It was not love at first sight.
In fact, when Evelyn looked at the 8-pound, 12-ounce infant clinging to her chest, her first thought was: I don't even know who this is.
"She didn't look anything like how I had pictured. She looked so scared and little. It wasn't this angelic, biblical moment where the mother looks at her child and praises God. It was more like: Who the hell are you?"
She'd been in labor for nearly 24 hours - first, in the cramped bathtub of the house she and Josh rented in Germantown, then at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, with a Pitocin drip that made her contractions erratic and fierce.
Evelyn understood pain; she'd run a marathon and endured shoulder surgery after a surfing accident. "But I felt like someone was taking a chainsaw to my lower half. I felt like my mind was three dimensions away."
The previous nine months had been another rough surprise. Even though Evelyn and Josh were trying to get pregnant, she was shocked that it happened so quickly, just a month after their "OK, let's go for it" conversation and about 18 months after they'd first met in a Chicago bar.
Josh managed the Logan Bar & Grill; Evelyn was visiting her family and wandered in with a friend, clutching her brand-new iPhone. She ragged Josh about the worn Puma sneakers he was wearing and Googled pictures of the Dansko clogs she insisted would be more comfortable.
They saw each other one more time before Evelyn headed back to Philadelphia; her mother was giving away some house plants, and she invited Josh to come over and collect a few. "Really, it was an excuse to see him again."
Frequent texts and phone calls led to another Chicago trip for Evelyn a month later; by the fall of 2012, Josh had sold his boat, packed his belongings, and moved to Philadelphia.
They were sure about each other - a friend remarked, after they'd been dating just a few months, that they seemed like a longtime couple - but they were less certain about kids. Evelyn, a nurse-practitioner at a community health center, could picture herself playing with a toddler or guiding a teenager; she just couldn't envision herself pregnant.
Not even on the day she ducked into the employee restroom, test stick in hand. "I was so shocked, I wrapped it up in paper towels and put it at the bottom of the garbage can." Between seeing patients, she delivered the bulletin to Josh: " 'I took a pregnancy test, and it's positive.' He said, 'Great.' I said, 'Yeah. I've got to go.' "
As weeks passed, nothing felt in sync with the popular images of pregnancy. Evelyn didn't glow. She wasn't euphoric, or even happy. Actually, she felt hung over - nauseated, wrecked, a little blue. Strangers wanted to touch her belly. Some wondered why she and Josh weren't married. Others offered opinions about the baby's name.
"It's a weird thing that this very private part of yourself is suddenly on display," Evelyn says. "I didn't even like saying, 'I'm pregnant.' I told people, 'I'm going to have a baby.' "
Her body felt out of control. And her medical knowledge only ramped up the anxiety. At one point, she convinced herself that her persistent nausea might indicate a baby with Down syndrome. At every ultrasound scan, she grilled the technician: "Can you check and make sure it's just one baby? Are you sure there's not another one hiding behind it?"
Josh, a furniture-maker, was bolstered by Evelyn's brother, not only a solid pal, but also the enthusiastic father of a toddler girl. The brothers-in-law liked the idea that their children would be close in age. The couple's friends, too, were having kids - nearly all of them girls - and Josh had figured there was no perfect time.
"We're only getting older," he remembers telling Evelyn before they began trying. "And we're not going to have more energy in a couple of years."
Once pregnant, Evelyn didn't want any more surprises. From the start, she and Josh used female pronouns to talk about the baby - "So when she goes to school" - and they soon learned their hunch had been right. They toyed with the name Skye, but wondered whether it might sound unprofessional for an adult; finally they settled on Skylar, which means "scholar" or "shelter." Lucia, her middle name, is a nod to an elderly neighbor, Lucienne, who proffered sage advice when Evelyn was growing up.
The couple chuckled at their private joke of putting the two names together: Skye, her nickname, and Lucia, meaning "light": Sky. Light.
Three months into parenthood, they vaguely remember the details of their childless days. There were daily visits to the gym; there were movies and bike rides and uninterrupted baths. But now their world orbits around a baby who mimics their expressions, laughs out loud, and cries with actual, heart-shredding tears. Recently, Josh taught her how to roar. It cracks them up every time.
Even the nights have grown kinder. Evelyn used to dread bedtime, knowing she'd be yanked from sleep every two hours. But Skylar sleeps better now, and Josh partners on the nighttime feedings, changing the baby's diaper and coaxing her back to sleep.
There are irreplaceable moments, such as a recent day when Skylar was crying, and Evelyn hurried upstairs to comfort her. When she was halfway up the steps, the crying ceased: Scuba, their beloved boxer mix, was stationed beside the baby's swing, looking guilty. "He'd licked her entire face, trying to calm her down."