She had come home from work, taken a pregnancy test, and had a “semi-excited, semi-scared moment.” Then she bundled the drugstore stick in a gift bag and waited for Mike to return from his rugby game.
“Oh, a thing to see if we’re pregnant? Awesome!”
“Read it,” Monica said.
And then Mike did the thing that had earned him the nickname “Mumbles” in college. He started babbling — “I think I might have blacked out for a little bit” — and eventually said, “We should do presents on Labor Day more often.”
It’s not that they didn’t want children. In fact, Mike had suggested they have as many as six. It’s just that neither expected conception to happen so soon, a year after their wedding and one month into Monica’s new job as a school counselor.
They were living in Colorado then. Mike had relocated a year after graduating from Millersville University, where the two had met at a rugby party. He was the guy handing out free vodka shots at the door; she was the woman who told her roommates that night, “I met this guy … and I think he likes me.”
Monica transferred to Temple University in her sophomore year, and the two dated during college breaks. Meanwhile, Mike graduated in 2008 and found work with a construction firm … until the recession hit. The company offered to transfer him to Colorado Springs. And when Monica flew out to see him in 2012 — a visit he’d engineered to include spectacular hikes, outdoor concerts, and a trip to Fort Collins — she fell in love with the state, and the guy.
“I came home, had dinner with my mom, and said, ‘I’m moving to Colorado.’ I come from a very big Italian family; nobody’s moved away from home. They thought I was nuts.”
But the pair knew better: Colorado became the place where they constructed adult lives, launched careers (Monica in school counseling, Mike as a construction group manager) and, on July 4, 2014, became engaged, in pouring rain at the pinnacle of a six-mile hike.
They were married a year later, in Monica’s family’s parish in Blue Bell. By then, they’d already been deep in geographical negotiations. In fact, Monica had given what both call “an ultimatum”: If they were going to get married, Mike had to agree to move back East when they had kids.
“My biggest fear was to be in Denver, away from everyone, and go through post-partum issues,” Monica says. “Being home with a baby scared me a lot.”
At the wedding, Mike misread the monsignor’s cue and kissed Monica at the wrong part of the ceremony. He also took in the faces of relatives and friends. “I realized it would be perfectly fine to move back and have them in our lives.”
They were in Colorado when Monica wrapped up that positive pregnancy test. And they were still living there as she neared her 28th week. Then Mike got a job offer from a construction firm in Philadelphia; within a few weeks, they’d put their house on the market, sold nearly all their furniture along with Monica’s car, bought a 20-foot enclosed trailer, attached it to Mike’s GMC Sierra truck, and drove cross-country, with stops every two hours (both for Monica and their pit bull, Darwin) and overnight stays in Omaha, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.
They maneuvered the trailer into Monica’s parents’ development and parked themselves in the guest room for the duration. Monica called the midwife who had delivered her brother’s three children and persuaded her to take a new patient already in her third trimester.
“In a perfect world, I wanted to do an unmedicated labor and delivery,” she says. But in the actual world, her water broke during Sunday night dinner at her sister’s place — “I ran to the bathroom; I thought I couldn’t control my bladder,” she remembers.
Monica was five centimeters dilated by the time they arrived at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery the next morning. “The pain was so bad that I was begging for an epidural.” During two fierce hours of pushing, it was the thought of her daughter — they’d learned the baby’s sex at 20 weeks — that kept her motivated. “I just wanted to meet her so badly. I kept thinking about her coming into the world.”
When she did, there was a flash of panic. “Both [the midwives’] faces dropped; I could see something was wrong in the final push. One said, ‘Do the somersault,’ which meant to unwrap the umbilical cord from her neck and roll her out. They put her on me, and she wasn’t crying. I said, ‘Is something wrong with her?’ They said, ‘No, she’s just a very chill baby.’ ”
When Addison was a week old — still mellow, though a tongue-tie made nursing almost impossible — the couple signed closing documents on a house in Lansdale and moved in, with an infant, a bedroom set, a couch, and a card table that became their dining area for the next two months.
“My family basically rallied and moved us into the house in two days,” Monica says. “My mom watched the baby while I unpacked my closet. But the craziness of the house didn’t faze me. I was in a state of euphoria the first six weeks.”