When Rebecca Katz didn’t hear from Darian Rodriguez Heyman after their first date in January 2015, she treated the situation like a job interview. She thought they had hit it off, so she wrote him asking what went wrong.
Indeed, Heyman had been charmed by Becca’s sense of humor and her “potty mouth.” He sensed this was a woman he could really fall for. But his recent divorce had left him feeling skittish. Plus, they had been set up by his good friend Leslie, who also happens to be Becca’s sister, so he knew he had to tread lightly.
Heyman told Katz that he wasn’t ready for anything serious. “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” she responded.
Katz, 48, is the director of Oakland Animal Services and grew up in Berkeley. Heyman, 44, is a social entrepreneur, nonprofit consultant and best-selling author of “Nonprofit Fundraising 101.” Raised in New Jersey, he moved to San Francisco in 1999.
They went out again and continued dating on and off for over a year, during which time Heyman’s book came out, followed by a six-month traveling sabbatical. Clearly, commitment wasn’t on his mind. Katz remarked to a friend, “It’s not going to work with him, but at least this gives me hope that there are guys like that out there.”
But Heyman was keeping something from her. He really hoped to be a father someday, and given her age at the time, 44, they both thought that ship had sailed. He chose not to share his feelings in order to spare hers.
By April 2016, Katz, now 45, told him she was done. Heyman went abroad, this time for three months. Their breakup felt final.
Meanwhile, Katz was putting on weight and felt queasy and fatigued, enough so that she went to see a doctor. When asked if she could be pregnant, she said “no way,” but a few days later, she bought a pregnancy test just to make sure.
Stunned, she debated not telling Heyman since she didn’t see a future with him. But she knew it was the right thing to do. She emailed asking when he was due back. Meanwhile, he had been wondering whether maybe they were meant to be together after all.
They got together on June 1, right when he got back. He spent much of the dinner sharing stories from his trip. Finally, she told him she hadn’t been feeling well. His first thought was cancer.
After she told him she was pregnant, he sat with his mouth gaping. “What about you and me?” he asked. “There is no you and me,” she told him.
“I then told her I been thinking about her, and how much I had wanted to be a dad, but I couldn’t tell her earlier out of respect to her,” Heyman said.
When Katz went for her first checkup at four to six weeks along, she got another surprise: It was more like 18 weeks. When she returned for an amnio a week later, they said, no, she was closer to 21 weeks along.
“We were trying to take all this in,” said Heyman, “but didn’t tell anyone until we knew we would have a healthy baby.” Katz is a Tay-Sachs carrier, and the inherited disease runs in Heyman’s family, too.
No matter what the test showed, Heyman knew he was in it for the long haul. He tested negative, and by summer he had moved into Katz’s house in the Oakland Hills. And then he proposed.
“Once I could get out of my own way and commit to her, things fell into place instantly,” he said.
Now Katz was the one who was skittish.
“I wanted us to be together and co-parent, to see how it unraveled,” she said. “I didn’t want to get married just because of the baby.”
Rafael (Rafi) was born healthy on Oct. 12, 2016, making for a rather eventful Yom Kippur.
The wedding was held on Sept. 22, 2018, at the Pinecrest Chalet in the Stanislaus National Forest. Rafi, 2, was supposed to serve as ring bearer with the couple’s dogs, Tucker and Digby, but he hadn’t napped, so instead he had a meltdown.
Their chuppah was a tallit that came from Katz’s father’s family. Robert Katz died when Rebecca was 22. It’s worth noting that one reason Leslie set her sister up with Heyman was because she saw personality traits in him that he shared with their father.
Friends and family created their own seven blessings around themes important to the couple, like community and a sense of humor.
In addition to the more serious stuff, Katz promised Heyman she would “root for Michigan even though I couldn’t care less about their teams,” while Heyman told Katz, “I vow to always make room in our home for a pack of furry family members.”
Officiant Lori Kandel, a close friend of Katz’s, spoke about how they shared a commitment to tikkun olam, noting, “While Rafi may have been the catalyst that brought them together, he is not the reason they are staying together — it is their love that binds them.”