To my darling daughter,
A year ago today you entered our world.
I was there, by your mother’s side when you arrived. I saw your first moments, and I was completely unable to comprehend the wonder before me.
I slowly began to take you in. Your incredible head of hair, your tiny fingers and toes, your cute little smooshed nose and chubby cheeks.
I watched as you were placed on mum’s chest. I listened for your first little noises. They were timid little cries, just enough to let us know that you were with us.
You didn’t want to look at your new world just yet. Occasionally a slit would open and the tiniest hint of an eye would appear.
I held you in my arms for the first time. You were just a tiny head with a knitted beanie, sticking out the top of a bundle of blankets. I held you and my world changed forever. I didn’t yet know you, but I felt immense love for you.
We had just brought you home from the hospital after six days. You didn’t want to breastfeed, so mum and I set up a production line. While mum pumped, I warmed up the previous bottle and fed it to you. This process helped me to quickly bond with you. While it was difficult to do round the clock, there was a lot of enjoyment that went with it. I spent many hours sitting with you in my arms, watching you drink. Mum also gave you practice on the breast and a specialist helped with some exercises. At last you latched and my input in your feeding was no longer required.
I was back at work. Had four weeks really passed by already? Now I had to juggle my old life with my new. I had to make decisions and compromises. I had to re-evaluate what was truly important in life, because I couldn’t keep working the hours I used to, and still be the best father for you. I thought, and I made my choice. I passed up a prime opportunity for promotion – one for which I had spent years positioning myself. But I had no regrets about that. None whatsoever. I had made my choice and established my priorities. My choice was you, and it was good.
You giggled. You gurgled. You made noises. You said ‘dad‘.
All of a sudden, you could communicate.
Your gummy mouth filled with teeth. Your limbs grew longer, stronger. You had a haircut, then another and another and another. Your eyes opened wider. They became sharp and focussed.
Of course, none of it was quite that simple. It didn’t really happen in the blink of an eye. It took time and patience, effort and reward. At times it felt like progress was slower than you wanted it to be. We could see your frustration, when you wanted to be able to do something but couldn’t. We encouraged you, we supported you and we applauded you when you finally achieved your goals.
There were tears. Every time you cried it felt like an eternity. There are few sounds in this world that cut deeper than your own child in distress. However, some of the tears were important. They were part of your development, part of your learning. Sometimes I could do nothing but hold you close and wait for the big sobs to stop shaking your entire body.
We have had plenty of fun times. We’ve played together for hours at a time. We’ve chased each other around the house. We’ve played epic games of peek-a-boo. We’ve made an all-star block-tower building machine – you dig them out of the toy box and pass them to me and I put them together. We’ve read countless books, and read some books countless times. We’ve gone on holidays in the car and holidays in planes. We have laughed a lot at the silliest things, and I’ve loved every second.
You turned one.
Happy birthday, my darling daughter.