A year ago today you surprised us all by arriving a little earlier than planned.
I was stood beside your mummy as you came into our world. I saw your first breath, your first movements, your first blink, and I was totally unable to comprehend the wonder of you.
I slowly began to take you in. Your tiny little fingers and toes, your little button nose and your big wide eyes. You didn't cry when you were born, you just looked at everything and soaked it all up.
I took your first photo before I watched as they whisked you away to the Special Care Baby Unit to give you the attention you needed due to your prematurity.
I showed your mummy your picture while she was attended to by the delivery team, then she sent me up to SCBU to be with you so you weren't alone.
I watched you sleep peacefully in your incubator before you realised I was there and awoke with a smile. I listened intently at your first little noises and gurgles. They were so quiet, but loud enough to let me know you were there and you were doing ok.
After a few hours your mum was allowed to come up and see you, and finally we were allowed to hold you for the first time four hours after you were born. The longest four hours of our lives.
You were just a tiny little head resting against my chest in a knitted hat under a massive blanket.
I held you close and my world changed forever in that instant. I didn't yet know you, but I felt nothing but overwhelming love and protection for you.
It was 40 days later, on the 13th March, that we finally got to bring you home from the hospital. You rewarded us by not sleeping for the next three weeks unless you were on me or mummy's chest, so I spent a lot of time on the sofa with you in the middle of the night and we took it on turns to keep you company. It helped us quickly bond with you.
You wiggled, you kicked, you smiled, you rolled over, you sat up, you pulled yourself across the floor like a marine, you pulled yourself up at the sofa to stand.
You giggled, you belly laughed, you found your voice, you said dada for the first time.
In no time at all you could communicate and we got to know your personality and little quirks.
Your hair finally started to come in, your eyes became wider and bluer than I thought possible, your gummy mouth that had nibbled on my fingers started to fill with teeth, you grew longer and stronger.
Obviously none of it was that simple, it felt like it happened in the blink of an eye but it all took time, patience, effort and reward. Sometimes the progress was much slower than you or us wanted it to be. We could see how frustrated you became when you wanted so much to do something but couldn't.
We supported and encouraged you every baby step of the way, and applauded you when you finally overcame a hurdle and in time you learned to clap with us when you achieved something.
There were tears from all of us. Every time you cried it felt like forever. There are a limited number of sounds in this world that can cut deeper than that of your own child in distress. It wasn't all bad though, sometimes those tears are important. They were part of your learning, part of your development. There were times where all I could do was hold you in close and tight and comfort you, waiting for the big sobs to pass and stop shaking your whole body.
We've had so much fun together! We've played peek-a-boo, stack the cups and knock them down, chase and tickle, take all the balls out of the ball pit and put them back again, we've discovered new cartoons together like The Lion Guard and Sofia The First and I've introduced you to some old ones like Tom & Jerry, we've read stories together until you have fallen asleep in my arms, we've gone on holidays and mini breaks with mummy, gran and papa, we've had all of our Dadurday trips to the shops and the farm. We've laughed together at absolutely nothing. I've loved every minute of it.
I blinked again.
You turned one.
Happy birthday my darling daughter.
You've done nothing but enrich our lives and bring happiness to us since the second you were born and every day I cannot wait to see what tomorrow will bring.
Mummy and I are both so proud of you and the perfect little lady you are becoming.
Don't grow up so fast!
I'm a new dad to Mara, sharing his views on being a modern dad. Also a UK Blog Awards nominee for 2017. There's no filter with me, I kinda just tell it how it is. Please click HERE to head to our Facebook page and give us a like, or HERE to head to our Instagram. (don't forget to follow us there and turn on your post notifications so you never miss a photo) and here on Google+!!) Also, new to Twitter now as well - @TOAFTD x