THE PARENTS: Lindsay Barrett-Adler, 34, and Paul Adler, 31, of Roxborough
THE KIDS: Magdalena (Maggie) Jane, 2; Miriam Helen, born August 26, 2018
FIRST OFFICIAL DATE: "Stereotypical," says Lindsay. "Dinner at P.F. Chang's, then a bad movie. Awful. Jennifer Garner was in it."
The question was never: Should we become parents? It was always: One kid or two?
For years, Lindsay was adamant one would be enough. Children are expensive, she pointed out, and time-consuming. Sure, people argued that kids thrive with siblings, but she figured their son or daughter could always make friends at the playground.
She even joked that their child would have a four-footed sibling — their dog, a shelter mutt named Caesar.
But Paul couldn't imagine life without his brother. "I thought: When [the kids] get older, they'd keep each other occupied." And Lindsay began to think about her own brothers, who live in Florida and North Carolina. "Every time we get together, it's like no time has passed," she says. "I can call them whenever and talk about whatever."
The parenthood question remained hypothetical. Though Lindsay and Paul were certain about their future as a couple — they met at Princeton Theological Seminary, and both wanted their faith to have a positive impact on the world — the timing and logistics weren't quite right.
Paul still had two more years at seminary when Lindsay graduated in 2010 and moved to Philadelphia to work with Broad Street Ministry. She lived at Fourth and Tasker, in what was essentially a large walk-in closet off a housemate's bedroom.
The couple became engaged that fall and married the following year; tables lined the length of the sanctuary at Broad Street Ministry, and a band played "Signed Sealed, Delivered" as the recessional.
Lindsay's niece was the flower girl, and Paul patiently, cheerfully twirled the child again and again during the reception. "He went out of his way to make sure she felt included and loved and part of the celebration. It was a little indicator of who Paul would be the rest of our marriage, and in fatherhood."
But circumstances and parenthood refused to align. After graduating from seminary, Paul accepted a job in North Jersey, so Lindsay commuted from there to her job in Philadelphia. Finally, Paul landed his current post — he's pastor of the Church of St. Alban in Roxborough — and they relocated.
They were pregnant after one month of trying.
"We ended up taking three home pregnancy tests; we didn't realize that false positives are not a thing," Lindsay says. "We called both our parents, and our best friends, then went out and celebrated the best you can as a sober pregnant woman."
For the first trimester, nausea sent her bolting to the bathroom every morning. And as her belly grew, Lindsay was startled to find herself the object of crude comments from strangers. "I am 6-foot-2, so me pregnant is a sight to behold. There were pointed catcalls about me being extremely pregnant, and tall, and curvy."
By the third trimester, the nausea was replaced by insomnia and a ferocious nesting instinct; Lindsay would toil away at 4 or 5 a.m., assembling hand-me-down nursery furniture, then become irrationally angry at Paul for not helping her. She remembers feeling eager to meet their daughter — they'd already learned the baby's sex and named her Magdalena — and simultaneously anxious about labor.
In one of their birth classes, the instructor had each woman palm a cube of ice to gauge her tolerance for pain. Lindsay couldn't grasp it for very long. "I thought, if I can't hold a piece of ice, how am I going to birth a pretty large baby?"
Maggie was late. She held out through a January snowstorm that left her parents marooned in the house, binge-watching The Bachelorette and playing endless games of Clue and Sorry. Finally, Lindsay felt contractions fierce enough to head for Lankenau Medical Center, where she walked the halls, learned she was already five centimeters dilated and finally, after an epidural and 30 minutes of pushing, met their daughter.
At home, Lindsay felt stunned by hormonal surges that left her weeping at television commercials and seesawing from euphoria to desolation in the span of minutes. She fretted over Maggie's nighttime sniffles; Paul reassured her those were normal baby noises.
Paul had arranged for another clergy person to fill in for him, but since Maggie was late, he had to deliver a sermon himself a day or two after they returned from the hospital. For the first time, he spoke without notes, describing their snowbound weeks as one long, extended Advent.
"I said the whole winter had been about the waiting and preparation, the expectation, the longing for the arrival of our little one."
Maggie was a little over a year old when Lindsay and Paul confided to each other that they'd been thinking about having a second child. This time, it took six months — but only one positive pregnancy test — before they surprised their families at Christmas with good news.
For a while, Maggie believed everyone, even their dog, must have a baby in their belly. She sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to her unborn sister, already known in the family as Baby Miriam.
The pregnancy was exponentially more exhausting than her first, Lindsay recalls. And the birth was different, too — calmer, with an ocean-sound machine and a lavender diffuser in the delivery room, then an 11-pound, 6-ounce infant who nursed right away.
Now they have kids, plural — one daughter who wants to rock the baby when she's sound asleep, or who wakes up hungry for attention during the predawn hours when her infant sister dozes best.
Lindsay and Paul rotate whose turn it is to get up with Maggie at 5:30 a.m. They imagine their girls old enough to travel, to help make dinner, to swap stories of their days. They feel their hearts go soft when the big sister kisses the little one's feet.
"Kids force you to downsize, to minimize and prioritize," Paul says. "Even the mundane drudgery of it: changing diapers, fighting with a toddler to put her to bed … You still give thanks for having these kids in your life."