The parents: Crystal Engel and Adam Porter of Fishtown
Their daughter: Bowie Moon Porter
Born: Nov. 7, 2014
Some people have birth plans. Crystal and Adam had a playlist.
Actually, they had a few different mixes, all downloaded to Adam's iPhone: sweet, moody music - Cat Power, Amos Lee, the new Beck album - for the early stages of labor; an up-tempo blend of funk and soul for later.
It made perfect sense for two music buffs whose Fishtown home holds several thousand vinyl LPs and whose first date - which Crystal describes as an "epic" 15 hours - included brunch, a walk in the rain, and a stop at a punk rock flea market.
They met through the website OkCupid and knew, by the second date, that this romance was for the long haul; after knowing one another for just two weeks, Adam took Crystal to Puerto Rico to celebrate his 40th birthday.
Early on, their "life conversations" included the possibility of having children. But possibility suddenly snapped into reality when - just a month after they started trying - Crystal felt almost, but not quite, premenstrual and bought a pregnancy test kit.
"I almost passed out," she says. Adam remembers, "We knew it could take a while or it could happen right away. We were flabbergasted at how 'right away' it was."
The pregnancy was a defining moment, solidifying their partnership and vaulting Crystal, an inveterate non-planner, into "instant mom mode . . . I wanted to read everything and do everything right."
She stopped eating sushi and deli meat and developed cravings for kale, watermelon and pickles. She did prenatal yoga three times a week. The two signed up for a five-week class that covered everything from C-sections to home births. And after watching the documentary The Business of Being Born, Crystal felt adamant about having an unmedicated labor and delivery.
The couple tried out a few possible names - "Lennon" was in the running, along with "Penny" - on friends. Crystal was crushed when one pal said "Penny Porter" sounded like the name of a 1950s diner waitress.
After that, she and Adam kept quiet as they settled on the perfect moniker for their daughter: Bowie (yes, after the singer), with the middle name of Moon to honor Crystal's longtime lunar fascination. As a girl, growing up in Pittsburgh, Crystal remembers gaping at the moon, tracking its changes from tiny sliver to swollen fullness.
She was equally fascinated by the changes that pregnancy brought to her body. "I love nature, all the mysteries of life. I welcomed everything that was happening to my body. I felt so alive," she says.
Adam changed, too - doing more of the housework as Crystal's pregnancy progressed; driving her to yoga so she wouldn't have to take the subway; massaging her feet.
And when labor began, just hours after a Wednesday evening dinner with friends, the couple called their doula and set the mood: candles, low lights, the sweet-and-moody playlist. For the first 10 hours, Crystal moved around the house, laboring in the shower, on a giant exercise ball, on all fours on their bed. The doula showed Adam acupressure points he could use to help counter the pain of contractions.
When it was time to head to Pennsylvania Hospital, they tried to carry that contemplative mood with them - LED candles, Crystal's pillow and an assortment of small gifts her female friends had given in a "Mama blessing" a few weeks earlier: shells and driftwood, crystals and dried flowers, a homemade dream-catcher ornament. But the second stage of labor yanked Crystal into tidal waves of pain.
"I was going into it with the mind-set of this spiritual, beautiful thing, meditating through contractions. But it felt like going to war, like my body was exploding," she recalls. In the past, she'd sat still for eight hours while a tattoo artist inked a five-layer mandala onto her skin. But this was far more excruciating.
Adam recalls massaging Crystal's lower spine, where the pain seemed to blaze hardest. "I could feel the bones shifting in her back, preparing for the baby to come out. It was the craziest thing I've ever felt."
Finally, the midwife said, "It's game time." Crystal sat on a birthing chair, summoned her strength and pushed: once, twice, three times. "Reach down and grab your daughter," the midwife instructed. After 31 hours of labor, Bowie finally emerged.
Just weeks into the sleep-starved, hormone-flushed stretch that is new parenthood, Crystal and Adam are recalibrating their lives. Friends are bringing trays of food. At Milkcrate Café, which Adam owns (and where diners can order a "Bagella Fitzgerald" or the "Ike and Tina Tuna"), the staff is covering while he gradually eases back to work. Never a morning person, Crystal now says it's her favorite time of day, when she nurses Bowie and they cuddle skin-to-skin.
The baby seems to have absorbed her parents' love for music. While in utero, she jammed to a Neil Young concert at the Academy of Music; now, Crystal says, playing one of his songs helps Bowie calm down. So does Crystal's own rendition of "You Are My Sunshine," which she sang frequently while she was pregnant.
"In the beginning, I was delirious," Crystal says. "Emotional. But every day gets easier. I feel like I can read her a little better. I feel like a birth warrior, like a rock star, like I can do anything."
The birth experience still feels so raw, so fresh - especially that moment when she held her wet, wide-awake daughter for the first time. "Every ounce of pain went away. It was the worst moments of my life followed by the greatest moment of my life. I fell madly in love with her."
Adam, who was leaning over Crystal's shoulder as she nestled Bowie on her chest, also felt his world tip. "I know I didn't have the same hormones, but I felt so in tune, overwhelmed and overjoyed."