They were married by a rabbi, under a chuppah, in a Unitarian Church. Rich stepped on a glass. Their mothers lit a unity candle.

And while the ceremony might have appeared to be a seamless melding of his Jewish heritage and her Christian upbringing, it didn't reflect the long, sometimes anguished, conversations that began even before they were engaged.

They'd met on Match.com, drawn into an e-mail volley by a shared sense of humor (both were fans of the TV series MacGyver) and nerd credentials (both had read the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics).

At their first actual date, at a Doylestown tapas restaurant, Rich was impressed that Lauren actually looked like her profile pictures. She noticed his lush eyelashes and his emotional honesty. At the end of the evening, he said, "What are you doing tomorrow?"

Another early date took them to Costco - Rich had a membership, and Lauren was along for the ride - where dietary quirks were on full display. Rich didn't hesitate to pile his cart with Cinnamon Toast Crunch; Lauren liked his lack of inhibition.

But religion was the elephant in the room. "I had never dated a Jewish person," Lauren says. At that first meeting, she wanted to know whether he was observant, but wasn't even sure how to word the question without offending.

And both quickly learned that their impressions of the other's faith had been formed largely by Hollywood. Rich didn't keep kosher. Lauren, raised Methodist, didn't observe Lent. She'd always envisioned getting married in a traditional church; he couldn't picture a ceremony not officiated by a rabbi. And what about the kids both were certain they wanted?

"We were not beating around the bush. We didn't want to kill romance, but we wanted to have some of these conversations hashed out prior to getting engaged," Lauren says.

Rich lobbied for their future daughter or son to be raised Jewish. "I can't teach them all the things they should learn; for that, they need to go to Sunday School and Hebrew School," he says. But Lauren struggled with the idea of eclipsing her faith and family traditions.

Then a foreign-born colleague told her that he and his wife had decided to speak a Cantonese dialect at home; otherwise, he said, his daughter would never know her ancestral language. That conversation happened just as Lauren was rushing to leave work early for Yom Kippur services with Rich.

"I realized that I'd never had to take off work on Easter or Christmas. If you're in the majority population, you don't understand that. I thought: Maybe if Judaism isn't formally given to her, it will be lost."

Before they knew whether their baby would be a girl or a boy, before the faintest line appeared on the pregnancy test stick, before Lauren felt nauseated after eating some dreidel-shaped holiday cookies and wondered whether she'd under-baked them, even before Rich dropped to his knee in a casual Chinese restaurant, they were clear on one crucial decision: Their child would be raised Jewish, and the family would also celebrate Christian holidays.

They were pregnant before they expected to be, defying the statistics that Lauren had carefully researched. And through an "uneventful" nine months, the tango of traditions continued.

Many Jews don't have baby showers or even purchase nursery items before the birth, but Lauren wanted a shower as a time to rally support and celebration. They had the shower, and Rich's family came.

The couple also wrestled with naming; it's Jewish custom to name (sometimes sharing only the first initial) after a deceased relative, and that practice seemed limiting to Lauren: " 'You mean we don't have the full alphabet?' Then as I thought about it, I realized it was a wonderful concept, honoring somebody who's passed and who was important to you."

They drew from both sides of the family tree, naming their daughter for Rich's grandmother, Betty; Lauren's grandmother, Mary; and Rich's grandfather, Melvin.

Brielle arrived a week late. Lauren labored at home as long as possible - she was gripping the countertops while contracting every four minutes - before heading to Grand View Hospital in Sellersville. But her labor was sluggish, and after a dozen more exhausted, arduous hours, her doctors "pulled the Caesarian card."

Rich recalls counting the baby's fingers and toes. Lauren remembers an ear-shredding scream (Brielle's, not hers) and tears falling onto the sterile drape when Rich showed her the baby.

"I remember saying, 'Hi, Brielle,' and she immediately stopped screaming. I'd learned in birth classes that they recognize your voice, but I didn't really believe it."

Lauren describes those first weeks as a "zombie apocalypse." Then, at seven weeks, Brielle's sleeping habits shifted abruptly. She rarely naps, and she's not tired until midnight, but she snoozes for nine or ten hours at a stretch.

They planned a baby-naming for December, a ritual that included an explanation of Brielle's name and a ritual of washing the baby with water - a nod, for Jews, to the ancient custom of washing a traveler's feet as a gesture of welcome and hospitality.

For the Christian side of the family, the dousing with water also struck a familiar chord. "It brought the religions together because it showed similarity," Rich says.

Five months into their parenthood journey, they're learning to expect the unpredictable: when Brielle erupts in giggles during a somber museum presentation, or when a meltdown prompts a hasty exit from a restaurant. There's a stepped-up sense of vulnerability - "you're trusting the world with your child," Lauren says - but also a deeper feeling of connectedness.

The people she once saw only as parents are now doting grandparents; the man who wooed her as boyfriend and fiance is now a father. Dear friends have become honorary aunts.

And at the center of the map is a baby with a hybrid heritage and an infectious, toothless grin - the place where their paths have crossed.

The Parent Trip

If you've become a parent - for the first, second or fifth time - within the last six months, e-mail us why we should feature your story: parents@phillynews.com.

Giving birth, adopting, or becoming a stepparent or guardian all count.

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