“Oh my gosh, this is a terrible idea.”
“Hold that, please,” Lyndsay Syfan says. She passes her 5-month-old son over to 11Alive reporter, Matt Pearl, as she runs the microphone cord up her shirt in preparation for the interview.
“I’m having a child in, like, five months, and I am terrified right now,” Matt quickly clarified, the look on his face not exactly reflecting the confidence in Lyndsay’s hand off.
There’s a reason Matt ended up in this situation.
Matt is the lead reporter of 11Alive’s new segment, UNTOLD ATLANTA. The goal is to tell the stories that matter to most to you, and the best way to do that is to ask.
The question was simple: What’s your untold story about parenthood?
So Matt and a photojournalist embarked on this live-action version of the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” From College Park to Covington to Krog Street, they asked the same question, but each story was surprising.
Take Grace Lunsford: “My untold story is I’m about to have a second child. I’m about halfway through now, and I have a 19-month old at home, and we live in 200 square feet.”
Grace and her husband, Corbett, found out they were pregnant with their second child after already committing to a national tiny house tour. Now, the soon-to-be family of four, and their two cats, live in 200 square feet.
But Grace says those close quarters have their advantages. She can lay in bed and watch her husband give their daughter a bath in the sink, the sounds of gurgling water and a giggling baby filling the small space. In the Lunsford house, sweet moments that may have otherwise been blocked by a wall or a door in a traditional house, are out in the open and in full view.
Also in full view are the inevitable conflicts that arise between a husband and wife. Grace admits it’s easy to lose your marriage in the birth of a new child. But this is where the tiny house makes a big impact yet again.
“Some people wonder how our marriage has handled this,” she says. “It’s gotten so much better because you can’t hide from each other, you have to talk things out.”
It makes sense. It’s hard to build an emotional wall, when physical ones don’t exist. It’s hard to shut someone out, when the only room with a door is the bathroom.
Grace says living, loving and parenting in a tiny house “raises the stakes on everything.”
“You have to love everything more and be patient with everything.”
Parenthood involves patience, but it also involves sacrifice.
Seven years ago, Marcus and Michelle Matthews were preparing for a long-anticipated trip to Milan, Italy when they were forced to put their plans on hold. Michelle, who was pregnant with the couple’s first child, started experiencing complications. The first-time parents weren’t taking any chances and decided to cancel their trip. It was disappointing, no doubt, but it was a sacrifice that Marcus and his wife were willing to make for their daughter’s future.
Now, Marcus and Michelle live in Smyrna with their 7-year-old daughter, appropriately named Milan. She’s smart and stubborn, a trait Marcus says Milan gets from him.
Marcus says having kids helps “you understand yourself a whole lot better because you see something about them in you,” adding with a laugh it’s “the best reality check you can ever have.”
Today, Marcus is in College Park where his daughter attends school at a nearby college prep academy. The acceptance to the school was an honor and a great opportunity; the school’s location, however, was less than desirable. The 20 mile commute from Smyrna to College Park in Atlanta’s morning rush hour traffic is rough, but when you tack on the additional drive time from College Park to Marcus’ office in Dunwoody, the journey is nearly impossible.
Once again, Marcus was faced with a choice, this time, to sacrifice time and convenience in order to ensure Milan has every opportunity available to shape her future. Once again, he put Milan first.
Marcus drives Milan from their home in Smyrna, to school in College Park. He drops his car off at the MARTA station and takes the train to the Sandy Springs stop, where he then takes a shuttle to his office in Dunwoody. It’s not easy, but Marcus embraces the transit triangle.
Many people talked about the change they see over time, both in themselves and in their children.
“I had two kids in my late twenties, and I had two kids in my early forties,” says Sheila West, who follows up with a piece of advice that can only come from a seasoned parent.
“If you have kids in your forties it’s a lot different than having kids in your twenties because when you squat down to pick them up, it’s a lot harder to get back up.”
For Sandi McDaniel, change is proving challenging. She’s a recent empty nester struggling with something she used to dream about as a young parent.
“The quiet is really hard to get used to,” Sandi admits. “You beg for quiet when you’re up at two o’clock in the morning with a screaming baby, wondering how many hours of sleep you’re going to get, but it’s quiet when it comes back.”
That distance brings a level of fear. Allowing your child to spread their wings, also means there is a possibility they will fall.
“You hurt a lot because you feel their pain twice as much,” Sandi says. “You can’t fix it for them; watching them stumble and find their way when you want to point out the way they should, but you can’t do that.”
It’s a feeling that never really goes away, regardless of a child’s age.
This brings us back to Lyndsay Syfan, and little Lincoln.
Lyndsay never thought she’d have a child. But once she met her husband and later saw the joy motherhood brought to her sister-in-law, Lyndsay wanted the chance to “bring something sweet in this world.”
Giggles and full-faced smiles show the joy between a mother and her son. Yet, on the inside, Lyndsay works to tamper down the fear that raising a child in this world evokes in all parents.
“It’s kind of like, you think it’s going to be so much fun and beautiful,” she says with Lincoln in her arms. “But then you realize, it’s like this soul that’s just like your heart walking outside of your body.”
Still, Lyndsay says becoming a parent “makes you feel whole” and is, without a doubt, the most meaningful experience she’s ever had.
These stories may not seem unique or particularly shocking, but they often remain untold. For parents, it’s assumed sacrifice and patience comes with the job description; fear of change and the unknown is to be expected; and the overwhelming joy of watching your child grow is something that naturally happens with the passage of time. But it doesn’t mean these stories shouldn’t be celebrated and shared.
On the contrary, the commonality in these shared experiences is exactly what makes them so important.