THE PARENTS: Amy Ginsburg, 39, and Jake Ginsburg, 33, of Lower Gwynedd
THE KIDS: Asher Bernard, 6; Leah Marie, 4; Giselle Seylah Piper, born March 20, 2018
THEIR FIRST ENCOUNTER: Amy, interviewing Jake for a law clerk position at her firm, asked about his experience in the public defender's office, representing "criminals." He shot back, "Alleged criminals," then kicked himself. He got the job.
Asher was speechless — understandably, as he was only a few days old — so he popped the question with a note in his father's handwriting. "What's that paper doing on the baby?" Amy remembers thinking. "What if it gets in his mouth?"
Then she read the message: "Will you marry Daddy?"
She planned the wedding between predawn feedings. And at the May 2013 ceremony, 9-month-old Asher was the ring bearer, riding down the aisle in a Radio Flyer wagon festooned with flowers.
Before the reception, Amy whispered a request to the bartender: Could he make sure her drinks were nonalcoholic? She was pregnant again — they'd just found out — but wasn't quite ready to share the news.
"We had so much going on," Jake remembers. "My work, our son, our house, our dog. We were already stress-saturated. This [pregnancy] wasn't supposed to happen now, but … whatever."
"We're go-with-the-flow-type people," Amy says. "We roll with things. So we went with it."
That was true nearly from the beginning — 2010, when Amy, a litigation lawyer, hired Jake as her clerk. After he graduated and passed the bar, the firm offered him a permanent position. For a while, they managed to keep their romance under wraps, even when they disagreed about interpretations of the law or celebrated colleagues' birthdays with silly hats and mock trials that morphed into improv skits.
"A couple months into dating, we posted our first picture [as a couple] on Facebook. That's when we made it public," Amy says. "But people at work already knew."
They had only recently said "I love you" for the first time when Amy realized she was making increasingly frequent trips to the bathroom. It took three test sticks — two with plus signs and one that unequivocally said "pregnant" — to convince them.
"It was a little bit of a shock to find out we were expecting, but then we were both really excited," Amy says. Jake recalls a trip to Babies R Us, where a store clerk proffered long lists of must-have items that literally made him dizzy.
The pregnancy forced the couple to reckon with their disparate faiths: Amy was raised Lutheran in a family that helped build her childhood church; Jake, son of a rabbi and a Jewish educator, grew up observing Shabbat and keeping kosher.
Before the pregnancy, each had lobbied for his or her religious traditions to prevail. But once Asher was born, it was clear their family would span both faiths. "We just kind of said that we'd make it work," Jake says.
Their wedding, outside the Reading Museum planetarium, included a Jewish cantor and a Lutheran pastor, the seven Hebrew blessings, and a unity candle. And then they turned their attention to baby No. 2. Unlike her brother, who had to be coaxed from the womb a week after his due date, Leah arrived early, in the midst of a snowstorm.
The births were different in other ways. With Asher, the delivery room was packed with doctors and nurses who swarmed in every time his heart rate dropped. Leah's birth — just one or two pushes — was quiet and quick.
Life at home, though, was anything but tranquil, with a 17-month-old who invariably needed a snack or a drink or a cuddle at the precise moment his infant sister was screaming with colic.
For a while, Jake says, he couldn't imagine having a third. But then both kids became potty-trained. They became best friends. The couple bought a 150-year-old house in Lower Gwynedd with a giant yard and woodsy trails. "We were in a better school district, we were more comfortable, the kids were growing up. I felt like, 'Yeah, we could swing a third, now.' "
Amy had never abandoned her hope for three; she was so ecstatic to see the positive pregnancy test she immediately texted a photo to Jake while he was at work. At their low-key gender reveal party — guests bit into pink cupcakes from Alice Bakery — Asher wept when he realized he wouldn't have a brother.
But the kids loved the idea of choosing middle names for their sister. Princess Poppy and Moana were on their shortlist, and the two ultimately could not agree, so Giselle ended up with Seylah (Asher's choice) and Piper (Leah's pick). The hardest thing about the pregnancy for Amy was managing the needs of two older kids while struggling with sciatica and full-time work.
At Abington Hospital, she asked everyone in her path — the security guard, the nurse's aide pushing her wheelchair — when and where she could get her epidural. Giselle, like her sister, emerged after two pushes. "She was perfect. Absolutely beautiful," Amy remembers. She was also the calmest of the three; Amy recalls feeling bored in the hospital because the infant slept so much.
By five months, Giselle was already a seasoned traveler, with trips to Virginia, the Poconos, and Florida. Those vacations yielded golden moments — Giselle responding gleefully to new sights and sounds, or paddling in a floatie while her brother and sister swam — and nightmarish incidents, such as the time at the airport check-in counter when an officious clerk told Amy she had to check her diaper bag. Giselle's diaper needed changing already, the older kids were chasing each other around the ticket line, and the worker chided, "What are you doing, traveling with three kids by yourself?"
Amy and Jake want their kids to explore the world. They've already taken the older ones to El Salvador, Ireland, Canada, and seven national parks. But now, they cherish what's close at hand: mornings, before sunup, when Amy is nursing Giselle in bed, with Jake beside her, Asher and Leah draped over her legs, and the dog, Tex, curled on her ankles. Maybe Amy's arm goes numb; maybe the tangle of limbs nudges her half off the bed. It doesn't matter, she says; those moments are full, and fleeting, and sweet.