THE PARENTS: Sarah Drake, 33, and Ben Drake, 32, of Glenside
THE KIDS: Lucy Aberdeen, 3; Martha Clementine, born July 28, 2020
A SIGNIFICANT DECISION: To both attend Gordon College, a Christian school in Wenham, Mass. “I don’t think we realized at the time how important that decision was for our relationship,” Sarah says. “We have so many shared memories.”
It was a gloomy night on Route 128 in Massachusetts — one of their many trips back and forth to Doylestown during those first two years of marriage, and they were trying to figure out how people harmonize.
Both Sarah and Ben come from musical families; Sarah’s mother is a piano teacher and accompanist, and Ben’s father collects guitars. That night in the car, they riffed, doing Josh Groban impersonations, singing melody and counterpoint to “O Holy Night.”
And when they moved back to Doylestown, their home turf, they began writing songs: goofy ones at first, then more serious tunes. Ben’s brother played drums, his dad played lead guitar, and a cousin played bass. They called the band Instant Bingo, and they titled their second album — recorded when Sarah was pregnant with their first child — Before You Were Born.
By then, they’d known each other for 13 years, ever since the day at Central Bucks West High School when Ben’s friends pointed out that yearbook editors had misspelled his name as “Brie.”
“I grabbed the yearbook out of the hands of the person closest to me, and it was Sarah. I saw my name, screamed ‘No!’ and handed the book back to her.”
They mark the start of their “official dating” as St. Patrick’s Day 2005, when Ben blurted “I love you” in the hallway after school.
“I had been thinking the same thing,” Sarah says. “I’d been telling my friends, ‘If I date Ben Drake, he’s going to be the one. I’m never going to break up with him.’ ”
They burned CD mixes for each other, exchanged notes with hand-drawn animal cartoons. They made each other laugh. The summer before their senior year of college, Ben proposed on the Morning Bird Walk trail of Peace Valley Park; just afterward, several deer — Sarah’s favorite animal — leaped across the path.
Ben was eager to start a family right away — ”It would be fun!” he urged — but both say they’re glad they actually waited seven years: time to indulge in low-budget travel, sleeping on the floor of a pal’s New York apartment, working in a bakery (Sarah) and with an improvisational theater therapy program for kids with autism (Ben), talking about art and music and film and faith.
They got serious about music and kids simultaneously. They’d moved closer to family, joined a church, and secured “real jobs” — Ben as a teacher, Sarah at a tech company based in Chalfont. “We enjoyed spending time with each other so much, we just wanted to have more people in on the fun,” Sarah says.
They were pregnant on the first try, just before flying to Wisconsin for a college friend’s wedding. Sarah ordered cranberry juice with seltzer and pretended it was vodka; they pored over The Bump app and started brainstorming baby names.
The pregnancy was uneventful until the middle of her second trimester, when Sarah developed gestational diabetes. “All I wanted was pancakes with syrup,” but carbs and sugar were on the no list. When tempted to cheat on her diet, she thought about the baby’s health. “It was my first parental sacrifice — a preview of what parenthood is like,” she says.
Lucy was 10 days late, a labor that began slowly, then ramped up when Sarah’s water “exploded everywhere — I swear I heard it. I was drenched.” At Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, an epidural and a yoga ball helped her relax; she pushed for two hours, and Lucy emerged.
No one had told Ben about the cone-head phenomenon. He looked at his daughter’s misshapen scalp, at the nurse who slipped a hat on the baby without saying a word. “I thought, ‘Am I the only one who is seeing this?’ ”
When someone asked, “Do you want to hold the baby?” he thought, “Am I allowed to? They put her in my arms and I felt this crazy, out-of-body, out-of-this-world love.”
Sarah, meantime, was fascinated by the afterbirth — ”I thought it was so insane, that your body builds an organ and then knows to let it go” — and struck by how birth walks the razor’s edge between life and death.
They’d imagined it would be fun, with an infant, to stay up late. “We really didn’t understand sleep deprivation,” Sarah says, or the necessity of having help from family members. “If we hadn’t been good friends for years and years, it would have been a million times harder,” Ben says.
At first, Sarah shunned the idea of doing all of it again. But by the time Lucy was 1, they knew they wanted a sibling for her. The second pregnancy was easy — no gestational diabetes this time — until her 20-week ultrasound, which coincided with the start of the pandemic.
Both began working remotely, and they were cautious about COVID-19, ordering groceries and avoiding going out so that both could remain healthy for the birth. Because of high blood pressure, Sarah was scheduled for an induction, but her labor began naturally on that day.
As with Lucy, her water broke dramatically, but her labor was much quicker — three big pushes, and Martha slipped into Ben’s waiting hands. “I got my natural birth experience,” Sarah says, and the postpartum days were smoother, quieter, absent of visitors because of COVID-19.
After Lucy was born, they’d kept playing music: gigs in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, backyard shows where Sarah would wear the baby in a carrier while she sang or friends would watch her.
Now, with one toddler and one teething baby, and with live shows on hiatus, they’ve focused on writing and recording. Perhaps someday, their girls will join the band.
Meantime, they hold onto a moment of harmony: Lucy, finally brave enough to hold her two-month-old sister during an October trip to Ocean City. “They were looking at each other, laughing,” Sarah recalls. “I thought: OK, this is the beginning.”