THE PARENTS: Katie MacTurk, 31, and Megan MacTurk, 31, of South Philadelphia
THE CHILD: Kieran Lynn, born June 12, 2018
WHY THEY CHOSE AN OPEN-IDENTITY DONOR: "We never want her to struggle with her identity," Katie says. "Maybe she will have questions [about her donor], and maybe she won't. But that option is open to her."
The fireworks, splayed on the eastern horizon as their wedding guests danced at the Top of the Tower, felt as if the universe were saying "yes."
"I didn't plan to be in a relationship with a woman; I didn't plan to meet Meg," Katie says. "Everybody was there, having a great time, and you could see fireworks in the distance — something we didn't plan. A nice little bow."
It was July 6, 2013, three days after the women had a small, legal wedding in Washington, D.C. (marriage equality had not yet come to Pennsylvania) and nearly five years since they first spied each other at a meeting of the LGBT support group at St. Joseph's University, where both were seniors.
Katie was in her self-described "gay infancy" then, so nervous that she could barely sputter out her name. "Meg had been very out; she's a social butterfly and talked the entire time. I noticed that she was cute. She noticed that I was new."
Their first date was in a campus cafeteria; as a resident assistant, Megan could swipe in a guest for dinner. Both recall a conversation in which they agreed to take the relationship slowly. Both remember the next morning, when Megan asked Katie to be her girlfriend.
"It was a solid month of seeing each other every day," Katie recalls. "I was more closed off. I was hiding part of who I was. To meet Meg, who is so outgoing and warm and open, was so refreshing. I thought: This is exactly what I have been waiting for my entire life."
By 2010, they were living together, along with two geriatric cats, in an apartment near 17th and Callowhill. The following fall, Katie proposed a picnic in their favorite spot behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art; though she's generally terrible at keeping secrets, she'd managed to order a personalized wine bottle and keep it hidden, along with an engagement ring.
Megan unpacked the wine and noticed the label with their photograph and an invitation to spend the rest of their lives together. Katie was already in tears.
"It was important, whether it was legal or not, to have something that symbolized our commitment," Megan says. "It was important to … establish ourselves as a couple."
Early on, they had a debate about their hypothetical kids: not whether to have them, but whether they would attend public school or private school. First, they had to figure out where those kids would come from. The women had a friend who was willing to donate sperm, but when his samples were tested, the sperm count was too low for success with regular inseminations. Dr. Jacqueline Gutmann, the fertility doctor at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia, recommended a round of IVF.
That cycle yielded 17 embryos. But the morning Megan was to go in for the egg transfer, she got a call: Not one of the embryos had survived. "That was a huge blow," Katie says. "We had been so tied to this donor."
They turned, instead, to the roster from Fairfax Cryobank, eventually selecting a donor who shared some of Katie's traits — her blue eyes, her half-Irish background — and who was willing to be identified to any offspring once they turned 18.
The second round of intra-uterine inseminations brought good news, though Megan was slow to embrace it. "It took me a long time to fully be able to get excited about being pregnant," she says. "It wasn't until the third trimester that we thought: Yes, we're having this baby," Katie adds. "It was exciting to think about who this little human was going to be."
Knowledge, they decided, was power, so they took a comprehensive six-week childbirth class and read voraciously about stages of labor, comfort techniques and what to expect post-partum. "I am analytical," Katie says. "I like to know all the different options. I realized I had no idea what birth was like, so being able to be super-nerdy and read all the things, to formulate some sort of plan, helped put my mind at ease."
The baby's due date was June 17. On June 12, Katie woke up and said, "I had a dream that you went into labor today." Megan responded, "I hope not." But Katie's forecast was spot-on: By mid-afternoon, Megan was leaning over the birth ball, unable to speak through contractions that were less than two minutes apart.
At Pennsylvania Hospital, Megan labored for six more hours, then pushed for 90 minutes. "They asked if she wanted a mirror, or to touch the head. She said, 'No, I'm doing this,'" Katie recalls. The baby had her fists clamped near her face, and her elbows out.
"I was exhausted," Megan remembers, "and had my eyes closed, bracing myself: I've got to get through this push. I'm determined to get her out."
When she did, the moment felt both immersive and surreal. "It was like an out-of-body experience. I had no concept of time. It was so emotionally powerful that I was almost numb."
Kieran is still new — and so are they, as parents, still brimming with surprise and questions: Why is the baby screaming from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.? Why does she, just as abruptly, calm down and go to sleep? How will they know whether something is wrong? What's going to happen next? "There are moments of self-doubt: Are we going to be able to do this?" Megan says.
Their lives, pre-baby, were full. Now the days spill over. "I was perfectly happy with the two of us and our extended life with friends and family," Katie recalls. "Having a kid will change that — in some ways that are great, in some ways, a little limiting. That still makes me nervous. Change is scary."