Falling in love can happen instantly, it might just take you a while to realise. Patrick O'Malley pens a love letter to his daughter.
This is how long I have loved you.
You were born a baby. Deep, I know. But it's important.
If I had known how much I would grow to love you, I would have tried to capture the moment of your birth eloquently. It was long, we were tired and you did not want to come out. I remember being so terrified, and I can remember the rubber like quality of the umbilical chord as medical-grade scissors bounced off the chord with my shaking hands.
If only I had known how much I would love you.
I went home and was in a whirlwind of emotion but the gravity of this life-changing event hadn't sunk in.
If only I had known then how much you would make my heart grow.
I slept, I woke up, visited and repeated this until you came home.
Then you were home and I didn't know what to do. Some parents instantly fall in love and others take some time for that flame to alight. Is that an awful thing to say? Or is it so expected that we feel an instant connection with our children, that society puts us in a position of feeling like an inadequate person?
If only I had known what would make my heart explode. Make tears well in my eyes, make my throat contract as I swallow this bulging lump.
I was afraid to have a girl, I didn't know what to do with girls. Was I going to be a good dad? My male role model hadn't been a positive addition in my life, can I be positive influence in hers? A million thoughts, feelings and emotions clouding my vision. Subtracting away from this miracle.
You were ever present.
Then the worrying started. Before 'Love'. Fear.
Are you eating right, are you well, are you sleeping right, why is your skin that colour, what's a snot sucker, how much pamol should we give you, when did you last have pamol, do you have a fever, are you teething, why are you vomiting, when will you stop vomiting, ouch that looks sore, how much cream, how much nappy free time, how much formula, how many poos is too many, wasn't she just sick?
Sleepless nights listening to you cough, gasp, sneeze, forever worrying that you would not wake up. A cry!! At last!! At least I know you are alive.
If only I had known that you would call me Daddy and tell me you love me.
I look back now and think of all the fond memories. The countless funny faces and tireless expressions. The continuous tongue poking you acquired. Your first smile. Your first giggle. When I changed you and you would kick me in my stomach and think it was the funniest thing in the world. Watching you kick with blatant disregard for personal and feline safety. Squealing with delight when you saw me.
When your face lights up.......
If only I had known that the most glorious moments of my life are when that light shines on me.
All of this happens so fast. One minute you are lying down, the next you are sitting up, then crawling, then walking, then.......words.
Soft, silly sounds formed together into magical, meaningful, memorable, single syllables.
If only I could comprehend the power that one syllable would have. How it would mould to me and in turn re-purpose me for something greater.
If only I had known that hearing my name called out when you ran towards me arms wide open, would cleanse my soul after a tense or stressful day.
I hear the bang, the house reverberates the sound of a double bass drum and the scream tears me from my sleep. A sense of dread washes over me. We run to your room and I see you lying on the floor face down and bright red through the screaming. I'm in shock, the single most terrifying experience of my limited parenting career. How was I to know this was only the beginning. "Don't just stand there. pick her up!" I rush to you. You vomit, the panic grows, you scream, the panic grows, you don't stop doing one of those two things, the panic grows.
One very tense car ride and 15 minutes later we are at the A&E. You go from screaming and projectiles to smiles and tactile play on the floor of the doctor's examination room. Are you fine now?
30 minutes later you are fine now, or at least this is what the doctor told us and doctors know everything. Why for the first time in my life am I doubting a doctor. 30 years experience of living equates to 30 years of being a medical practitioner, right?
Sigh of relief.
You were alright.
If only I had known that you would one day ask me "Are you alright Daddy?" with such concern I forget who is supposed to be worried for who.
Words. Gosh. Words.
I remember when all of the words you knew would fit on to a single piece of paper a quarter the size of an A4 and we would add them as you learnt them. What ever happened to that piece of paper?
Pride. I recall prior to a Plunket appointment writing down every word you knew and being so surprised that you knew that many. When Plunket told us you were developing excellently and they were impressed with you vocabulary, I beamed from ear to ear.
If only I had known you were melting through my outer shell and exposing my heart.
Hundreds of words, hundreds of sentences.
"Is that funny Daddy?".
"I'm not ever talking ever again".
"You say no and I say yes".
"Not like that Daddy".
"I love you Daddy".
"Will you play with me Daddy".
"Daddy!! I need help!!!".
"Whats that called Daddy?" Followed by "No! That's a clipsybrutle".
And "You're so silly Daddy!!!".
Gosh I love being silly.
If only I had known that you would keep me up with words, that I couldn't sleep until I wrote this. That I cried while writing this.
Where did my baby go?
Where did you find this power you have over me?
When did you make me so sentimental?
When did my heart belong on my sleeve?
When did our souls touch and cause mine to stir?
The scariest thing about this is you blink and it is gone, one moment moves on to the next.
Phases come and go, and once a phase passes you can never get it back.
Boy I wish I could freeze you in this phase. I wish I could clearly capture every phase. Soon these moments will be memories and a few pictures in an album.
When did I fall in love with you? From the moment I first met you. I just didn't know it yet.
This is how long I have loved you.
Patrick O'Malley is an amateur parent, and loving father to a hurricane of sunbeams trapped in a three-year-old girl's body and a six-month-old boy who wont stop infectiously grinning. He has always enjoyed writing and being a parent has brought him trials, tears, laughter, and inspiration.