And get Bob!”
It was not, he says, a “magical fairy dust moment.” But his daughter was tiny and sweet, and even amidst the gaggle of interns and medical students at HUP, he felt smitten.
As for Kate, “I was in disbelief that this was my child, that she was touching me, and that I was strapped down to an operating table. It all seemed like such an impossibility, absolutely unfathomable, scary and great and beyond my comprehension.”
Three years ago, they met and walked away. A year and a half ago, they were dating other people. Now they were introducing Noah to his infant sister; he showed up with a handmade birthday card, a Valentine card and a stuffed giraffe.
“We put her in his lap and showed him how to hold her. He locked eyes with her and fell in love,” Bob says.