Having a first child at any age is hard. For a couple pushing into their 40s with 13 years of happy marriage behind them, however, the thought of having a pair of newborns seems like an event custom-made to terrify. That's the future faced by Gerry Bruno and Jennifer Ruud-Bruno, a Little Rock couple who are expecting twins this summer. The road to get there wasn't easy, fraught with heartbreak and modern medical help, but they believe the hardships and their long relationship will be a rock to stand on as they come (a little later than most) to the world of parenthood.
Ruud and Bruno met in February 2000 at a party in New York City. Gerry, raised in a big Italian family in New Jersey, admits he always thought of the concept of love at first sight as "bullshit," but found himself almost cartoonishly smitten the first time he saw her. "I saw Jenny from across the room, and I thought, 'My God, there's something about this girl!' " he said. "I could not put my finger on it."
Over the next month, Gerry found ways to maneuver himself into Jennifer's orbit. After attending an off-off-off-Broadway show in which Jennifer was performing, he went out to dinner with Ruud and a group of friends, making sure he sat across the table from her. Though the guy sitting beside her was trying to make time with her as well, Gerry found he just couldn't keep it together.
"Halfway through the night, after I'd stuck my foot in my mouth many, many times," Gerry said, "I was leaning forward talking to her, and the other guy was hitting on her, and I just stopped. I leaned back, and I looked at her, and I thought, 'I'm going to marry this girl.' "
Jennifer admits she didn't believe in love at first sight either when they met. "I think it's something everyone wants to believe in, but I guess I'm a little more practically minded. ... I was always the one telling people, 'Yeah, right. Uh-huh. Love at first sight? OK. Yeah, that's happening fast, and I can't believe how fast you're getting into this.' But I did the same thing."
Though the sparks were clearly flying between them, Gerry and Jennifer had agreed to keep things platonic in those first few months, corresponding mostly through emails. To hear them tell it, Gerry seemed perilously close to slipping into the dreaded Friendzone, including helping her through a romantic breakup while secretly wishing she was his. Then they took a friendly day-trip to a New Jersey wine festival during Memorial Day weekend 2000. It wound up being, as Jennifer calls it, an "eight-hour date."
"By the end of the day," Gerry said with a smile, "we were not just friends anymore."
As hard as it might be to believe in this age of difficult romance and long engagements, by July 4, less than five months after they first laid eyes on each other, they were talking about marriage. "I would have never thought I would have done that," Jennifer said, "that I would have ever, ever done something like that, so fast." Gerry gave her a month to consider it, and she said she didn't need it. Gerry insisted, and on the day before the month was up, he proposed. They were married in Florence, Italy, in March 2001.
While their courtship and marriage seems like the stuff of fairy tales, when they decided to have kids, they were quickly faced with harsh reality. After they moved to Little Rock in August 2008, they decided it would be the perfect time to start a family.
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