I Had An Easy Baby.

I had an easy baby. There. I said it.

It’s the kind of thing you don’t like to admit in a mixed group for fear of offending someone. It sounds like gloating–like someone talking about how they can eat anything they want and not gain weight. But it’s true.

Jonah has been easy from the very beginning. I only threw up once during my pregnancy. Once I got past the first trimester I felt pretty energetic. My blood pressure unexpectedly went up at around 36 weeks, but even with preeclampsia I pretty much felt fine. Even though my labor had to be induced, it only lasted about 10 hours, and I had an amazingly positive experience. I only had to push for 45 minutes.

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Jonah latched easily and nursed well from the beginning. None of us got much sleep for the first month or so, but after he started sleeping through the night at about six weeks I began to think maybe I could handle this parenting thing after all.

Jonah has turned into a real extrovert who is generally entertained whenever he’s around lots of people. He is happy at daycare during the day, happy with grandma on his days with her, and happy with us at home at night (unless he hasn’t napped–then not so much). In general, he has always been an unusually pleasant baby who seemed to not cry much and to be soothed easily when he did get upset.

As he’s become a toddler, these characteristics continue–so far. For the most part, he eats what we put in front of him. He goes to bed with a minimum amount of struggle. Even though we are starting to get into the tantrum stage, he is still remarkably sanguine most of the time. Being around Jonah is fun. (Notwithstanding the things that are just hard about toddler life.)

Though I think we were just lucky that Jonah was born a good-humored little guy, Jonathan and I have been very intentional about doing certain things in our parenting to help keep it this way. We plan our days around his sleep schedule. We don’t expect him to sit still and quiet for long periods of time in public–it’s not gonna happen anyway, and it would only end in tears for everyone involved. Jonah and I spend a lot of time outside. But I would not say that we have done anything extraordinary, or that we have some secret to share for raising a happy child that other parents don’t know.

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It sounds awful to say that having an easy baby isn’t what I expected, but it’s true. I expected parenting to be harder than it’s been so far. You don’t hear a lot about easy babies–instead, you hear the horror stories, about babies with colic who cry for hours, about babies who refuse to sleep through the night well past 12 months old, etc. I’m not sure if this is because parents with difficult babies talk about it more as a way to commiserate, but I know that, so far, parenting has been easier than I was led to believe it would be.

While it’s good to be prepared for the difficulties that may lie ahead, I think all of the negative stories do a disservice to expectant parents. Expecting to not sleep and to not be able to go anywhere for months on end is not the best way to approach a major life change. If I could give any advice to moms-to-be, it would be this: There will certainly be hard moments, but consider the possibility that life with a baby may not be as hard as you fear.

When people meet Jonah they typically have one of two responses:

  1. It’ll change when he turns 2.
  2.  Just wait till the next one!

In a way I know we are due, if things work like that. We’ll see on both counts!

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Honeysuckle

Last week I discovered honeysuckle growing deep in our backyard. If you’re wondering how I could possibly be unaware of something growing in my own backyard, then you a) haven’t seen our yard, and b) probably have a very different attitude toward yard maintenance than Jonathan and I do. In our defense, our backyard is large, partially wooded and rather unkempt. I actually love it when I’m not stressing about what the neighbors think. It’s very private and quiet, and it feels like we are hiking in the woods rather than in the center of the city.

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Jonah and I have been spending lots of time outside as the weather has gotten warmer, which led me to the honeysuckle discovery last week. I brought it up to Jonah’s nose to let him smell it, and showed him how to pull out the middle stem to eat the honey from inside. He was a fan and kept handing me blooms like the sweet boy he is.

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When I was 16, I wrote my first ever piece of writing that was just for fun and not for any kind of school assignment. The essay was called “Honeysuckle,”and I posted it on the still-existing fanfiction.net (ha). I wish that I could find a copy. I remember that this piece was about May, about driving around my hometown in a big white truck with a boy I liked, about not knowing what would happen next but being young and full of possibilities and living in the present.

Most people have probably heard about how of all senses, smells have the most profound connection to memories and emotions. I have a deep, visceral reaction every time I smell honeysuckle. It takes me back, to school letting out and the feeling of a full summer ahead of me with few responsibilities, to watching my brother’s baseball games on summer evenings, to being allowed to go out at night with friends for the first time, to summertime community theatre musicals, to kissing in cars in out-of-the-way spots with high school boyfriends, to returning home to Jackson after my car accident, to high school graduation and the beginning of college. To my wedding.

Honeysuckle means home. It’s where I’ve been, and it’s where I’m going. Smelling it takes me back to the best moments of my childhood and young adulthood. Life is beautiful like that.

 

What smells are nostalgic for you?

The One Where I Write About the Accident

I was in a serious car accident 11 days after my 18th birthday in 2006. I suffered a brain injury, and had to spend six weeks in rehabilitation. I’m fine now.

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public domain image via pixabay.com–Not my accident.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about this for a while now, so I figured I would start with the facts.

On the one hand, my accident has absolutely nothing to do with my life now. It almost feels like it happened to another person. On the other hand, it has everything to do with my life now.

Because of my accident, a few things happened:

1) I got a brief taste of what it was like to live as somebody else.

2) It helped me be myself more fully, or it turned me into myself.

3) I decided that there was no way I could continue to live in the town where I had grown up. I had to get out, as soon as I could.

After my accident, I was unconscious and/or unresponsive in the hospital for 10 days. The doctors told my family that in addition to a broken collarbone, tailbone and pelvis, I had a moderate brain injury but that they couldn’t be sure of the damage until I woke up. When I did, the injury was downgraded to mild, but I still had to spend the next month in rehab (not the drug kind) to relearn some physical and mental skills.

In rehab in Atlanta, I met people with the saddest stories you could imagine. There was my roommate in the inpatient facility who had been a beautiful, popular college freshman until she was thrown from a car that her friend was driving. She had lost the ability to walk, eat on her own, or communicate except by grunts. There was another girl close to my age who had escaped Hurricane Katrina only to have a serious brain injury a few months later. There was a man who had been shot in the head and whose injury left him with aphasia, making him unable to speak.

This was my first encounter with people who were truly, truly different from me. Their injuries were much more serious than mine, and most of them had a long road ahead of them to–at best–a partial recovery. We didn’t really belong in the same facility–as in, I didn’t belong. It was here that I understood the true meaning of empathy for the first time: not really while it was happening, as I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to articulate this to myself at the time, but afterwards.

The accident also affected my personality in subtle ways. When I came back home after the accident, I acted older. More serious. Probably less fun. More patient, but less willing to waste time doing things that I didn’t enjoy. Less tolerant of large, loud crowds of people. Are these characteristics, most of which I have today, a result of the effects of the accident on my brain, a result of experiencing a trauma, a natural consequence of growing up, or a little of all three? I’m not sure, but I know that when I came back from the accident I was different. My best friends stayed in my life, but because I was not the same as before, I lost touch with the girls I had been friends with from school, because they were the same. And that’s okay.

Finally, my accident made me 100 percent certain that as soon as I could get out of my hometown, I was gone.

Jackson, Tennessee, though not really that small compared to many other small towns, is the kind of place where everyone pretty much knows everyone else. My father was a professor at a local college, a columnist in the local newspaper, and had been one of the pastors at our former church for a long time. My siblings and I had gone to multiple schools and participated in different community activities. So our family knew a lot of people in town.

After my accident, news spread quickly in the way that it only does in a small town. My dad wrote about it in one of his columns in the paper. All of our family friends showed up at the hospital, prayed, sent flowers and gifts, gave money, and were generally amazing. I’m thankful for the outpouring of support to this day.

But the result of so many people knowing about the accident is that my life came to be defined by it. Not by people who knew me personally, but by friends-of-friends and old classmates and acquaintances and random people in the grocery store. Because of my accident, I didn’t go away to college like I had planned. Instead I went to the local college, and this of course meant that it was even harder to get away from what had happened.

The first couple of years after my accident, people I didn’t know would routinely try to talk to me about it. Two memorable examples: While waiting for my food in my college dining hall, an elementary school acquaintance asked me if I had any “effects” (as in mentally) from the accident. A few months later, a woman I had never met before messaged me on Facebook and asked me to reach out to a family at her church whose daughter had just been in a car accident.

What I know is that people’s response to my accident show some of the best things about living in a town where everyone knows everyone else. In a small town, you are known. You are cared for. But what I also know is that because of the accident, I needed to live someplace where I could choose to be anonymous. Let’s be real–I was always moving away from Jackson. I had always wanted to live somewhere bigger and with more things to do. But the accident gave me a very important reason to want to get out.

I was back in Jackson last year for two weddings. One stranger at each of these weddings brought up the accident to me. “Weren’t you the girl..?” Remember that this is ten years after it happened. Yes, I said, and smiled.

So this is the story. I don’t talk about it much. I doubt most people who know me now have ever heard me mention it, and you probably won’t. It’s not that important, but in a way, it is.

I have a scar from the accident on my left temple, where broken glass had to be removed. Though I always cover the scar up with makeup, in a weird way I’m proud of it, too. It shows where I’ve been. I earned it.

What My Parents’ Marriage Taught Me About Fighting With My Husband

Spoiler alert: Not much.

My parents have an idyllic marriage. Really. This August they will have been married for 32 years and they still make eyes at each other, kiss in public and hold hands under the table.

I can count on MAYBE five fingers the number of times I was aware of them arguing during the 18 years that I lived at home. When you think about it, that’s quite something.

I think this can be attributed to two things: 1) My parents are both pretty agreeable people who just don’t argue much, and 2) They were very intentional about having disagreements behind closed doors/after us kids were asleep.

On the one hand, this made for a very peaceful, loving environment to grow up in, and it gave me a nice picture of what a beautiful marriage looked like. I really respect my parents for the way they approached this issue. On the other hand, however, it did not provide me with many realistic expectations for how to deal with conflict in marriage.

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public domain image via pixabay.com

Because I almost never saw them, I wasn’t aware that it was common for married people to have disagreements, and to work through them. As a child, the few times that I did notice my parents arguing were pretty upsetting, because it was just such an uncommon occurrence. I immediately assumed that arguments meant serious problem/separation/divorce. And it took me a while as a newlywed to realize that there wasn’t something wrong with my marriage just because we seemed to fight more than my parents did. I expected perfection because that is what I was used to.

My marriage is different than my parents’. Jonathan and I are two passionate, headstrong, opinionated, sometimes contrary first-borns, and we both have a tendency to want our own way. These characteristics make great things happen when we are united toward a common goal, but they can be a real pain when we have a disagreement. Things can get heated quickly.

But you know what? Disagreements happen in marriage. They just do. We disagree, get angry at each other, take some space, work it out, apologize and move on. While it is very important to me that Jonah not be forced to hear things that are inappropriate related to his parents arguing, I do want my son to be aware that married people disagree sometimes, but they always work it out, and they love each other through it all.

We’re still working on this, but I think disagreeing respectfully in the earshot of children is a very important skill to have. This means things like keeping our voices even and our language neutral, and when we can’t do that, we table the conversation until a later time. Often, the act of having to wait to hash out an issue makes it resolve itself anyway.

In the early days of my marriage, I wish I would have known that married people can disagree sometimes but still love each other and be happy, and that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be really darn good.

 

What is your approach to arguing in front of your kids? How is it similar or different to your parents’ approach?