Set aside time for children while constantly on the move
THE PARENTS: Johanna Goetzel, 37, and James Rising, 41, of Passyunk Square
THE CHILDREN: Austin Reed, 2; Oliver Marley, born September 8, 2022
TRAVEL POINTS: So far they have been together in 52 countries.
The injured butterfly in the bus station in Brazil struck James as a metaphor.
Johanna was in Boston, where the two had met at a mutual friend’s birthday party, and James was thousands of miles away, traveling to the World Social Forum. They had fallen in love with Google Chat.
“I was waiting for a bus and noticed there was a butterfly walking on the ground in a really weird way. It had a hole in its wing. It couldn’t fly. I realized that Jo was like this butterfly: she wanted to fly, but couldn’t. I bought her tickets to join me.
This trip to Brazil could have been a disaster: torrential downpours and lost items. But instead, the couple found they were more than compatible travel companions. They complemented each other: his introversion and his sociability; his spontaneity and ability to plan.
A yen for adventure, along with higher education and work, took them to England, France, Prague, Budapest, Washington, D.C., and finally New York, where they both pursued studies related to climate science and sustainability.
In early 2012, James tried to propose in a beautiful location in southern Italy. “Oh my God, what’s going on? Johanna said. Then she ran away.
“I was attached to Johanna and wanted her to know I was in the way,” James says. But she was also determined to finish graduate school first.
After the 2016 election, both were eager to leave the United States, and when James landed a job at the London School of Economics, it was pragmatic to get married.
It was an outdoor wedding on Cape Cod, with a dance choreographed by James capturing moves from music videos, and the last big family occasion their two grandmothers were alive for.
“When we first met, James didn’t want kids, just robots he could program,” Johanna laughs. “I always wanted children.”
James witnessed her ease with children; Johanna was the person who could walk into a restaurant and immediately get in touch with all the children there. In the fall of 2019, she recorded a pregnancy test and a note in her aquarium: “New spawn coming in 2020.”
“There was a moment when I couldn’t breathe,” James says. “It’s all fun and games until you realize it’s real; it’s really gonna happen. Then: OK, what’s the next step? They still lived in London and Johanna roamed the city, chasing a craving for almond croissants. When its waters burst, they were walking through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood; she hid behind a car, then took a bus to the hospital.
“Everyone had to wear masks all the time,” she recalled. “My work was not progressing. After 38 hours, they decided to do a caesarean section. While recovering, his five roommates each spoke a different language; a French woman pulled on a postpartum cigarette.
The first days of parenthood were difficult: they worried about the baby’s weight and traveled miles with him in a baby carrier or stroller. “I remember some nights where we were just frantic,” James says. “He was crying like he was in so much pain, and nothing we could do would satisfy him. It doesn’t matter how you rocked it or sang it.
When Austin was 6 months old, the couple moved to Philadelphia to be closer to family and live in a walkable city. And although they initially agreed to have only one child, Johanna lobbied for another, noting that the siblings could have fun.
She was pregnant after a month of trying. Again, she craved sweets, especially those from a Franco-Vietnamese bakery. Although they had hoped for a girl this time, genetic testing indicated a boy, and a massage therapist confirmed that prediction with an amulet she held to Johanna’s stomach.
“I had ‘afternoon sickness’ – I was throwing up between 4 and 7 p.m. every day,” says Johanna. The day Oliver arrived, she had a sudden urge to stock up on groceries. That evening—with Johanna’s mother on board to tend to Austin—the two drove to the Pennsylvania Hospital, Johanna twitching and backing up at every red light.
She was 6 cm dilated when they arrived. “Johanna was trying to discuss her birth plan and the doctor said, ‘You have this baby right now. No time for an epidural. ”
She remembers 30 minutes of intense pushing to deliver Oliver: 7 pounds, 10 ounces, vaginal delivery after a C-section, which she had wanted.
Johanna’s mother, who had booked an Airbnb for three weeks, quickly contracted COVID-19 after a day to help them take care of the children. But they found themselves less shaken this time around.
“We are more seasoned,” says Johanna. When a pacifier falls on the floor, she sucks it briefly instead of disinfecting it. “If Oliver is crying, we don’t mind that much. What’s harder is dealing with Austin’s feelings about having a brother. He’ll say, ‘I’m hugging baby’, but it’s a bit of a hug.”
For James, the difference between one child and two is a kind of surrender to being a parent, all the time. “There’s no room for anything but family matters when they’re both around. They demand our attention. Evenings, mornings and weekends are children’s time.
They also know that children, even infants, are resilient. “When Austin was less than 3 months old, we went to the Cotswolds in England,” says Johanna. What should have been a six hour drive took 16 hours. And when Oliver was just a few weeks old, the family traveled to Cape Cod.
“These children will travel with us. Austin has been to London twice. Oliver has a passport. We are going to Israel with him in December. You have to keep moving forward, keep going. The world does not stop. We want our children to be intrepid travelers and to have a zest for life and adventure, just like we do.
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