THE PARENTS: Lisa Rogers, 36, and Chris Rogers, 32, of Oreland

THE KIDS: Abigail (Abby) Rose, 3; Samantha Rae, born August 2, 2017

HELPFUL ADVICE THAT CAME THEIR WAY: A friend told Lisa to bring her own pillow to the hospital. Chris's grandfather said, about impending fatherhood, "You're in the backseat now."

They shared a love of wings. Not Air Force wings; those came later. But the wings offered as happy hour specials at the Manayunk spots where Chris and Lisa spent their first dates.

Chris, who organized events at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, where Lisa was working her way through graduate school as a banquet server, had already told a buddy, "I'm going to marry that girl."

Lisa wasn't so sure; at the time, she was 26 and Chris was barely old enough for a legal drink. "Because of the age difference, I don't know if I really thought it would go anywhere," she says.

As they talked, they discovered common ground: families who lived locally (both had grown up in Roxborough, though their paths had never crossed) and valued closeness.

But Lisa seemed to have a step up on adulthood. After graduate school, she found a job as a social worker. She bought a condo. "I saw a lot of potential in Chris. He had goals and dreams. But what did he need to do to make them happen?"

His answer: the Air Force Reserve, nine weeks of basic training in Texas followed by six months of tech school in Mississippi. The training was grueling —"like prison," Chris says — and clarifying. Before he returned for a brief leave at Christmas, he wrote to Lisa's parents, asking their permission to marry her.

On his first night home, he stumbled down the basement steps at his mother's house, caught his hand on a nail, and needed 15 stitches. That didn't stop him from proposing to Lisa in the kitchen the next evening, after everyone else had gone to bed.

"He asked if I wanted to marry him. I thought he was kidding," Lisa recalls.

Chris wasn't — even though he has a dry sense of humor, a wit that surfaced at their 2012 wedding. The September day was golden, the gardens at Skytop Lodge in abundant fall bloom. "Take this ring," said the officiant, pausing for Chris to repeat her words. "Wing? Take this wing?" Lisa, and all their guests, began to giggle.

After the wedding, the couple lived in Lisa's parents' basement for nearly a year while they searched for a house. It was during that time — Lisa recalls it as a warm interlude, with the four adults taking turns with cooking and household chores — that she became pregnant.

At the first ultrasound, the tech said they should meet with the doctor in another room. "They didn't see a heartbeat," Lisa says. "It wasn't viable." What followed was a miscarriage, a D&C, a hemorrhage, and a brief cancer scare; tests of uterine tissue turned out to be fine. But Lisa was shaken.

"You go through this process of thinking, 'There's this thing I thought came so naturally, that I wanted to do all my life, and it might not be a possibility for me.' "

They tried again; once more, she became pregnant and miscarried, this time within a few days of testing positive. The next step was fertility treatment.

They opted for some medical intervention — follicle-stimulating hormones, an intrauterine insemination — along with acupuncture and massage. "People get so wrapped up in it: appointments and monitoring and ultrasounds and blood work." Lisa tried not to obsess. After six months, a pregnancy stick flagged good news. She left it on the bathroom counter for Chris to see when he woke up.

Though the pair took a daylong labor preparation class, and Lisa asked other women about childbirth tips, she knew it was impossible to predict or control what would happen.

"My birth plan was: Get the baby out safely." And that's what happened, after an induction at 41 weeks, a night of wracking pain, and a birth that left Lisa weeping with relief and joy. "She was finally here, and healthy. I was so, so thrilled to have her in my arms."

A few days later, though, Lisa was on the phone with an NICU nurse. "I think you gave me the wrong baby. This baby didn't cry like this when we were in the hospital." The nurse explained that Abby was simply feeling more alert.

They wanted a sibling for Abby, and Lisa longed for a different kind of birth experience. That's why she found a midwife practice that guided her through the arc of another pregnancy, another miscarriage, and one more pregnancy, this time complicated by a cyst on her placenta and a bout of gestational diabetes.

Every morning, Chris made her an omelet with spinach, cheese,  and sausage, and a slice of buttered toast. Lisa felt cared-for by the midwives, too, who kept her number in their cellphones and inquired not only about physical symptoms but about her emotional state.

Even during the birth, when Lisa yelled at one point to "get it out of me!" the midwife remained steady. "We're almost there. It's OK," she soothed. "She was telling me everything that was happening, every step of the way," Lisa says. "It was extremely painful. But I felt so much support."

Samantha arrived at 10:30 p.m. The next day, Abby came to Einstein Medical Center Montgomery to meet her sibling. Lisa's mom had bought a shirt that said, "I'm the big sister" with a matching onesie —"I'm the little sister" — for Samantha. She snapped a photo of the foursome, then slipped quietly from the room.

Lisa and Chris Rogers with Abby and newborn Samantha.
Jean Brown
Lisa and Chris Rogers with Abby and newborn Samantha.

For Chris, this birth was a call to "up my work ethic" with the need to provide for two. For Lisa, the moment was tart and sweet. She watched her firstborn — no longer her baby — poke gently at her infant sister. She thought about the pregnancies she'd lost, the ones she carried, and what they'd taught her: "Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean that in 10 months you're going to have a baby. I don't think I let myself feel OK until they were in my arms."