It takes only a look from those evening sky eyes, so much like your daddy’s, before I’m lost in time, lost in space, lost in a world where only you and I exist. It takes only one sweet, joyful smile to send me reeling, end over end, in a twister of tears, for the growing up and the getting older and the never again. It takes only one slobbery kiss to crawl all the way down to my depths and remind me, This is it.

This is it. You are it. You are the last-born son.

We knew it from the first moment we knew of you. You grew and you kicked and you formed so perfectly, so beautifully, so wonderfully, and I tried to enjoy every minute of your growing, before I’d even met you, because this was the last time.

It’s funny how a new baby comes into a family by storm, how those first few months feel blurry and unreal, and then, looking back, it’s hard to remember a time when new baby was no baby. I try to see what life was like before you, and it’s impossible to remember what I did with my nights but give you the last goodnight, sleep-tight kiss. It’s impossible to remember what I did with my mornings but burrow my face into your belly to make you laugh. It’s impossible to remember afternoons without your curled-up form, sleeping soundly in a crib.

Ours is not a complete family without you.

I know your brothers would agree. You are the light of their day, smiling no matter how the world is falling apart around you, calling to them when they pass you on their way to the refrigerator, missing them when they’re away at school. You are sunshine in a hurricane. You are morning song splitting a silent night. You are breath and hope and life and love and miracle.

I spent my birthday last year holding you, just three hours old, against my chest, and I did not think that I would ever put you down, because you were beautiful, and you were here and you were alive and you were last child.

And then we brought you home, and you fit right in like the whole world had waited on you before it started turning again, in just the right way. Your brothers lived for one little smile, one little contagious laugh, one little hand pat on their leg. You looked around for them when they were gone, because the noise was a constant in your existence, and you did not know, exactly, what to do without it.

It’s hard to explain what you mean to me. But I will try.

That first moment in the hospital, you looked into my eyes, and you reminded me that I mattered, because you were born on the day before my birthday, and I’d always had a complicated relationship with birthdays, because there was always someone missing from mine, but you reminded me that my birthday mattered, that I mattered, and you have no idea what that did for me, my sweet. I was able to unfold in your first year of life in ways I had never done. I was able to dream truer and hope wider. I was able to, finally, live.

You are my last-born son. You are the culmination of eight years of childbearing, a whole lifetime of longing. I have given my skin, my eyes, my nose, my mouth, my hair to all of you, some getting more of one than others. Mostly, though, I have given my heart, marveling at who you are and how beautiful this mothering is and what a wonder it is that you are all here, breathing, sleeping, living out loud in the very center of me.

But, you see, there is a sadness you brought with you (if, in the future, you happen to notice this sadness shaking my face, it is nothing to do with who you are). Because everything I watch you do will be the last time.

Your first smile—it is the last first smile I would see from one of my babies. Your first wobbling steps—they are the last first steps I’ll ever see from my own. That 2 a.m. feeding, the splendid silence of it, is the last 2 a.m. feeding I will experience.

It comes with being the last child, but it has nothing to do with who you are. You will see the sadness in my face the first day of kindergarten, but it has nothing to do with who you are. You will see the sadness in my smile when you walk the stage at your fifth-grade graduation ceremony, but it has nothing to do with how you’ve done or who you’ve grown to be. You will see the sadness in my pride the day you drive away from home, but it has nothing to do with who you have been beneath our roof.

You will be the last one who learns to drive a car and the last one who takes Algebra II and the last one who marches in the school band or sings in the choir or lines up on a football field. You will be the last one to go to the senior prom, and you will be the last one to pack your stuff and leave home. And so all along this growing up will be moments of such great pride and wonder, and they will be moments of profound sorrow and pain, too.

Soon you will learn to wield a spoon, and you will learn to dress yourself, and you will learn to tie your own shoes, and there is a grief in this passing away, because what does a mother do when she has nothing left to do? When she is not needed anymore? When she is just an important person in a life instead of a vital, “I can’t make it without her” person?

Well, she loves. She keeps on loving. She keeps on.

I know we’re a long way from those days of doing for yourself and walking to school on your own and leaving home for good, but here we are, in the blink of an eye, at your 1st birthday, and it’s the last 1st birthday I’ll experience with a child of my own. So it is a day of celebration, and it is a day of sadness. This evening I will pack away your clothes, which you outgrew weeks ago but which I’ve been slow to clear out, because it’s the last time. I will mail them to your cousin, and meanwhile, you will keep growing up, never to stop, no matter how desperately I want you to stop, for just a small moment in time so I can preserve that gummy smile and commit it to memory forever and ever and ever, so I can remember the way you reach for me every time I come into a room because I’m your favorite person in the world, so I can watch you giggle and laugh and do a dance of your own when your brothers turn the music too loud. I don’t want the moments to go away, and like every moment, they must.

So I guess what I want you to know on your birthday is this: You are perfect just the way you are. I love you with all the love I have in my heart. You are a wondrous ending point to our family with your great joy and wide smile and sweet nature.

Happy birthday, my love. You are mine for now.

This article originally appeared at

You might also like:

To My Last-Born Son As We Begin the Final Firsts

Why Tired Mothers Stay Up So Late

Will You Make Room For Me, Mom?

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here! 


So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

You should also check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Rachel Toalson

Rachel is a writer, poet, editor and musician who is raising six boys to love books and poetry and music and art and the wild outdoors—all the best bits of life. She shares her parenting articles at She blogs on life and love and family on her

I Had to Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom hugs tween daughter

My two oldest kiddos are at the front end of their teen years. I remember that time in my own life. I was loud, somewhat dramatic, I let my hormones control me, and I never—ever—apologized. This last part was because no one ever really taught me the value of apology or relationship repair. Now, I could do some parent blaming here but let’s be real, if you were a kid whose formative years were scattered between the late ’80s and early ’90s, did you get apologies from your parents? If so, count that blessing! Most parents were still living with...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading