Happy Birthday, Nella

Your clothes didn’t fit you when you were born. They swallowed your tiny body resulting in pools of fabric and folded waistbands, pictures of which make us now laugh at my silly attempts to get those cute outfits on you, whether or not they fit.

It’s not that you weren’t the right size. It’s that there isn’t a prepping-for-baby act in the world—clothing included—that’s appropriately fitted for what you really get, but how could there be? How could you possibly measure the space that’s carved in a heart—a space you don’t even realize exists—one where you and only you were made to fit? How could you summarize a feeling you’re supposed to feel when that first breath—a mother’s inhalation of her child—is as unique to a mother as her fingerprint?

It’s not that you weren’t the right size. It’s just that from that tiny body, we couldn’t have imagined the great breadth that you would take up—the great breadth that you already were the moment I held you and we spoke with our eyes in a secret language only known between you and me—“Hi Mom, nice to meet you.”  “Hi, Baby. I love you.”

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You crawled until you were almost two. I can still hear the slap of your palms against the tile and remember how quickly you could scurry from one room to the next—the sight of wayward pigtails skittering away and tights hanging off the ends of your feet, creating tails that never seemed to bother you. You kept up with the walkers, no problem.

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It’s not that you didn’t meet a milestone. It’s that there isn’t a term in the world that could possibly stand as an average measurement of victories that are anything but average. The way you grow, the way you decide to take in the world and the way that you express understanding of all those incredible synapses happening in that beautiful brain of yours—why, that’s yours, baby. And nobody else can do it like you. Your smile, your “soul hug”, your superhero lock-eyed gaze that melts hearts and freezes time–those are the greatest milestones, and you already had those mountains summited with your very first breath, so you’re good.

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On the evening of your fourth birthday, I cried while I kissed you and told you that you were everything I ever wanted. “Happy Birthday, I love you so much,” I said. “Do you know how much I love you?” I wanted to hear you say “yes.” I wanted you to ask me to tell you the story of your birth and then stop me ten times in the middle to ask silly four-year-old questions like “But why?” and “How did the baby get there?” But you didn’t answer me. You didn’t ask any questions. Instead you smiled until your eyes squinted into half-moons, and you brushed your hand against my cheek and laughed a soul-filling sound.

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It’s not that you can’t talk—you can. It’s that you understand one of the greatest secrets of the earth—that words aren’t as powerful as actions. You’ve learned to speak a dying language of deep emotion, and your fluency and expression is remarkable, something brilliance can’t come close to defining. The words you use are prefaced with looks and gestures that tell the world you not only see it but you love living in it. You listen with your eyes and your heart, and you respond—yes, with words—but more so with your grin, your little quick-step skip, and those arms thrown out beside you to hug the world while you swing your hair and twirl, twirl, twirl.

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You turn five today. The earth has made its long journey around the sun not once but five times since the moment you took your first breath. The thought of that journey can be overwhelming sometimes—such a long trip for the earth to make and such slow progression around that sun. But while we wait for it to make its big cycle, we have small more important progression to celebrate. It spins! The earth spins while it moves, giving us days—and lots of them. Sunrises and sunsets and forward movement that is so recognizable, you have to grab on to the things that don’t move to stay grounded. We spin together—our family and our friends—and we hold hands and celebrate every turn of the earth, every moment of life that we gratefully absorb. For you, that means we celebrate thousands of kisses—on your lips, on your cheeks, at the top of your head and in the little hollow right above your nose—the valley of soft milky skin that was made just for our kisses. We celebrate endless high fives and “Knuckles!” victories—the games you win and the losses from which we learn something. We celebrate all of our adventures—from scouring, ankle-deep, the edge of Michigan lakes for Petoskey stones to venturing up to our waists in our ocean at home, searching for sand dollars, sea stars, the chipped remains of opalescent shells. We celebrate the little moments of every day—the tilt of the earth’s spin that we feel in your smile when you first catch sight of us at preschool pick-up, your hair floating in curls that dance on the surface of the water when you lean back in the tub to let us wash it, your lyrical chatter to the dolls that become alive when you play with them. And we celebrate your favorites. Handfuls of cold plump grapes, skirts that twirl and swish while you walk, stick pretzels, baby dolls, music on the record player and dancing—anywhere at any time. We clap when you dance and we run to grab our craziest outfit so we can dance with you—the most colorful ensemble we make. Oh, how our earth spins with you in it.

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It’s not that we don’t realize that five years is just the beginning, a sliver of beauty for all that is to come. It’s just that it seems you’ve been here our whole lives, and five years makes the most beautiful eternity.

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Happy birthday, Nella. You fit perfectly.


Leave a Comment
  1. Happy 5th birthday Miss Nella! I can’t believe it’s been 5 years of following your journey!

  2. What a gorgeous post, happy birthday to your beautiful girl Xx

  3. Beautiful – you’ve made me cry. Happy Birthday Nella and happy day to the rest of your fab family too xx

  4. Happy Birthday Nella! Even though we have never met, you have changed my life in positive ways. Twirl on little one! :)

  5. Happy birthday Nella, I’m sure your going to have a wonderful birthday…

  6. Happy Birthday Nella, it sure doesn’t seem like 5 years have gone by.

  7. Beautiful Kelle. What a wonderful way to start your amazing girl’s fifth birthday. I have loved watching her grow, thank you for sharing her sweet smile and spirit with all of us! Happy birthday Nella!

  8. that was so beautiful!!!!!!!! I remember reading her birth story before my own little special girl came along and now to read this was so spot on. It’s all in the eyes and emotions and not the words

    happy birthday to your sweet nella

  9. Kelle- Happy Birthday to sweet Nella! She is a beautiful girl with a even more beautiful soul. I remember stumbling upon your blog when I was deep in sorrow about the diagnosis of my baby son when my vision was so clouded by the fear of disability, that I couldn’t see the beauty before me. She helped unfog those smeared glasses I had on, and helped me to just see the beauty. Thanks for sharing her story. :)

  10. Lovely a always!

  11. So touching Kelle, for beautiful Nella. I feel blessed to have found this space you carved on the internet to share your family with us. Brightens my day on the regular it does.

  12. Happy Birthday Nella! What a beautiful girl and soul you are!

  13. Happy birthday, Nella, bella. You are beautiful beyond words and wise beyond your 5 years. Happy birth day, Kelle!

  14. Happy birthday Nella! Thanks for sharing Kelle you made me cry with your words my litttle boy turned three and even though he has asd much of what you said in this post seems to apply to us. Thanks again!

  15. Happy Birthday Nella. This was by far one of my favorite birthday tributes that you have shared. I love how you capture emotions in words.

    Nella I hope you have a wonderful birthday!!

  16. This is amazing! My favorite line: “You’ve learned to speak a dying language of deep emotion, and your fluency and expression is remarkable, something brilliance can’t come close to defining.”

    Happy, happy birthday to Nella!

  17. Happy Birthday to Nella! That post was just lovely.

  18. Happy Birthday Nella have a wonderful day

  19. I’m just in love with everything written in that post. A mother’s heart speaks in tones that are so beautifully echoed in your words!

  20. What a beautiful birthday message for your girl. I’m a longtime reader but rarely comment. While I was reading this post, my son scurried onto my lap and smiled and laughed at the sheer joy in your photos, and then he said something about poop, which I thought was fitting. (Poop the Barbie, lest I get any unwarranted comments). Anyway, happy happy birthday to Miss Nella. 5 is an awesome year.

  21. Happy Birthday Miss Nella! (And happy birth day, Kelle!) Hoping today is filled with those amazing belly laughs, squinty smiles, sibling sillies and all the happiness your heart can hold.

  22. That last picture warms my heart. Adorable!

    Happy Birthday, Nella!

  23. Oh… my… goodness! Beautiful, beautiful words. Happy, happy birthday, Nella!

  24. Happy Birthday, sweet girl! Kelle, as always, your words leave me breathless! – Karen

  25. Kelle, your writing is beautiful here, and the most precious gift of all for Nella’s birthday. Lots of love to you and your family from Katie on Marco.

  26. oh the way you spin words Mama…I love your big heart~ HB beautiful little Nella C.

  27. Jeeeez Kell. What a synopsis of life thus far. Boy you guys sure know how to love. I love watching it all go down. So proud of how far you’ve come (we’ve come) and thank you once again for advocating for love, equality, whimsy, kindness and adventure. Hugs mama. Happy birthday sweet babe.

  28. That last picture- I die. Happy Birthday, Nella!!

  29. “You’ve learned to speak a dying language of deep emotion…” Kelle, you have hit hit the nail on the head. My son does not have DS but also speaks this language. He has developed on his own time table and looked at me with eyes that see my soul when I try to rush him…speaking to me in this language and me not understanding…

  30. Happy Birthday, Nella! Have a beautiful day celebrating this wondrous girl.

  31. So beautiful! Happy Birthday pretty Nella.

  32. What a beautiful message!

  33. Absolutely Beautiful!!

    Happy Birthday Sweet Nella!!

  34. Happy 5th birthday dear Nella ~ Your birth has been a blessing to many. You are a light of love and joy.


  35. I find it hard to believe that it has been five years. What a beautiful love note to your sweet girl on her 5th birthday.

  36. I can’t believe this sweet, precious soul is 5 years old! What a blessing. Happy birthday, Nella!

  37. I don’t really “know” her, but I love her. She is truly a beautiful soul, an angel is disguise, put here on earth to change so many. Thank you for sharing your beautiful angel, giving us an insight into your world with Nella (and the family!); it’s been a heart-warming, fun-loving 5 years! So looking forward to what the future holds for this amazing little soul! Happy Happy Birthday, Nella!

  38. Oh, Lord, that was beautiful. That fifth paragraph..perfection. I love you & that precious girl of yours, for all you’ve shared & for all that she is, still touching us with your words & her smiles. Happy Birthday Nella! Happy Birth Day, Kelle!!

  39. So beautiful – gosh, you had some amazing lines in there that went straight to the heart!! Happy birthday sweet Nella! xoxoxo

  40. I can’t believe that she is five!! it’s been almost five years that I’ve been reading your blog. My own turns four in just a couple of short weeks. I remember reading Nella’s birth story with tears running down my cheeks in all of my first trimester, hormonal glory. Wow.

  41. I have no words to describe how much this post and your words and photos have touched me. Nella picked your family to be born into for a reason. She is truly a gift from God and you are truly wonderful for honoring this. So very beautiful. Happy birthday to your gorgeous little lady!!! xo

    ~ Wendy

  42. Beautifully written. I can feel the mother’s love radiating from this. :)

  43. Beautiful.

  44. oh the tears. what gifts of beauty these birthday posts are, and all the ones in between. happy birthday, sweet nella. shine your light. <3

  45. There’s no crying at work!…well, maybe just a little.

  46. We all have a place in our heart for Nella, and I felt mine tug after reading this. Simply beautiful.
    Happy Birthday, Nella.


  47. These words, like Nella’s place in your heart, are a gift.

  48. Love her!! Cannot believe she’s FIVE. Happy birthday Nella! xoxo

  49. Happy Birthday sweet Nella , and what beautiful photos – such joy and I especially like the one of you and Nella together – I am going to make sure my husband takes some pictures of my daughter and I together this weekend – I am always behind the camera.

  50. My goodness I love this post so much! My almond eyed girl turns 5 in May and this is making me completely fall apart! Happy Birthday Miss Nella you beautiful, perfect little girl!

  51. Beautifully spoken. Happy 5th Birthday to Nella from up here in Michigan and thanks for sharing her with us.

  52. Oh. My. Word(s). You nailed it! Happy Birthday BIG girl! :)

  53. Happy 5th birthday, beautiful Nella! I, like others, have watched you grow via your mommy’s blog and celebrated all your successes! Love those curls and twirls of yours sweet girl!

  54. Happy Birthday, Sweet Nella. Indeed you DO fit perfectly.

    Kelle. you never ever disappoint with your words. Beautiful

  55. Happy Birthday, Nella! May you continue dancing and twirling and radiating light. Maybe one day you will write your own book! Have the best day, and a great year of being five. What fun!

  56. Happy birthday, sweet Nella. I can’t believe you’re already five years old!

  57. Such a beautiful letter to your sweet girl! Happy Birthday Nella! I’ve loved learning your story!

  58. Happy 5th Birthday, Miss Nella!!! Keep Smiling Pretty Angel!

  59. Heartfilling and heartwarming. Well said Kelle. Happiest of all days to you sweet Nella!

  60. Happy Birthday to the most Beautiful Little Girl with the most Beautiful Golden hair and the most Beautiful almond eyes and the smile in pictures that brings a smile to me. This is a beautiful little girl I have never met but she has changed me in ways she will never know. Happy Birthday Nella and THANK YOU.

  61. Tears in my eyes. That’s a birthday letter that Nella will treasure for years and years to come. I can’t believe its already been five years. Happy birthday, beautiful girl!! 🎉

  62. It’s crazy to think that it’s already been five years! I found this blog through a friend who wrote a post stating: I wish my life were more like Kelle Hampton’s. That landed me here and I’ve been a follower ever since!

    Happy Birthday beautiful girl! You have shown the whole world about love, acceptance and pure joy! Cheers to many, many years to come!

  63. Happy Fifth Birthday Nella! God bless you, sweet girl, today and always. May you have many, many more happy birthdays to come!

  64. Wow! Five years have gone by SO fast. Beautiful post. YOU KNOW how destined she was to be a part of your family by your honest sentiments in this birthday post. She will do great unimaginable things…things I am silly fearful of, and she will do them with ease. Happy Birthday Nella!
    Love to you from Tejas,

  65. Beautiful story. Loved the pictures, the raw honesty of your voice. Happy Birthday Nella!

  66. Wishing Nella a very Happy 5th Birthday! Beautiful letter to your beuatiful birthday girl Kelle.

  67. Oh my….that’s beautiful..

  68. tears..

    happy 5th birthday sweet nella girl and to you too sweet mommy

    love you friend. you make the world a beautiful place. you do.

  69. Happy Birthday, sweet Nella!

    It’s been a delight watching you grow into such a beautiful, loving, smart girl. You have such a spark inside you … it shines through in every story, every picture of you.

    Happy Birth Day, Kelle! My son turned 5 in December, and it feels so old. Like he’s definitely not a baby or a toddler anymore. Five is big kid territory, for sure. It was a hard birthday for me, because I miss those baby days. They seem so long ago now!

  70. Way to make me cry! Happy birthday Nella! You are so beautiful!

  71. Wow! I cannot believe it’s been five years! I’m so grateful to have watched this journey with you thus far. Happy birthday, Nella.

  72. Oh my heart..

  73. Dear Nella ~ I must wish you a Happy “5th” Birthday! A day late, but still…full of Wishes and Prayers for this next year of your life. It’s hard to believe that five years have passed since that magical day that you arrived. I have enjoyed the Journey. Loved watching you grow.
    Here’s a special Birthday Kiss for that little hollow right above your nose! oXXX And, some Hugs, too.
    With Love from Minnesota ~ Jo

  74. Happy happy birthday Nella ! What beautiful words! May God continue to bless you . You and your family radiate so much love its contagious. Love u baby girl , this world is yours !

  75. Love this post. I am crying with my little 2 month old napping on my chest. I love everything about this post. Happy birthday Nella!!

  76. You and your Poppa sure do know how to write. Thanks for sharing your story with the world. What an impact you and your family have made upon so many people:) Happy Birtjday to your precious, oh-so-adorable, baby girl!

  77. Ugh! So stinking beautiful!

  78. That was a beautiful post. I think anyone that is the mother of a child with D.S. nodded in agreement and cried a little. Thank you for always finding the right words!

  79. Oh goodness gracious! THIS is beautiful!! I love how you love Nella and how gracefully you write about it. “It’s just that it seems you’ve been here our whole lives, and five years makes the most beautiful eternity.” It does feel like our children have been here forever, at least to me.

    Karen H.

  80. This brought me to tears. Truly beautiful and exactly how I feel about my child. Happy Birthday Nella. I am so glad I found this blog <3

  81. This post is as good as Nella’s Birth Story. Five years ago you have changed my life, Kelle! Happy Birthday sweet angel Nella.

  82. Tears started here “a space you don’t even realize exists—one where you and only you were made to fit?” Ahhh…beautifully written

  83. Beautiful words. Happy birthday to Nella!

  84. This is simply beautiful.

  85. Happy Birthday to the most wonderful 5 year old in the state of Florida. Happy Birthday to your beautiful gift from Heaven.

  86. Happy belated birthday, Nella! And birth day to you, Kelle. I hear such beauty in your words, reflective of 5 years of an amazing life.

  87. Happy Birthday to your beautiful baby girl! She is perfect.

  88. Happy birthday, Nella! Beautiful name, beautiful girl, beautifully shared by your mother.

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