Six years ago today, my daughter was born in Kraków, Poland to a tired American father and an even more worn out Polish mother. By standards, it was not a lengthy labour, but, that being said, this little spark of life needed a bit of a prod to make her let loose the safety of her mother’s womb and breathe the warm air of a room full of strangers talking emphatically about their recent holidays whilst the more familiar voices of her parents where caught up in muffled screams or, speaking more personally, the idiotic “wow, cool” of her father as he glanced on in amazement with camera in one hand and his wife’s hand in the other. Within the space of what seemed like a second, I severed the cord that had connected her for so long to her mother, listened on as the cries escaped her lips as this new experience of lungs no longer filled with liquid opened up and watched on as this gore-coated being was placed on her mothers chest next to her rapidly beating heart. Understandable, but still strange in my mind, was the fact that this moment of shock and amazement was over in a flash as the doctors lead my daughter and I away to clean the child of blood and mucous and run through all the usual tests a newborn must face whilst my wife lay back after all her exertion and had the remains of childbirth drawn from her and was given a moment to let her body heal after all the strain and pain. I, on the other hand, was graced with a moment that stays with me every day of my life … after my child was weighed, measured and given the thumbs up from the health department, I was allowed a moment alone with this little girl who was only now shedding her chameleon purple shade of birth to the soft pink that would be needed to fit into this new world. She was wrapped up tightly to imitate the confines and warmth that she was so used to, and she cried with the new sounds now escaping with each breath. Shortly after the nurses left the room to give me this time of bonding, the screams lessened until they ceased altogether as I held her as close as I dared for fear of breaking her. I spoke, I hummed, I gleamed … and my eyes filled with tears. It seemed to me that after all the turmoil and crowds that ushered her into the world, this moment of peace, with a familiar voice she must have recognised through the muffled wall of her mother’s belly, was a welcome respite. I was never quite sure of having a child, but I knew how much it meant for my wife, and I knew there was no one else in the world I would have wanted to discover this territory with, so I put my fears aside and even came to look forward to the day the daughter I had hoped for and received would come into my life … look forward to the days when I would be called “daddy” and the days I would be there for her first steps to her first day at school to her wedding and to her children that may come one day. And as I held her there, I made a promise that I would always be there, that I would always protect her and that I would always, without question, love her with a part of me that I never knew I had in me.

Six years have now passed since then, and in that time, I have stumbled, fallen and risen to my feet on multiple times. I have struggled with this new responsibility at times, and I have lost sight of many things I should have never taken my eye off. I can see that now after being smacked back into reality, but things have changed … some for good, and some for bad. I can be stupid and a complete idiot at times as well as selfless and brilliant for brief moments; I was too careless to hold my marriage together, but after too long of bottling anger and blaming others, I have let go, learned that I have to take a lot of the blame for what went wrong and consider myself lucky that the mother of my child and I can finally speak civilly to each other and continue to raise our daughter, though maybe not together, at least in agreement and with two homes full of love and care; me and money are never constant companions, but I am still inventive and fearless and always find a way to survive and care for those I am responsible for; some days I find myself on top of the world, whilst other days I sink into self-destruction and drink or smoke myself into oblivion; I am proud of many things I have done, but I also hate myself for not being more … not being what I know I could be.

But throughout these conflicts of emotions in this roller-coaster of a life, I try to be there for my daughter as much as a father separated from his family can be, I do all I can to protect her and teach her the best I can so that she sees the world in a humorous, though cautious, light … and I will always love her no matter what she has done or no matter how upset or frustrated I become with something she, as a child learning the ropes, does, whether intentional or not. She is my girl; she is the greatest of gifts the world and, more importantly, her mother has ever bestowed upon me. She grounds me and keeps me responsible, but at the same time she keeps me silly and imagining the impossible. She is my daughter … I am her father … and that is something that I will give my life (and keep my life) to preserve. She is a light I could never imagine myself being without.

Today may be her birthday, but I seem to be the one happiest with this present that I receive and which grows and becomes something more year after year.