THE PARENTS: Jaimie Polsz, 27, and Dennis Polsz, 31, of Mount Airy
THE CHILD: Lila June, born December 23, 2017
HOW PARENTHOOD HAS CHANGED THEM: "I underestimate what I'm capable of," Jaimie says, while Dennis notes that "I'm less easily fazed, more stoic, in dealing with the baby. It's making me a better overall human."
He liked video games, anime, and comedy. She preferred horror films and tearjerker dramas. She chatted easily with strangers; he was a confirmed introvert. She styled hair for a living. He worked in construction.
But their differences were key to his come-on line. "I think it's nice when two people in a relationship don't have their interests 100 percent aligned, so they can always show the other person something to be interested in," Dennis told Jaimie. "So … what are you interested in?"
"Nothing that you like," she answered. Then it clicked: "You're hitting on me!"
They'd met two years earlier through a mutual friend at a 2009 Halloween party — he was dressed as Clyde, with his then-girlfriend as Bonnie, and Jaimie was a Moulin Rouge cancan dancer.
"I never thought of him as anything other than a good friend, but whenever I was dating someone, I always would think: Is this how Dennis would treat somebody?" Jaimie says.
Halloween 2011 was their first official date. Gradually, Dennis' belongings migrated from his University City apartment to her place in Northern Liberties. "Before I realized it, he was there five out of seven days a week."
Cohabitation amplified some other differences —"I'm a huge mess, and Jaimie is the opposite of a mess," Dennis says — but also taught them to be direct about conflict. "I'd tell him: These are the things that bother me," Jaimie recalls.
For a few years, while saving for a house, they lived in a cramped Southwest Philly rowhouse they'd inherited from Dennis' family. That's when they adopted Beullo, a half-pit bull, half-Spanish mastiff rescue dog Jaimie spotted on the Delaware County SPCA website.
Beullo had a history of abandonment and dogfighting; he awoke every four hours, whimpered all day when the couple left for work, and urinated every time they left the room, anxious that they might not return.
"He'd never learned how to play. He wouldn't follow us upstairs. But he came out of it after six months. Now, he's like a throw rug, the easiest dog I've ever had in my life," Jaimie says.
They married in 2014: a spontaneous escape to Jamaica, with a proposal that was typically Dennis. He climbed into bed one night, handed Jaimie a printout from an all-inclusive resort, and said, "I booked us a trip to Jamaica, and, just so you know, they do weddings."
"Are you saying you want us to do a wedding?" Jaimie asked.
"Yeah, I guess so."
The resort overlooked the ocean, each room came with its own butler, and the on-site French restaurant served a five-course dinner with live piano music. A rainbow swelled over the pier-side gazebo after their exchange of vows.
When she was younger, Jaimie imagined fostering or adopting children — her father was raised in the foster care system, and erratic menstrual cycles made her worry she might have a hard time conceiving — but an unplanned pregnancy at 21 with Dennis had made her think differently.
At 10 weeks, her doctor couldn't detect a heartbeat. "The whole time I was pregnant, I felt like something was wrong," Jaimie says. But after that loss, "I could see myself having a baby. I got more comfortable with the idea of being pregnant."
"I wavered back and forth for a while," Dennis recalls. "Then I realized: I do want a child. It was time."
Jaimie had been off birth control pills for just a month when she felt an almost electrical sensation one night before sleep. "It was this weird sense of life and cells connecting. I thought: I'm pregnant."
Within weeks, there was no mistaking her condition: Jaimie suffered extreme pregnancy-related nausea; she vomited three times a day for 36 weeks, sometimes needing to excuse herself from clients in the midst of cutting their hair.
"There were times when I felt like a bad mother for not being able to give [the baby] food," Jaimie says. "But I would always feel strangely fortunate that I had been heavy; my body was able to break down reserves and give them to her." She dropped 35 pounds over the course of her pregnancy.
Jaimie was working with midwives and hoping for an unmedicated birth — watching the documentary The Business of Being Born had confirmed her natural aversion to hospitals — but at 41 weeks, after several weeks of intermittent, hard contractions, a doctor advised induction.
She labored for 15 hours at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, with some low-dose Ativan for anxiety and Pitocin to boost contractions. Then the real pain began; with every contraction, the baby jolted against Jaimie's pelvic bones. Even an epidural didn't ease the anguish.
The baby wasn't in distress. But she wasn't moving, either. "I'd been awake for 40 hours when we went in for the C-section," Jamie says. "My whole body was shaking."
Dennis held Jaimie's hand until the moment doctors pulled their daughter out. "The first thing I said was, 'She has my earlobes,' " he recalls. "She immediately started crying on her own, without having to be suctioned. She was ready to go. She was done being pushed around."
They'd already decided on a name, the one they'd been saying in faux-Southern accents for months: "Lila June, I do declare!"
For Jaimie and Dennis, their daughter's arrival was an indelible moment. But it meant something different to each of them. For Dennis, it was a lurch from the vague imaginings of parenthood he'd entertained for nine months.
"It was instantly a click: This is life now. This is real. Not in a negative sense — it was like, your life has purpose in a different way."