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November 13, 2008

To my oldest son on his fourteenth birthday,

The other day we were in the car driving to buy you some new clothes. Something you have recently started caring about. Before this I could have tossed you a bag of mismatched ill-fitting clothing and you wouldn’t have cared. Now you have opinions about these sort of things. Which is refreshing to be honest.

Your little sister and brother had come along with us and they both fell sound asleep in their car seats. You looked back at them and laughed. They were cute, their heads both leaning to the side as if their necks were made of jello.

“I can’t believe Miles is going to turn four soon, Mom. I mean, I remember when he was born!” you said.

“And I remember just as clearly when you were born.” I answered.


Fourteen years ago I had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t have much of an idea of what it meant to be a mother, other than having a tiny baby. A tiny baby I thought would be like the babies on tv, chubby and smiling, like an adorable accessory.

I had no idea how much I would change. How much you would change me.

Two weeks before my due date I went into labor with you. I remember pacing the floor of our apartment after my water broke. The contractions coming one on top of the other.

I remember laboring with you in the hospital. I didn’t know that someone could feel so much pain and survive. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. At one point I remember telling the nurse that I changed my mind. I didn’t want to have a baby after all and I would just be leaving thank-you-very-much.

Of course that wasn’t possible.

The labor itself was short maybe four hours until I reached 10 cm and began to push. And push and push. You were stuck. And so I pushed and pushed. Finally after three hours of you stuck between my tail bone and pelvic bones, your heart rate decelerating, the doctor got out the vacuum and pulled you out. It is not a gentle thing being sucked out of someones body. The doctor pulled with all his might, I half suspect he had a foot up on the end of the bed for leverage. It was awful. Broken bones and stitches. God Lord the stitches. I have blocked most of that out.

Then I hemorrhaged. Blood was everywhere in the room. I don’t remember most of this because I was losing consciousness. I do remember a controlled sort of panic in the room and getting shots in my legs to stop the bleeding. It would be some hours later before I would be aware enough to view the scene and think it looked like a horror movie butcher shop.

It would be a few hours after that a nurse would catch me crying in bed holding you. It took a few minutes for me to gulp out that I was sad you would be an only child. There was no way I was going to go through THAT again.

And yet…

Again I laugh. All the plans I thought I had, the absolutes I held onto. You have paved the path for your siblings behind you. You are my practice child… the one who gets me at my most uptight, my most fearful, my most uncertain. You are the one who gets all the rules, until I realize around kid number three that the rules are not that big of a deal. And by kid number five, well, it is a free for all.

Not really, it just seems that way because I have a clearer picture of what is important. I have honed whatever new mothering skill it is which that particular age requires. And most often I have found that the new mothering skill is just remember not to get hung up on the small stuff.

You have a very different mother than your youngest siblings do. And really, that is not always a bad thing. I remember what it is like to be fourteen. Very clearly remember in fact. So clearly that I wonder how the heck I became old enough to have a child of my own be that age.

I look at you and can sometimes still see the baby in your face, the toddler when you smile in that mischievous way. But the chubby cheeks are gone. The dimpled knuckles and wrist creases have been replaced by arms that have muscles and veins; arms that more resemble those of a man than the little boy I still think of you as being. I wonder where the time has gone. Because you aren’t a little boy anymore.

How is it possible that you are that same baby who was torn from my body that cold rainy November day? I wish I could remember those days and years with better clarity. So much of it has been lost from my memory.

I wonder how much of right now will eventually be lost. Will I only vaguely remember the year your football team went to the National Championship, like a tiny footnote? Will I only remember the white (WHITE!!) Underarmour sweatshirt that you want to wear every single day when I see it in photos? Even though it is white (WHITE!!) and teen boys and white are not a pair made in heaven and I end up washing it almost daily. One day will I be an old lady in the grocery store and get a whiff of Axe body spray and wonder how I ever could have forgotten that scent? Will I forget what it is like to cook in bulk, or will I still cook in bulk and wonder why I have so many leftovers?

And more importantly, will I ever forget what it is like to see your face every morning? Or will I remember with a touch of sadness.


Happy Birthday my son. I love you.

(I was waiting to post this so that I could add photos, but my scanner is not working. Or more accurately I can not work my scanner. I am sure that the scanner itself is working properly, except for being owned by an idiot.)

Posted by Chris @ 10:33 am  

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  1. Erin says:

    Chris that was beautiful and moved me to tears!

  2. Courtenay says:

    i laughed and cried through this whole post. do your children read these posts?

  3. Maggie says:

    Chris, I have just started reading your blog and have found it touching and funny and nuts all rolled in one. Tomorrow is my oldest’s birthday and she’ll be 13. I can’t believe how quick the time has flown. Thank you for writing this post. I think I’m going to write her a letter tonight and give it to her tomorrow morning.

  4. Diane says:

    My son also just turned 14 about a month ago and everything you said just about sums it up, well except for the blood and stuff, i too had stitches and he too was sucked out with a vacuum and forceps, he was close to a 10 pounder and also my first and i thought my last but alas i have a five year old now. Happy birthday boys.

  5. Sue says:

    Wow!! Happy Birthday to you son #1. 14 is a wonderful age and may God bless him with all joy and happiness.
    This post was touching!

  6. liz says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I was in desperate need of a good cry.

  7. Sara says:

    Happy birthday to your oldest! Its a good day for a birthday, I think. ;) I loved this post and I couldn’t agree more with the “practice child” thoughts. :)

  8. keri says:

    Chris - That post is so beautiful. Happy birthday to your son and many many more.

  9. jolyn says:

    This was beautiful.

  10. CaliforniaGrammy says:

    I love reading your birthday letters, Chris. And I can also attest the the fact, being the grandmother that I am, that in this stage of life you WILL forget a bunch of the details of your past, but your photos will bring it all back and your heart will be touched every time you look at them. Happy Birthday #1 . . . do something really fun today!

  11. SoMo says:

    Oh MY!!! That post scared me and left me all warm inside. Having a wee little boy, that I can’t imagine being a man, I am scared, but having those feelings you expressed I am all warm and gooey inside.

    Happy Birthday and GO TEAM!!!

  12. Andrea in IN says:

    Now you’ve done it… pass the damn Kleenex! Happy Birthday to the BOTH of you!

  13. Jen says:

    Ah, I wish I had your words. Your kids are just as lucky to have you as you are to have all of them. Happy Birthday!

  14. bessie.viola says:

    This is beautiful. Happy birthday to both mama and son! Your words are a great gift to him, I’m sure.

  15. Sue @ My Party of 6 says:

    Aw, I’m laughing and crying too. I love the practice child part. So very true. Happy Birthday, 14, and good wishes to you, Chris, on your 14th anniversary of motherhood! (And thank you for sharing your motherhood with us.)

  16. Julie says:

    Chris…my 1st born daughter has her 15th birthday on Monday, and I have been thinking all the lovely thought that you so eloquently put into words. I told her just last night that she is my practice child (after she pointed out that her sisters can do things she was never allowed to do). They grow up so quickly!

  17. Pretty Jane says:

    Totally crying now, and loving that I’m not the only one who feels this way–our eldest is 13, and the difference between two years ago and now might as well be the difference between birth and now. I’m afraid of the loss, and excited about the possibilities. It feels good to have a sort of support group.

  18. Heather says:


    You write the nicest things about your kids.

    Happy birthday, oldest!

  19. rebecca says:

    I held it together until the end. Then came the tears. Hope you have a great day with your son and the rest of the family. Time sure flies! (And I have two 9-yr. olds who cannot be bribed to peel off the UnderArmour clothing for washing. One has the white shirt, too. What IS it with that stuff?!)

  20. Mary says:

    This was beautiful. I am crying!

  21. Marcea says:

    Great letter. You and I share one thing, my daughter was born on this day as well. She is two. :)

    Happy birthday!

  22. Paula says:

    You are such a wonderful writer - you capture what I am sure so many of us feel just perfectly. When I was in labor with my first and the third shift of nurses was introduced to me, I said - “Hi it’s really nice to meet you, but I am going home now.” As if after 17 hours of labor it was time to leave :)

  23. Lilly says:

    Beautiful post. What particularly made me teary was “will I ever forget what it is like to see your face every morning.” My son is 12 and I can’t imagine that he won’t be here at home every day forever, but gosh he won’t be will he?

    Your birthday letters are great. I think you’ll be glad to have all your great posts and photos when memories of these days get dim someday.

  24. Gem says:

    My oldest turned 14 in July. He is also on the very steep end of the learning curve in my parenting skills. Every morning I swear he has grown during the night. He is taller (by six inches at least), stronger, faster and tougher than me. Still he gets frustrated and upset and still, occasionally, only Mom will do. It’s so hard to imagine the all consuming love you have for these tiny babies before they come, and even harder to imagine that that love grows even stronger as they grow up. Congratulations to all! And good luck in the championships. We had the Irish equivalent over the summer!

  25. Kristi says:

    What a beautiful post. I have a 13.5 year old son. I feel much the same way as you…probably like most moms. Anyway, you put a lump in my throat. Thanks so much for sharing.

  26. Anat says:

    Happy Birthday!
    Instead of scanning, try taking a picture of the picture. it works really well, and is much easier.

  27. Gretchen says:

    Yup, mine is 14 this fall too. And I, too, remember 14 way too clearly to be able to have a 14 year old. Mine is using Axe, too, but it isn’t working. Moving on to something stronger… lol

  28. Maggie says:

    I have forgotten the smell of Axe but I think I will always remember the scent of the Givenchy Pi that replaced it.

  29. Ruth H says:

    Chris, you said so well what I still feel and think at age 72. My oldest, my daughter, was born in much the same way as your first,yet I had two more. I wanted to try for a red head to go with my blonds and brunette but could not have another so we are still waiting on that. But all the mother’s of grown children know their babies are still here when they look in their eyes, they are the same eyes, and as written so well by you, they see in the smiles the same little ones they held so dear and we still do.
    I am visiting in Louisiana where my 25 year old grandson is getting married tomorrow. It doesn’t seem real even the grandchildren grow up so quickly. My eleven year old granddaughter is so proudly taller than me now. I tell her I shrunk, and I have, but not that much.
    It is so sweet that your son looks on the little ones already so tenderly and realizes how fast life passes..

  30. Deanna says:

    Well, you made me laugh and cry. Good work! :)

    My oldest is only 3.5 years but he is my practice child too. Some days it seems like he gets my worst.

    Happy birthday to your son!

  31. Heth says:

    You have captured those feelings so well Chris. Beautiful post. It makes me want to go hug (or try to hug) my thirteen, almost fourteen year old. I wonder if he would let me get close. Gross, Mom.

  32. Rachel says:

    Good Grief. The one day I wore mascara this week!

    Thanks for that. (I loved the line about how you thought you’d never have another baby. I’ve said the same thing four times. I just wonder what it feels like to know that you’re done-done.)

    Sometimes I wonder which is harder. Surviving the hard pregnancies and the birthing or then slowly having to let them go.

  33. peepnroosmom says:

    Chris, that was beautiful! I am crying.
    Is this the-one-who-shall-not-be-mentioned’s birthday? Is he letting you mention him?
    Happy Birthday Big Guy!

  34. Elizabeth says:

    Love the post, love the comments especially from Ruth H. I wish I could just stick this in my own childrens’ scrapbooks - the details differ in every way, of course, but the emotion behind it is the same.

  35. Keyona says:

    Gosh, it’s scary how fast they grow up.

  36. TL says:

    What a wonderful post. I love the part about the dinpled knuckles and wrist creases…. Sigh, I miss those creases on my Indians too.

    Happy birthday to your big guy!

  37. ramblin red says:

    Oh dear….that should have had a disclaimer on it for expectant moms. My oldest is pushing 8 and my youngest is still cooking - and I envisioned this sentiment onto them and found myself bawling. Gorgeously captured.

  38. Jules says:

    Your fourteen year old and I are birthday buddies. I don’t think my mom went through quite what you did, though. Happy happy birthday!

  39. Amy says:

    I have been lurking in the background, reading your blog for a few months now.

    Beautifully written! You brought tears to my eys.

  40. kayceebeebee says:

    Wonderful post! Don’t you just love your kids?!!! I have two boys, oops, MEN! They grew up soooooooo fast. Happy BD to your son!

  41. Stacey says:

    Beautiful. You continue to amaze me with how well you can verbalize such deep emotions, that most of us feel, yet cannot turn into words. You are so talented. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  42. Lisa Lisa says:

    I always get so emotional when reading your posts. Happy 14th Birthday! Mine is tomorrow! Woo Hoo!!!

  43. angela michelle says:

    Love it. My oldest is about to turn 13. His mother wasn’t as competent or mellow as I am now, but I feel like we have a deep reserve of love and understanding from that time when it was just him and me and we were so into each other.

  44. Susan says:

    Oh, Lord, STOP IT!

    My oldest just turned 13 and I had so many of the same thoughts.

    Life moves way too quickly.

  45. Angella says:

    Aw, Chris. This made me all teary. What a beautiful tribute!

  46. Rachel says:

    Now that the picture is up…

    Proof positive that you really were twelve when you had him. :)

  47. Stacy says:

    I have read your blog for a LONG time (almost in a stalking length of time way) and I just love your letters to your children. This one however actually choked me up. I have a 2 year old son and can not wrap my head around him growing to be a man. Thank you for your post

  48. Lisa- Domestic Accident says:

    Now that I’ve stopped crying, did you have this child when you were 12?

    Congratulations on 14 years of motherhood. Clearly, you are good at this.

  49. Celine says:

    What a sweet photo. My oldest just turned 13. I don’t know where the time went. Happy Birthday to your firstborn!

  50. Jen says:

    Thanks for the 3:45pm cry. Lovely post.

  51. Headless Mom says:

    Beautiful, Chris. No one says it quite like you.

  52. J from Ireland says:

    That is so touching. I recognize those feelings looking at my 13 year old. I can remember that age so clearly. By the way, you look about 13 in that photo!!

  53. slynnro says:

    Just lovely.

  54. Dawn says:

    Yeah, I was fine until the line about not seeing his face every day. My oldest lives about 6,000 kms from me and right now is on vacation in Mexico.

    How the heck did THAT happen?

  55. Pam says:

    Aww…that is so sweet. Love the picture. You look like a baby yourself there.

  56. Athena says:

    Awww Chris, Beautiful post. You made me cry. Birthday Wishes to your son and wishes to you too on your 14th anniversary of motherhood. :)

  57. Laura says:

    Your post was very heartwrenching for me. My first baby (boy) will be 17 on Sunday. This is his last birthday at home with us. Next year he will be away at college. It kills me to think about it! You do learn a lot along the way with the poor practice child. I delivered him totally natural OUCH. Huge head, hours of pushing. The second kid, epidural,bing, bang, boom there he was. He will be 14 soon. Thanks for continuing to share your life on this blog.

  58. Fina says:

    I’m sure somebody said this already, but you look 14 in that picture.
    Congrats to you on this milestone.
    Fina/Long Island

  59. Christie says:

    Chris, your birthday letters to your kids are always so wonderful - full of humor and poignancy. My third child’s birthday is today, too, although he is only 6. But as I read your post, I’ve been thinking ahead to what he may be like in 8 years, though I think the Transformer pajamas and Spider Man comforter won’t be so popular then. :-) I totally get the guinea pig child, too. My oldest (11) is still trying to figure out why his 4 younger siblings get away with more than he did. And the youngest gets away with murder! I agree - it’s not so much the little stuff we need to get caught up with. Blessings to you and your son on this next big event. Happy Birthday #1!

  60. Mom on the Run says:

    What is it with these teens and their favorite color or clohing choices. My 12-year-old will only wear navy blue or white shirts with jeans. I suggested a pink shirt at a store in the mall and she looked at me with such disdain. I have learned not to make clothing suggestions to her. I can’t stand the looks I get!

  61. Erin says:

    My oldest is only a few years behind yours and the idea scares the life out of me. Where does the time go? There are so many important things that I’ve lost from my memory banks from the early years as well, and it makes me sad.

    Happy Birthday to your eldest, and good luck to his team!

  62. marta says:

    Happy birthday, mother and child!
    And I totally agree with the guinea pig kid idea. I only have 3 (and the oldest is still 8 yo) but there’s already such a difference at how I mother the 1st and the 3rd!

    Marta from Lisbon

  63. Jennifer says:

    This was such a great post. I have come back to reread it a few times, but don’t know what to write in the comments, since I am not even close to being there yet. My big boy is only three.

    You look so young in that picture though!!!

  64. Jessica says:

    I was referred by another reader, and this was beautifully written. I’m totally crying now! I don’t want to forget what it is like to see my daughter’s face every morning.

    Happy birthday to your son.

  65. momzen says:

    Every once in awhile, I just want to apologize to my oldest son for being so new at this mothering thing. I’m doing my best to remember to lighten up. (Your blog helps). Happy 14th anniversary of being a mom.

    And, yeah, you look about 14 in that photo too.

  66. Cheryl says:

    Thanks Chris. I really don’t appreciate being moved to tears so early in the morning. This post definitely hit a nerve. My oldest son will turn 18 in 3 weeks, and I’ve been grappling with the thought of him moving on, college, etc. And my “little” guy is 11, and my days of being anything more than just “useful” to him are drawing to a close. Your post was beautiful.

  67. Parker says:

    This letter is a wonderful gift to your son.

  68. Carola says:

    Like most of everyone who already commented,…laughing and crying, very touching letter…and beautiful picture.

  69. Pam says:

    I’m sitting at my desk at work with tears pouring down my face, I, too have a teen boy. Beautiful writing!

  70. G.R.G. says:

    Chris, you have captured this memory so well. What a gift to your son to have the triumph of his birth explained. What a gift for him to understand how parents do change and how we do learn so much from our first born… they raise us as much as we raise them.

    If memory ever fails you look back upon your blog. Mine has helped me recall that which I lost… as well as to chronicle that which I fear I will forget. Ah the wonder of blogging… I could never keep a journal, but a blog preserves the memories. Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

  71. Emily says:

    Chris I love you blog!! But I have always been curious. We know your youngest is Miles and he is/is going to be 4. But what are your other childrens names and ages??

    Chris says: Miles is the only one with a name ;-) As of right this second the kids are: 14, 12, 11, 8, 7, 5, 3.

  72. Mom Sleppy says:

    “practice child” That’s accurate. My oldest is turning 6 today. The oldest of five. Yea. omg. And you look so young. You are a child in that picture!

  73. eko says:

    Awww! Happy 14th birthday to your son!
    I have a twelve year old, already planning his thirteenth birthday (3 months away.) Last year he began caring about fashion and things he had never blinked an eye about before. Refreshing yes, but also exhausting! Oh, I love this letter - and think to write my son one for his big 13. I could really go on about mothering, and having a son, and his being the first - oh - I’ll stop, and go wipe my eyes!

  74. Brianna says:

    Until I saw that picture, I had NO idea how much your blond son looks like you! You have the exact same smile (and of course, he’s such an adorable guy :))

  75. CJ says:

    Hope that your son had a great birthday…sometime I would love to hear how you had so many more children after such an awful first birthing experience. Although, when you cite their ages (above) it really doesn’t seem like so many, does it?

  76. Michelle says:

    This post saved my day. I have been yelling at and extremely angry with my oldest son all day today. We had just had a HUGE blowup when I put him in his room and I decided to check some blogs while I decompressed. My little boy will be five next week and I have been reminiscing about the days surrounding his birth. We adopted him as a newborn, so he is a miracle and such a gift to me. He is a terrific kid. He’s my best friend and I am eternally grateful he came to me. Than why do I berate him?

    Your post helped me realize that he is a young child and annoying kid behavior will pass and soon he’ll leave the home. I expect too much from him and would rather him know how much I love and need him than for him to put his socks on the first time I ask. Thank you for reminding me of my priorities and helping me apologize.

  77. ~annie says:

    Beautiful post. You are amazing!

  78. shaz says:

    wow. yes, the tears! very rarely am i moved to tears by a blog post. the eldest, i guess… they do have an amazingly special place in our hearts. happy birthday to him!

  79. kat says:

    happy birthday to your number one!

  80. Bronnie says:

    beautiful post!! :) you look soo young in that photo!

    hehehe I agree with Emily, have always been curious as to why Miles is the only named child in your posts!

  81. Monica says:

    Thank you as always for a great post. I love your birthday letters they are always so touching. My oldest also is my practice child and seems to get the worst of it and he is only 4. :)

  82. Jackie says:

    I loved that! My oldest two boys out of six kids are twins, and they’ll be fifteen in a month. Everything you said I so relate to. When they started ninth grade in Sepember, I got so teary-eyed, because how could that be - I was just a freshman?? I began taking more pictures of them again, because after three short years they’ll have graduated. Life really is too fast!!!

  83. Alexis says:

    Beautiful post. Happy birthday!

  84. Saucymomma says:

    I always cry when I read your birthday letters. What a gift to your children. And all of your bloggie friends too. Thank you and Happy Birthday to you and your son.

  85. Giyen says:

    I know that feeling. My daughter just turned 14 a couple of weeks ago and it’s so hard to be in the sunset of her adolescence. : (

    Good going mom!

  86. robin says:

    This was beautiful and moving. My oldest just turned 11 and I realized that every year now is a year closer to him leaving. It gets me through all the sass and the negotiating ( I thought I had years yet before this happened) and the dawning certainty that yes, his most annoying traits are ones he got from me. Sigh.

  87. Stephanie says:

    Wow, Chris, happy anniversary of motherhood! Simply beautiful!
    I was able to keep the tears in however, until Ruth H’s comment. Now I’m gone. :-)

  88. Tracy says:

    What a beautiful post. I’m all teary-eyed.

  89. Christina says:

    That was beautiful. I’m sobbing. My oldest is only 8 but I know we’ll get to 14 in a flash and I’ll be looking back wondering where the time went.

    Happy Birthday to your son.

  90. iris says:

    Hi Chris! I have been a silent reader of your blog for quite some time now. I find each and every one of your entries a gift to expectant mothers and experienced mothers alike, such sweet joy and a royal pain in the ass rolled into one. This was utterly poignant with a dab of humour that I literally burst out laughing while grimacing. Your children and husband are truly blessed to have you in their lives. And just what IS your secret to looking utterly gorgeous after bearing 7 children? Pray tell.(or is it the 7 children you’re running around after?). Cargoes of love and Happy Birthday to your eldest!

  91. Lisa says:

    I am very grateful for your eloquent writing. These tears, my tears, feel cleansing. I had been stuffing all my thoughts. My oldest,”all-growed-up”, at 26. Then the 20 year old, in college. Then the first boy also at college,18. I MISS THEM. They are an ocean away.And while I am blessed to still have a 15,13,5,and 2 at home, this house never feels quite “right” unless they are all here, together. Time makes less and less sense to me each year. But,I am grateful for every single precious second. And although I live fully in the today with each sweet being thatI love, I long for the simmple stage of our lives when I could literally wrap my arms around them all.Sunshine

  92. MichelleB says:

    Beautiful post. It reminded me of my daughter who recently turned 16 and how I remember her when she was just a little one herself.

    Ever since she and my hubby bought me a gorgeous diamond necklace from http://www.idonowidont.com for my birthday, I decided to throw her a huge sweet 16 birthday party because she’s still my little baby!

    She’s growing up so fast soon she’ll be off to college. Cute photo of you two also!

  93. Honey Mommy says:

    Oh my lord you look SO YOUNG in that photo… much too young to have babies!

    Chris says: I was 25. I just looked young :-)

  94. Maddy says:

    I always love your letters, in my last album for my eldest I added a letter at the end, you’re such an inspiration.

  95. Suburban Turmoil says:

    Wiping away tears now, more so after reading Lisa’s comment above.

    At least it makes more sense now that you look like you’re 17… since you looked like you were 12 when you had him. ;) Two cuties!

  96. Debra says:

    I’m crying with everyone else.

    My son is 2. I hope he never turns 14, and I dread the day when I won’t wake up to his chubby little face pressed to mine.

    You’re going on my blogroll right now.