A Letter To My Firstborn, Sixteen Years Later

Before you were born I heard a similar story from many mothers who had gone before me. The story went something like this: The instant you hear that baby cry, you will feel it–a kind of love you’ve never experienced before.

Thinking about it now, I see the pressure in such statements. The assertion that, in an instant, every woman will and must feel this intense thing. That it must look like that and feel like this at that exact moment. Or. . . or what? You’re not a Mom? You’ve done something wrong?

The truth is, the evening of your arrival was intense. We had been in the hospital for more than a day. Waiting, pacing, eating JELLO, tossing and turning in discomfort. Wondering, will the baby ever arrive? Is something wrong? There was pain and heart rate drops and questions about your safety and mine. The room filled with people and finally, just before midnight on October 28th, 16 years ago, you arrived.

In an instant, they swept you away. You were tiny, they said. We just need to be sure he’s okay, they told me. Your dad went with you, my Dad stayed with me. I was exhausted, tired, tearful, and scared. Where was that intense love? Where were all of those feelings? What’s wrong with me? Where is the love? The heart burst?

I slept fitfully that night, exhausted from the long day, the hard labor, the intense emotions. When morning came, the sun was shining. I could see bits of frost that looked like beautiful crystals outside the window. It seemed the entire world was illuminated with a beautiful glow. That morning, I found myself alone with you in the hospital room. I’m not sure where your dad went, but I suspect it has something to do with Taco Bell. I sat in a rocking chair in that quiet hospital room and held your five pound frame close to my chest. I rocked back and forth and took in the sweet scent of you and that’s when I felt it. The love I’d heard so much about. The intense, never-before-felt kind of love. That’s when it arrived. Not the moment of your birth in the darkness, chaos, and exhaustion. Instead it was in the bright light of day, in a quiet moment between the two of us.

That love, Charlie? Well, it’s only grown.

Sixteen years ago today, Charlie, you came into the world and changed our world. You brought with you laughter and fun and joy and noise. Oh, so much noise.

Sixteen years ago, I never could have imagined having a sixteen year old. But here we are. You are sixteen and I am thrilled about it.

Charlie, I am so proud of you. And as I sit here now, I wonder if I don’t say it enough? Or, maybe you don’t hear it when I do say it?

Over the last year, we’ve been amazed at the person you’re becoming.

A year ago, you were told your soccer days were over. They told you that your head would never heal from your injuries after the accident. Did you walk away? No. Instead, you stayed. You stayed with your teammates whom you’ve played alongside since you were five. You cheered them on, you helped the team, you showed up to every game and every practice and not one time did we hear you complain.

Charlie, you’ve learned to stay, even when it’s hard, and so many people never learn that in their lifetimes. Hold on to that.

You spent your summer getting up early in the morning and working long days in the hot sun. Did you complain about it? Nope. Not once. You worked hard. You didn’t mail it in. You gave 100%. You didn’t quit.

Charlie, you’ve learned the value of hard work. To take pride in your work. To stay until the job is done. To do it right. Even if no one is watching. (Especially if no one is watching.) These are lessons that will put you far ahead in life. Hold on to that.

Charlie, on the day you were born I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with a boy. How do I raise a boy? How do I navigate the world with a boy? I was unsure and uncertain and a bit nervous. But here we are, doing this dance of mother and son and somehow, it’s working out okay. We both know I mess up plenty, but you make it all so easy, so fun.

I could go on and on about you, but I know you well enough to know that if you read this at all, you won’t make it much beyond the first paragraph. So, I will end this with just a few more words.

Just the other day I said to you, you get better with age. I meant that. When I felt that first, intense, wave of incredible love for you 16 years ago, I couldn’t imagine loving you more. But I do. As I’ve witnessed your confidence, enjoyed your humor, and been captured by your charm, my love for you has only grown.

If I didn’t know you, Charlie, I’d want to know you.

Charlie, I am excited to watch as you spread your wings. I am excited to be on the sidelines, in the balcony, and behind you as you continue to navigate the world.

Charlie, I am so glad you were born. The world, and my world, are better because of you.

Happy Birthday, Charlie.



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