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The Parent Trip: Jadee and Eero Klinger of West Philadelphia

Jadee grew up swarmed by children: her siblings and step-siblings, and the 10 kids her mom cared for in the day-care center she ran from their house. By age 4, Jadee could change a diaper; as a teen, she was a sought-after babysitter.

Eero (left) and Jadee Klinger with baby Ezra.
Eero (left) and Jadee Klinger with baby Ezra.Read morePicture by Kathy Joswick

Jadee grew up swarmed by children: her siblings and step-siblings, and the 10 kids her mom cared for in the day-care center she ran from their house. By age 4, Jadee could change a diaper; as a teen, she was a sought-after babysitter.

Eero remembers her childhood fondly: Her father taught her to fix motorcycles and bleed the brakes on old cars; sometimes, he woke her in the middle of the night to go stargazing.

When the couple met via the online dating site OkCupid and Jadee compared their profile questions, the answers matched in nearly every instance except one: Eero said she wanted to be a parent. Jadee did not.

But at that juncture - it was a first date, after all - the discrepancy didn't strike either woman as a deal-breaker. And the date itself, a bracing December hike in the Wissahickon with soup Eero had packed in a canister and cookies Jadee had baked, revealed how much they had in common. Both women were vegans. Each had two cats.

"I could tell how caring she was," Jadee remembers. "When I'd get close to the edge of the trail, she'd reach her arm out and say, 'Be careful.' "

As for Eero, she was intrigued that Jadee had suggested a hike, despite the 18-degree temperature, instead of a typical meet-up for coffee. "It seemed like a brave thing. I liked that she approached things differently."

After a handful of dates, Eero began spending nights regularly at Jadee's apartment; on their six-month anniversary, she proposed. There were just two obstacles: Same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Pennsylvania, and they were broke. So they invited friends and family to their "illegal" wedding, a potluck supper in a yoga studio, in April 2012.

By then, Jadee had softened on the idea of parenting. "My mom had made it seem that pregnancy was the most amazing time any woman could experience. I was very curious and wanted to experience that for myself."

In pursuit of legal marriage and a community where they believed a two-mom family might meet more acceptance, they moved to San Francisco, but they found housing prohibitively expensive. So they returned to Philadelphia, found jobs - Jadee as an architect, Eero as a consultant at Apple - and began thinking about how to make a baby.

Both liked the idea of asking a friend to donate sperm, but neither wanted the potential complications of such an arrangement. Fairfax Cryobank, they learned, had a photo-matching service - they could submit a picture of Eero, and the bank would comb through thousands of donors to find someone who resembled her.

The algorithm yielded exactly one choice. "But what really got us was his audio interview," Jadee recalls. When the donor was asked what made him happy, he said, "Watching animal videos." What made him sad? "When animals are mistreated." They listened to dozens of other donor interviews, but, Jadee says, "we never found anybody we liked more."

She opted for the lowest-tech method possible - at-home inseminations, no fertility drugs - and was dismayed when she didn't get pregnant on the first try. Or the second. Or the third.

But the fourth, an intrauterine insemination in the doctor's office this time, was the charm - at least, at the moment the pregnancy test registered positive. Both women jumped up and down, screaming with joy, in the bathroom.

The glee stopped there. "We wanted the pregnancy so badly, and I was extremely grateful," Jadee says. "But I was so nauseous. I couldn't drive. I lost weight for the first three months. I felt so horrible."

While Jadee devoured books on childbirth, assembled a year's worth of gender-neutral baby clothes, and made a playlist of soothing music, Eero readied herself for the unknown. "I embrace change and love change," she says, "but the thing I had to prepare myself for the most was the lack of control."

They had planned a home birth with two midwives in attendance, along with Jadee's mother, who is a registered doula, and her 12-year-old niece, who was thrilled to be welcoming her first cousin. But Jadee discovered there was no way to plan for the crushing pain of contractions, or the urgency in the midwife's voice when the baby's heart rate began to drop.

"They said, 'You need to push this baby out now,' " she recalls. Ezra was born with the umbilical wrapped around his neck - but the midwife rapidly uncoiled it. Ezra's skin turned from bluish to a healthy pink, and he began to cry.

Jadee's first thoughts were: Thank God it's over. Thank God he's healthy. Eero recalls smiling and crying simultaneously. "That 30 seconds when his head was born and I saw his face was the craziest moment of my life."

Parenthood yanked their world into new dimensions. There were days when they bounced endlessly on a yoga ball to soothe crying Ezra, hours when Jadee walked him back and forth in the apartment, stopping only for a few bites of a microwaved veggie hotdog.

At the hub of this shifting universe is Ezra, who babbles to the black-and-white polka dots around his changing table, laughs when Eero dances through the house, and charms them with the sound of his voice. "He makes this velociraptor-type noise," Eero says, "like a little dinosaur."

Already, this baby has changed his parents. Jadee, once modest, now breast-feeds unapologetically in public. When a coworker commented that most babies are ugly, she tossed off the remark, thinking, "I don't care. I think Ezra is so beautiful."

And Eero, after returning to work for a month, recently quit to become a stay-at-home mom. The decision felt like a more profound version of a moment early in Ezra's life, when she stood in a convenience store, staring at the canned goods and thinking, "I have a son. I'm a parent." Then a second thought seized her, fierce as gravity: It's time to go home.

The Parent Trip


If you've become a parent - for the first, second or fifth time - within the last six months, e-mail us why we should feature your story:

Giving birth, adopting, or becoming a stepparent or guardian all count.

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