"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
October 29, 2012
by Melissa Howell

Today is my birthday.

Whenever one of my children has a birthday, we always look at his or her scrapbook, to reflect and remember highlights from their young lives. Although, sometimes we have to look back at older blog posts, because, true to parenting form, my oldest has a very thorough and painstakingly crafted scrapbook dedicated to the first half of his life, my second child has about a dozen pages, my third has one page and my youngest, well, I believe his birth certificate is around here somewhere, authenticating that he is mine and was in fact born to me. But at least my blog offers more to behold, thus not rendering me a complete memory-capturing failure.

Like most children, mine love to look at pictures and hear stories about their lives. I tell them their first words (or truth be told, I make it up if I can’t remember. Chances are good it was mama or dada, right?). I might tell them about new things they did like trying rice cereal for the first time, or wearing a Halloween costume they weren’t thrilled about.

I might tell them about naughty things they did, like write on the walls, or have such a ridiculously long and loud temper tantrum at the Lewis and Clark Museum beneath the Arch in St. Louis that I am still bitter about not being able to enjoy or even remember one single thing about said museum.

But one thing I am always sure to tell them is how much they were loved even before they were born, and even more so the moment they were born. I mean, is there really even anything as remotely amazing as having your brand-new infant placed in your arms for the first time, inhaling and absorbing every little fantastic feature about them, and suddenly understanding that love goes far beyond anything you previously thought possible? I think not.

And so, as I took a big breath and prepared to turn yet another year older, I turned to my own baby book, reflecting on many more years of a life lived than my children. Much as I love being a mother, I am still me, I still have thoughts and experiences and history independent of them. And it’s good to recall that from time to time.

How often I hear mothers talk about how they can scarcely recall the time before they had children; it really does seem that the years BC (that’s Before Children) — are foggy and difficult to bring into focus. Yet there they are, and I believe it’s good for the soul to clear off the mirrors to our pasts and take a good look now and then.

Within the pages of my baby book are reminders of moments from my early life, such as being Raggedy Ann for my first Halloween (well, technically my second, but having a birthday two days prior to Halloween meant I passed my first Halloween as a newborn in the hospital), my first home and Raggedy Ann bedroom (I’m sensing a theme here), my first days of school, vacations, early friendships and more.

And then I read this passage from my mom, written during my first few days of life on earth:

To Melissa, my lovely baby daughter,

The first time I saw you I couldn’t believe you were real you were squirming all over and crying. I remember tiny feet pressed against a piece of paper and then you were wheeled away from me daddy, of course, followed you. After you had gone I thought how wrinkled and funny looking you were supposed to be but you weren’t you were beautiful. Your skin was smooth and rosy then I went to sleep.

3 ½ hours later I saw you again my beautiful little girl. You were just perfect and I couldn’t believe it your dark hair was curled on top of your head your cheeks were rosy red and your dark eyes stared directly at me. Such a wonderful moment holding you in my arms. Each time they brought you to me it was more difficult to give you back. And now you are home with me. For always you will be my precious little lamb my first daughter a perfect and precious jewel.”

I am grateful for the reminder of how much I was loved even before I was born, and even more so the moment I was born. That my mother also understood that there was nothing even remotely as amazing as having her brand-new infant placed in her arms for the first time, inhaling and absorbing every little fantastic feature about me, and suddenly understanding that love went far beyond anything she had previously thought possible.

And so, on this the day of my birth, I celebrate having been born into this crazy and wonderful world, for all the experiences both good and bad, and for having been born into a family that loves me.

Moreover, I am grateful that I have subsequently had the experience of bringing my own children into this crazy and wonderful world, and for the opportunity to have experienced in my own life what my mother experienced 38 years ago.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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