THE PARENTS: Megan Herbert, 33, and Garry Herbert, 34, of Lansdale
THE KIDS: Lukas Anthony, 3; Connor Rhys, born Dec. 27, 2021
THE PROPOSAL: When Garry asked Megan to marry him, her first, flustered response was, “Sure.” He paused. “Um, I need a yes or a no.”
“How was the doctor’s visit?” Garry asked after work one winter afternoon in 2018. Megan had mentioned that she was having some abdominal pain.
“They said it was nothing to worry about,” she replied. “But it’s probably not going to go away for nine months.”
It took a beat for Garry to understand. “What? Nine months? Ohh…”
The doctor’s visit was just a ruse, typical of the couple’s dry sense of humor, one of the traits that formed their mutual attraction when they met at an Ithaca bar in 2010.
Megan, an undergrad, was celebrating the end of finals; Garry, in grad school, was toasting his first political job, working for a state senator.
“She knew the bartender, and they allowed her to get on top of the bar and pour alcohol into people’s mouths,” Garry recalls. “When she got to me, I thought: This is awesome, and I should definitely ask her out to lunch tomorrow.”
Their first date was for pizza bagels. They remained in touch throughout that summer, discovering shared passions that included professional soccer and Harry Potter; she owns a miniature Quidditch set, and he has tattoos of the Hogwarts crest and Deathly Hallows.
When Megan began considering graduate schools, including one in England, the two had a state-of-the-relationship discussion. Ultimately, she decided on the University of Pittsburgh for a master’s in social work. “That was our turning point: We want to be together,” she says.
For Garry, that conversation was also the spur to get engaged. He proffered the ring as the two sat on a jetty near Megan’s family’s beach house in Avalon. They married two years later at a church in Perkasie.
Neither will forget the moment when each poised with a piece of cake in hand — marble for her, peanut butter for the groom’s cake — and a cousin near the back of the cluster of guests called out, “You’ll never get another shot!” They smooshed the cake into each other’s faces.
He was certain about wanting children. Megan was equally emphatic about remaining childless. “I thought about that for a while,” Garry says, “and made my decision: That’s OK. If she doesn’t change her mind, that’s fine.”
But over the next five years — as the two settled into careers and moved to Pennsylvania, as they traveled to England and Greece, as Garry was elected mayor of Lansdale — he would ask, “How do you feel about kids now?”
“It wasn’t pressure,” Megan says. “But it’s something he never really gave up on … at some point, I looked at him and said, ‘All right, let’s do it.’ ”
They told — or attempted to tell — Garry’s father with a set of personalized golf balls reading “Promoted to Grandpa,” but he brushed the gift aside without noting the inscription. “My younger brother was looking at me; he finally picks one up and says, ‘Dad, read your golf balls.’ It was so classically my family: slightly obtuse and ridiculous about the whole thing.”
Physically, the pregnancy was a breeze. But Megan’s anxiety drove her to message boards, pregnancy apps, and internet research. Garry remained calm until a few weeks before the delivery date.
“I was a mess, more nervous than I’ve ever been in my life. I was nervous about being a dad, about being responsible: How am I going to be? What am I going to say?” One night, as the two lay in bed, he blurted to Megan, “But how are we going to keep the kid off drugs?”
“I was busy pondering the enormity of it all,” he says, while Megan felt preoccupied with more immediate worries: How do you hold a baby? What does he wear? How will he sleep?
Three days after her due date, Megan went to Grand View Hospital for a non-stress test and an ultrasound. The result: no amniotic fluid left in the sac. “You’re going to have a baby today,” the doctor announced.
That launched a 33-hour odyssey that finally ended in a C-section. “I peered around the curtain as they pulled Lukas out like an alien in a movie,” Garry says.
Megan peeked. “He looks like a grumpy old man.”
In the early weeks, both felt wrecked from sleep-deprivation; they took turns sitting up for four-hour stretches with Lukas, who could only sleep if he was being held. One desperate night, Megan called her grandparents to come over and spell them.
“I ended up with postpartum anxiety and depression,” Megan says. “Probably three months into it, I looked at my stepmom and said, ‘I don’t know how anybody does this more than once.’ ”
But around eight months, Lukas began sleeping through the night and taking regular naps. “All of a sudden, I could think again,” Megan says.
About a year ago, they began to talk about having another. This time, Megan broke the news directly: a drugstore test left on the back of the toilet. It was another smooth pregnancy, and Lukas began referring to the baby as “my best friend.”
“He thought there was a 3-year-old in Megan’s belly and that Megan would give birth to a friend his own age,” Garry says.
This birth was much smoother — a planned C-section, with just two hours between their arrival at the hospital and the first glimpse of their son. Initially, they felt out of practice with newborn care — diapers? bottles? — but soon relaxed into the rhythm.
“With Lukas, I was so lost in my own cloud. I was miserable,” Megan says. “This time, I’m learning to enjoy him as an infant.”
For Garry, parenthood has been an exercise in patience — not only for his children, but for himself. In the early months of COVID-19, working from home with a toddler, “I felt like I was failing at being a dad and also failing at my job. [I’ve learned that] you can give yourself time to slow down and breathe.”