Kids were always part of the picture.
Rowan and Tyler are the oldest in their families; both worked their way through college by babysitting and being nannies. And when they met, at a party in New York that neither really wanted to attend, a mutual enthusiasm for children was part of the spark.
"Our eyes met, and I thought: I'm going to hang out with that person," Rowan recalls. Their chat lasted five hours - long enough for the pair to leave the party and head back to Tyler's place in Brooklyn, with Rowan's bike on board; later that night, Rowan cycled all the way back home to Harlem.
Friendship - including ritual Wednesday dinners of one-dollar pizza - segued into dating. And even before Tyler proposed, with a seven-dollar jade ring, even before Rowan's second cousin clinked his glass at a family reunion and announced the couple's engagement to a startled group of relatives, they practiced being parents.
At the time, Rowan was foster-parenting newborns through a social service agency program that involved having an infant for about six weeks - through the tumultuous tedium of nighttime feedings and colicky afternoons - before the babies moved on to a more permanent placement.
"I was about to turn 30," Rowan recalls. "I thought if I didn't find a partner in the next year or two, I would adopt a sibling group of older children. I knew I didn't want to parent an infant without a long-term partner. But I wanted to have that infant experience, in case that's what came my way."
It felt easy and comfortable to parent together, even the night they maneuvered a carriage through a foot of snow to a neighborhood crêperie. "I was excited to be with someone who wanted kids as much as I did," Tyler says.
First, they married - a six-day hangout with friends and family in a big house on Long Island, where guests took turns cooking meals and everyone went swimming instead of dancing after the ceremony. Members of the wedding party wore whatever they wanted - accessorized with blue paisley bow ties or hair bows made especially for the occasion. Some wore both.
And though it wasn't a perfect event - Tyler's brother's plane was delayed, and there was some last-minute rearranging of the service - the couple savored the time with friends and relatives and the DIY vibe they created.
Next on the list was to create a baby. Though both wanted to experience pregnancy, they decided Tyler would conceive first. They scanned the donor list at a small sperm bank, seeking men who described themselves as warm and outgoing and who worked in education or human services.
"We did two rounds with the sperm bank, which was extremely expensive, and we weren't successful," Rowan says. "Then my brother volunteered to be the donor."
They demurred at first: Would that be too weird? But the idea started to appeal: a baby who would carry both their genes; a less clinical (and less costly) method than the sperm bank.
The three managed the awkwardness of each attempt - "private time" for Rowan's brother, followed by another private interlude for the couple - by hanging out together afterward, making dinner or watching a movie in their Brooklyn apartment. Finally, after three unsuccessful tries, and just before Rowan's brother planned to move to Panama, Tyler's pregnancy test came up positive.
It was a smooth, healthy nine months. In the middle, the couple decamped for Philadelphia in search of a safe neighborhood and an affordable home that could eventually house the preschool they dreamed of starting. They landed in West Philadelphia in June 2013 and opened the Little Green Schoolhouse that fall.
But after an easy pregnancy, childbirth was arduous - a four-day labor, a home birth followed by a harried trip to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia because the baby wasn't breathing well.
The couple spent the next four sleepless nights at CHOP. Every three hours, Rowan would push Tyler in a wheelchair to the NICU to breast-feed. The hospital provided a nap room, but no amount of rest could quench their bottomless exhaustion.
Tyler recalls reeling with fatigue and astonishment: "It was amazing that I managed to create this tiny human." And as the weeks slid into months, Rowan slowly realized that this time would be different from foster-parenting.
"When he started doing all the things our foster babies had never done when they were with us - laughing, smiling on purpose, gripping with intention - that's when it turned over: Oh, this one's ours. We get to keep this one. It was safe to connect."
The couple, who both identify as "genderqueer" and prefer the personal pronouns they and them, decided after an exhaustive Google search of possibilities that Rowan would be called "Mama" and Tyler "Baba." Both their names are on Shiloh's birth certificate. Extended family members have embraced the couple and their son.
Recently, they passed a final legal hurdle with a courthouse proceeding to terminate Rowan's brother's parental rights - routine in situations where there is a known donor - and finalize Rowan's adoption of their son.
During the brief ceremony, the judge asked, "Can you provide evidence that you intend to take on the responsibility of being a parent?"
The evidence is documented in the family memory books Rowan and Tyler make each year: photos of Tyler pregnant; of Shiloh helping Rowan bake challah for Shabbat; of Halloween, when he wore his Pooh Bear outfit the entire day.
The legal proceeding put the stamp on what Rowan and Tyler have known for years: that they are family, living out their dream in a big house riotous with kids, including their own boy, who loves to stack shoes on top of a winding row of chairs and whose favorite words are no and mine.