THE PARENTS: Nyla Ford, 30, and Jordan Ford, 32, of West Oak Lane
THE CHILD: Noëlle Renee, born February 24, 2019
THE STORY OF HER NAME: The baby’s godmother suggested “Noëlle,” and “Renee” is Nyla’s sister’s middle name.
It was a Wednesday afternoon in June when Nyla fell asleep at her desk.
The test sticks — first, the old-school kind with two lines, then a digital version that read “pregnant” — confirmed her hunch. But that sudden fatigue was a sign; until then, Nyla thought of herself as impervious to illness, weakness or pain.
“Mythically unbreakable,” is how Jordan describes it. In six years of knowing Nyla, “I’d never seen her sick.”
So it was a jolt when pregnancy brought a cascade of symptoms: mood swings, body aches and — the day after serving a Thanksgiving feast that included yams, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, duck, turkey and desserts— a bout of gestational diabetes that forced the couple to completely reboot the way they ate.
The pregnancy itself was welcomed news. Children were never a “what if?” for the two; they were more of a “how many?” The number that felt right to both was seven. They envisioned family as a small village, a built-in network of intimacy and support. “I liked the idea of kids being able to grow up with siblings and be really close,” Jordan says.
That vision was just one of the ways they aligned, ever since the day in 2012 when Jordan wandered by accident into a young-adult Sunday School class at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. Nyla and others in the class had become an ad hoc support network: They helped each other with apartment move-ins, babysat one another’s kids, planned bowling and roller-skate outings.
Through a year’s worth of those group hang-outs, Jordan and Nyla discovered they shared a sarcastic sense of humor. “He can say something and nobody else gets the joke, but I bust out laughing,” says Nyla.
Their first solo date was in November 2013, at an Indian restaurant in West Philly. Shortly after that, they made their courtship “official” when Nyla invited Jordan to celebrate her birthday along with her father and some friends. “My dad sings, and Jordan also sings. When Jordan started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, my dad sort of saw it as competition. He started trying to out-sing Jordan.”
Still, Nyla shied from the idea of a permanent commitment. In July 2016, the two decided to play one-on-one basketball at a South Philly playground. “Afterward, we had a conversation,” Nyla recalls. “I really had a fear of marriage. I didn’t know if I was ready. We said we would take a week to pray about it. After that week, we came back and said, ‘OK, let’s do this.’ I realized I didn’t want to spend my life without him.”
Jordan proposed that November, just after Nyla’s birthday, in front of friends, after they all watched a video one pal had made as a birthday surprise. It included photos of Nyla as a baby and a young girl, and ended with a picture of the couple together. The caption read, “…the story continues.” Suddenly the actual Jordan was on one knee, and Nyla was in tears.
They were determined to have children within the first two years after their July 2017 wedding. Last summer, they were trying to buy a house; some issues with an FHA loan kept delaying the process. In a week’s span, they adopted two rescue dogs, finally signed closing papers, and began moving furniture into the house.
That’s when Nyla felt that whomping fatigue, pulled out the pregnancy test, told Jordan, and immediately texted her closest friends with the news.
In classes at Einstein Medical Center, the couple watched a video that showed three different women in labor. “Watching them be positive about it and say it’s definitely do-able gave me confidence,” Nyla says. Jordan, meanwhile, worried he might faint in the delivery room. During an exercise with their doula during which she asked them to envision their future child, Jordan imagined a strong baby, a multitalented kid — the sex didn’t matter — “a musician who also plays basketball and boxes,” he laughs.
Nyla’s contractions — mild ones, like menstrual cramps — began just after the 38-week mark. By the next morning, those contractions were ferocious, a pain she managed using the counter-pressure techniques their doula had taught them.
At Einstein, a doctor noted she was just one centimeter dilated and sent her home again. Twenty-four hours later, after her water broke, they were back at the hospital for 15 more hours of labor and three hours of pushing.
At one point, an attending OB murmured something about a C-section. “I looked Nyla in the eye and said, ‘We didn’t come this far for you to get a C-section. I know you’re exhausted. But push as hard as you can, and I will give you whatever you want. Just one good push.’ It was like a switch turned on,” Jordan says.
Though both agree that Noëlle has Nyla’s hair — a tiny Afro, even at birth — and her eyes, Jordan sees in his daughter a mirror of his own temperament: a little sarcastic, a tendency to get mad when she’s hungry. Both swear the baby gave side-eye to the medical team within moments of her birth, and now, Jordan says, “she’ll roll her eyes if you say something stupid.”
She also loves music, especially “Drop It Low” by Will.I.Am and Rhianna’s “Umbrella,” which Jordan sang to her when she was still in utero. These days, they dance together while he croons his private nickname for her, “Ella, Ella.”
Nyla says parenthood has awakened a protective instinct toward all children, not just her own daughter; she’s suddenly the person who reflexively reminds other people’s kids, “Hold hands when we cross the street.” Jordan, too, says he casts a hyper-vigilant eye to make sure any children in his midst are all right.