Four years ago, when I was 7 months pregnant with our daughter, my husband Seth and I got married. We decided to get married on Valentine’s Day because we thought it would be fun. We hadn’t really considered that we could never actually go out to dinner on our anniversary without making a reservation months in advance, or rubbing shoulders with every other couple in town. If nothing else, I figured it would give me something to look forward to in February, which is my least favorite month of the year.
Our official ceremony was at the Dekalb County Courthouse, not nearly as romantic as the old Dekalb County Courthouse or even the new Decatur City Hall. I have to say there is something just a wee bit unsettling about obtaining your marriage license in the same room where you can also obtain your gun license. Gives a whole new meaning to “shotgun wedding,” I guess!
The hallway outside the Magistrate’s office was a social study of prospective brides and grooms. Some were getting married before or after work shifts, still wearing their fast food uniforms. Some were dressed like they rolled out of bed and decided to get hitched. One groom was wearing a t-shirt with Looney-Tunes characters on them. A couple of wedding parties posed for pictures in the hallway, dressed in gowns and tuxes and surrounded by bridesmaids and attendants. There were families who brought their children along. Some of the children were babies or toddlers, and some were adult children watching their much-older parents get remarried. I seem to recall being the only pregnant bride there.
It was a challenging time during my pregnancy. I have an arrhythmia that was more pronounced because of the pregnancy. It would cause me to become light-headed and teeter on the verge of blacking out with very little warning. The cardiologists had me wear a Holter monitor for an entire month while they assessed my heart rhythm. Between that and the Braxton-Hicks contractions I was experiencing, I never knew if I would somehow end up flat on my butt out of nowhere. While we were waiting our turn outside the Magistrate’s office, several women commented on my pregnancy, one predicting I was going to “have that baby any minute.” Thankfully, she was wrong!
After several hours of waiting, we finally got in to see the judge. I had expected a very cold, perfunctory service but he was actually quite warm and jovial. I don’t know how the judge managed it, but the small anteroom he used as a chapel felt like a welcoming, spiritual place. We had a brief, but uplifting ceremony and before I knew it, I was married to some guy named William (my husband’s first name, which he never goes by.) It was a surprisingly lovely moment. And then we strode on out down the hall as husband and wife, past at least a dozen other couples still waiting their turn.
Several days later, we had a small marriage celebration, officiated by our friend Pastor Troy Bronsink. Seth and I chose and read selections from works that resonated with us, which included Gertrude Stein’s “A Valentine for Sherwood Anderson“, Song of Solomon 2:8-17, and Mechtild of Magdeburg’s “The Flowing Light of the Godhead.” I chose that day to wear a red dress, a nod to Chinese New Year and the color for marriages in the East. (Besides, there aren’t many maternity wedding dress options in white.) I remember being worried that I was going to cry through the marriage celebration (because I cry at anything) but I held it together pretty well.
There’s something I really cherish about us coming together as husband and wife while I was carrying our baby. It felt so much like her spirit was already with us during the ceremonies (my stepson joined us for the marriage celebration) which only seemed to make our emotional bond as a family that much stronger. I had made a small heart-shaped wedding cake for us to share after getting married at the courthouse. As we stood together in our kitchen cutting the cake together, I knew what it felt like to truly be in the presence of love.
I who am Divine am truly in you.
I can never be sundered from you:
However far we be parted, never can we be separated.
I am in you and you are in Me.
We could not be any closer.
We two are fused into one, poured into a single mould.
Thus, unwearied, we shall remain forever. (Mechtild of Magdeburg)
Happy Anniversary and Valentine’s Day, my love!