Happy Birthday, son. 

Happy first birthday, Jackson.


After six hours of induced labor, and an emergency c-section, the sound of your cry sent relief rushing through every cell of my body. When the doctor popped your round little head over the curtain, and I took in your full head of dark hair (which you have somehow managed to maintain!), it was instant love. I was so grateful you were here, and so excited to see what new joy my life would now hold, now that you were in it.

But, and you’ve heard this story before, mere moments after we celebrated your arrival, the medical scares started coming. And they would keep coming and keep coming, until I thought we would never be able to crawl out of the deep hole we found ourselves.


You, however, were amazing. You took your surgeries in stride, always recovering so well, and bouncing back. When we finally strong-armed a surgeon into giving you heart surgery, you said, “Okay! I’m done! Let’s get out of here,” and 12 days later, I carried you out of that hospital.

Today is bittersweet for me, because I will always remember those first few moments and the following days, and remember how scared I was, how scared everyone was. We didn’t know what to expect. You were so tiny, so fragile. So sick.

The wonderful thing about those sad memories is how amazing you look now in comparison. It’s hard to imagine how afraid we were when we see what a chunky, happy, giggly baby you have become!


Your smile is not the biggest smile in the room, but it’s the most perfect. It tells me how much you love me, and how you love your sister even more! It tells me one of your favorite things is letting the puppy kiss your face. And it pops up so quickly when you hear the voice of Mickey Mouse; your whole face lights up.

The first four months of your life were slower than any other I have ever experienced. The next eight flew by in the blink of an eye. Where did the time go?! Suddenly, you’re turning one, and are apparently now labeled a “toddler.” I hate that, and refuse to call you that. You are my last baby, and so you will ALWAYS be the baby. Tough break, kid.

I love, love, love you Jackson, more than you could ever possibly understand. You completed our family, little boy!

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, son. 

  1. Christopher Keller says:

    Happy Birthday, Jackson.

    Engel family, much love and respect.

    I have a picture of myself, taken when I was about Jackson’s age, or maybe a bit older (baby ages confound me). I do not know who took it, or which family I was living with at the time. It was before my surgery at the Hobart, Oklahoma, (through the March of Dimes, I have been told since then).

    In the picture there are pennies strewn across a hard floor. My left hand looks remarkably similar to Jackson’s right. On the back, somebody wrote “Chris got to keep all the pennies he picked up!,” exclamation point at all.

    My hand looks very much like your boy’s in that image.

    In the few pictures I have of myself since then, I am either hiding my hand in a pocket or turned away or crossing my arms. That hand has been broken in fights and in playing football, it has scars from my surgeries and scars from being a stupid teenager, and it also has a giant dragon claw tattooed on it. I did not have any control over what I was born with, but all the damage and awesomeness (tattoo, specifically) since then are all mine.

    I have lots and lots of stories of my hand, some which are great and some which suck terribly. I look forward to talking with Jackson as a teenager about all of them.

    Until then, here is a picture from today.



    • Rachel Engel says:

      I’m so grateful he will have someone that can very specifically empathize with the situations he will face due to his hand, and show him he will make it through whatever obstacles he might face. We would love to see you over the summer, so you can meet Jackson. We received orders to Wichita, KS, and will be moving February 2016, so, thankfully still somewhat close to our families, but not near as close as we are now.


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