When Brent and I married in 1998, we had decided ahead of time to take our first year off from outside commitments or even work. The plan was to just enjoy one another and spend as much time as possible getting to know each other. The idea grew out of a verse from the Bible:
When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken. (Deuteronomy 24:5)
PITFALL: Then, like now, his heart was often bigger than his wallet, so he did end up doing some odd jobs to keep us sustained. The romantic idea had some definite pitfalls, but it laid the groundwork for choosing joy early on in our marriage. At the time, we did not realize that spending that much time together in our first year was forging a bond that would teach us how to live together 24-7. We were making an “as long as we both shall live” kind of bond.
Following graduation from Columbia International University, we had picture-perfect November wedding in Virginia and an adventurous honeymoon in snowy Vermont. We moved into our first little house. Brent carried me over the threshold. That house lasted exactly one week, no joke. That’s another story.
Ultimately, we decided upon tent camping, rising with the sun, sleeping as it set. As you might expect from our sunset hours, we were soon expecting our firstborn. For this newly expectant momma, tent camping quickly lost its appeal. We packed up Brent’s guitar and rolled up our tents. We were vegetarians, taking a natural, herbal-minded approach to life and to my pregnancy.
During a routine prenatal check-up, blood work indicated a positive for Lyme disease. I had probably contracted it during our Vermont Honeymoon. My ob-gyn suggested we abort the baby in my womb and start again after I treated my body for Lyme. In her opinion, continuing the pregnancy put me at risk of bringing a baby with special needs into the world. We promptly removed my records and care from her office.
It was at this point that we met the owners of a midwifery clinic. We can best describe them as “Christian hippies”. They were serving the Old Order Amish and Mennonite communities of Lancaster County. As you might imagine, the fit was perfect. I learned a lot about midwifery and simple living from the daily interaction from the Amish and life inside a midwifery clinic. We spent the balance of my pregnancy rooming above the clinic.
Brent covered our small lodging costs and simple eating by doing construction for the owners of the midwifery clinic. Brent had just completed a decade in college and grad school. Let`s say he had a significant learning curve; but he tackled it with gusto. He even cut our large yard with an old-fashioned, human-powered reel mower.
I spent my days making homemade bread, fresh granola and herbal tinctures.
At the clinic, I helped out with expectant ladies where I could. My interest in women’s care grew. Brent and I spent our evenings taking long walks by lantern light, getting to know our Amish neighbors. We enjoyed buying “self-service” raw milk, pastured eggs and organically grown vegetables. We even took an occasional horse and buggy ride.
One of the greatest life lessons we learned in those days was seeing the beauty of a whole family working together. Not only did Amish mothers stay at home, but farmer fathers were greatly involved in child-rearing as well. It was a common sight to see five or six children (including a couple of toddlers) out in the fields with father. We were invited to many meals where the entire family ate together three times a day. The beauty of an agrarian family, in contrast to the surrounding industrialized world, permanently left its mark on this young couple. Before our first son was born, we resolved to make family a priority over any other venture in life.