ONE: A Letter To My Son On His First Birthday

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Today you are one, my sweet little mockingbird, and I can scarcely believe it. I went through photos this morning from your first week with us on earth, and my eyes got wet as I marveled at how small and squishy you once were.

Right now, I’m watching you crawl around the living room, tearing things up at a turbo-speed, stopping along the way to pick up this toy or that book or see what’s in the corner over there. You’re an explorer, curious and inquisitive; you like to figure out how the world around you works. I see this in the way you carefully play with your nesting cups, methodically placing the smaller ones inside the largest, your fingers running along the empty space as your eyes scan the room for something else you can throw in there too. I see it in how you hold yourself back from anything new at first, opting to sit in the safety of my arms or lap while you observe, your big, dark eyes taking it all in before you climb down and throw yourself into the midst of the experience. You are 21 pounds of pure energy, and watching you brings me a gladness I never knew was possible. You, my little Atticus James, are joy personified.

You have your papa’s nose, his ears, his toothy smile and broad-shouldered physique, with a dash of my thick curls and deep brown eyes thrown in for good measure. You are so very sensitive, sweet and also stubborn–which I fully admit you get from me–and a friend once said that your eyebrows have their own vocabulary, which is approximately one thousand percent true. You wear everything on your inside for the world to see, which is both your blessing and your curse, and I tell you that from personal experience. Just one look at you reveals what your mood is, whether you’ve slept or eaten enough, if you’re feeling mischievous or sociable or just need to be left alone. You are an open book, darling, my very favorite story to read each and every day.

Before you were even born, I knew I wanted you. And yet, you have also exceeded all my expectations, my every hope and dream. I prayed for a boy, and I was thrilled when the blood test taken when you were 12 weeks in utero revealed Y chromosomes. I remember how certain everyone was that you were going to be a girl, and how even before we knew, I knew. I knew I’d have my son, that our good Father had heard the cries of my heart and given me you. I remember reading that even after birth, male babies in particular leave behind traces of their DNA inside their mothers, and I find myself thinking about that a lot these days, as you leave behind the season of infancy and move into becoming a young toddler. You, quite literally, are flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, blood of my blood. I grew you, I nourished you, and I gave you life. And in some ways, it hurts to think of you growing up, growing older, needing me less and less as the years go by. So, I think God has given me a gift by giving me a boy, because even after you’re grown, I will carry around a piece of you in both my body and soul forever. My pregnancy test was positive when you were merely the size of an apple seed, but something inside of me knew that microscopic, miraculous cluster of cells was going to be my son, a ball of constant motion and sound and mess. And here you are. Your father and I yearned for you for so, so long. Atticus James Delhagen, you are our greatest gift.

Your due date was the 26th of July, though you were born the following morning, after a grueling 58 hours of induced labor. It was in the middle of a late-summer heatwave, long, sweltering days that seemed to never end. I think you would have stayed in my womb longer had we given you the chance. You seemed determined to stay put, stalling my labor and stubbornly wedging yourself against my pelvic bone where the contractions were unable to force you out. That’s one thing about you, sweet boy; you don’t like to do things until you’re good and ready, or unless it’s your own idea to begin with. You have a fiercely independent streak in you, that’s for sure. But my weary, worn-out body was starting to go into distress, and so at 7:33 am on July 27th, you were birthed through a five-inch-long incision in my abdomen, and the room was pierced with your wails. Even today, the sound of your cries brings tears to my eyes automatically, almost as if instinctual. It’s a sound that calls out to the deepest parts of me.

The days that followed, after we brought you home, passed by in a blur. You didn’t have trouble sleeping necessarily, but like all little ones still learning their new worlds, you’d only sleep if I held you in my arms or against my chest. This is something you and I have in common: we find it easiest to relax in what’s familiar, what we’re used to, in the comforts that come with what we know. So I’d sit with you in the brown rocking chair, the room lit only by a small lamp, and we’d ease into each other, you and I, and that’s when I began to learn you. You’d nurse, and then nuzzle me, and I came to understand your crying, your sighs, the rising and falling of your tiny body with breath, every gesture and sound you’d make. It was there, in the comforts of our own home, me in a nightgown and robe, you swaddled tightly against me, that you made me feel like a mother.

When you were still itty-bitty, your Dada and I chose your life verse, familiar words from a passage of scripture that we continue to pray over you, pray for you. It’s out of Zechariah, a message to God’s daughters and his sons, like you, dear one. Selfishly, I hope you grow up to love the prophets with the same fondness that I do. Their words are powerful, so personal, cutting quick to the hearts of the people of God. Your father, he prefers the gospels, and I hope you relish those, too. But the prophets – I want them to be like home for you, especially Zechariah 7, verses 9 and 10. “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor….” We pray you will walk in the way of justice and kindness, mercy and truth, wholeness and perfect shalom. Your name is strong, and we chose it intentionally because we know you, too, will be a picture of strength. But never forget that strength doesn’t come at the expense of others; real strength always comes from lifting them up and showing them the Way.

As we leave behind this first year, I see more and more of who you were created to be shining through you. I know, you’ll surprise me–and more than once, I’m sure! But today, as we celebrate this milestone, I’m thinking about what I hope for your future, that, above all, you will be gentle and kind, passionate and full of life, strong and courageous. I hope you see the world and those in it as good, even if it doesn’t always seem that way on the surface. I hope your faith is deep, and that you live it out loud so everyone can see you set the world on fire because of your love for the One who knit you together in my womb. I hope you learn to give of yourself, for it is then that you are truly alive. I hope you’ll always remember how adored you are, how much we longed for you, how you are our very best gift. I hope you’re not afraid to take chances, and that you have the wisdom to learn from them. I think you’ll be something of a world-changer, sweet boy, for in only 12 short months, you’ve already turned mine upside down in the most beautiful, joy-filled way.

Happy birthday, Little Mockingbird.

With all my love and more,









1 Comment
  • Uncle Paul
    July 27, 2017

    Words that capture the heart, under a life sentence of love. Wonderfully written, love you Elena

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