THE PARENTS: Lory Soda, 37, and Jay Soda, 46, of Roxborough
THE KIDS: Luna Scot, 2; Opal Jayne, born July 28, 2016
UNFORGETTABLE SNAPSHOT FROM THEIR FIRST BIRTH: Lory is grimacing, mid-contraction, while Jay mugs for the camera, with two thumbs up.
Lory and Jay like to play outside conventional rules. So the engagement emblem wasn't a diamond, but an opal. The proposal happened near the fountain at Logan Circle, where they'd often stopped to make out while on bike rides.
And when the best man fumbled during their wedding ceremony, pretending to hunt for the ring, one of Jay's buddies suddenly reached beneath his chair and sent a Frisbee winging toward the bridal party. The ring was taped to the plastic disc.
Guests were in on the joke: The couple had met while playing Ultimate Frisbee in Edgely Field in 2005, where postgame hangouts segued into a date for Middle Eastern food, then hikes near Kennett Square, and, a few years later, an act that felt even more serious than marriage, when they bought Jay's grandmother's Roxborough rowhouse.
As a boy, Jay and his family had trooped in from Plymouth Meeting to spend Christmas and Easter in that house; he remembered the decorated, artificial trees and the year his grandmother laughed so hard he feared she'd have a heart attack.
"We have to de-grandmother the house," Lory had said - meaning maroon and pumpkin-colored walls, a remodeled basement and bathrooms, no plastic on the couches. And once they were settled there, and married, they turned their energy to baby-making.
"I remember not really being sold on whether I wanted kids," Lory says. "Until I was falling in love with Jay, I didn't think about it. But Jay wanted them. I was starting to get older and realized I had to give this some thought."
They gave it more than thought: They tried for two years and became pregnant four times, each one ending in a miscarriage at about six weeks. The first time, Jay recalls, the ultrasound tech scooted the wand around on Lory's belly, searching for a heartbeat that was no longer there.
It took four more weeks for Lory to physically miscarry; when she did, she was stunned by the intense contractions. "I remember thinking, after that happened, 'OK, I can handle labor and Jay can handle seeing me in pain.' "
It was pregnancy number five, aided by a dose of progesterone and closely monitored by a fertility specialist, that finally endured. Each week, Lory would report to the doctor and sit anxiously in the waiting room. "There were all these other women who were having the same angst I was, but nobody talked." After each ultrasound, she'd text Jay and her mother: "OK, we're good; the heartbeat's still there."
Lory sobbed when she passed the six-week mark. She remained nervous at her baby shower. It wasn't until the third trimester that she unclenched. "I was nauseous and exhausted. But I took that as a good sign: Come on, hormones, stay with me."
She hoped for a medication-free labor at the birth center in Bryn Mawr. But the baby was two weeks late and in breech position. After a painful version (when a physician turns the baby from the outside) and an even more painful sweeping of the membranes to jump-start contractions, followed by 40 hours of labor and two hours of pushing, Lory was relieved to hear doctors utter the "C-word."
"After two years and four miscarriages, I thought: Just let me meet this child. I was really happy to be going in for the cesarean. I didn't get my skin-to-skin contact, I didn't get my natural birth, but I was so happy."
For Jay, the process felt surreal, "like I was watching it from above." He'd always shied away from holding infants - "What if something goes wrong, and I ruin your baby?" - but this time, cradling their swaddled daughter, "it was a warm feeling inside: Honey, here's our baby."
Before the birth, they'd told relatives they would want time alone to bond as a family. "We had this notion that we'd be able to handle it," Lory laughs. Instead, they relied on her mother, who cooked breaded chicken and beef with lentils and pasta, meals she literally spoon-fed Lory while she nursed Luna.
The nights were fraught - Luna would cry inconsolably or have difficulty latching - but the days were full of laughter and family and the aromas of fall.
A shot of progesterone worked the second time around, and Lory became pregnant shortly after the couple started trying. She hoped for a vaginal birth this time and found a midwife who supported that choice, but once again, the baby was in breech position.
A version - less painful this time - flipped her in less than a minute, and labor moved fast, "from zero to the most intense pain in the world in a matter of minutes," Lory recalls. At Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, she labored for about 45 minutes, then pushed for one fierce, flaming hour. "It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life; when she came out, I felt like I could accomplish anything."
The final stage of remodeling - an entirely new kitchen, from floor to appliances - was still in progress, so the family lived at Lory's parents' house for a month, a welcome interlude with a two-to-one ratio of adults to children.
Now, back at home, life is "crazy-good." Luna alternates between toddleresque tantrums and loving care of her baby sister; Opal, so far, seems to be a more consistent sleeper than her sibling. Still, tranquil breakfasts and rounds of Ultimate Frisbee are off the agenda for a while.
The other night at dinner, Lory was gripped with a kind of anticipatory nostalgia. Jay had spent all day tending a pot roast while sidestepping Luna's stuffed animals on the floor. They sat down to eat with both kids, too young for their parents to fret about schoolyard bullies or teenage angst.