This story is by Indie Willison and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
She wasn’t made for this Earth, she was made from it. Willow felt her soul smiling as she heard the vows written for her from the nervous lips of her soon-to-be husband. Bruce’s words flowed effortlessly. He never took his eyes off her. From the first time they met, everything Bruce said resonated; the tenor of his voice, how he looked at her from the fish taco truck. They were drawn to each other like rare Earth magnets and once they stuck, they never let go.
After meeting at the beach, they were inseparable. One evening shortly afterwards, Willow made an exceptionally delicious dinner of homemade butter chick-peas with spices she grew in her community garden. Full and content, they laid in her hammock under the stars. It was one of those life-changing nights that were still and calm and full of talk. Talk of hopes and mistakes, dreams and regret. They were on the precipice and decided right then to walk into tomorrow and everyday together.
While so much of their life was simple and easygoing, their efforts to make a baby had been fruitless. It was in the hammock that Bruce divulged that being a father was his deepest desire. Willow was ecstatic. So much of her external efforts went to cultivating community through nature, but she wanted to grow something entirely hers and Bruce’s. After two years of trying without even a hint of a positive test, Bruce plead his case to Willow to consider IVF.
Willow was apprehensive at best. The clinic was sterile and cold. The idea of making her baby here left a bad aftertaste in her soul. Bruce had always done so much for her. Since day one, he put her at the center of everything he did – he even put their tiny house on wheels so they could rotate it around the vegetation on their land. Being open-minded was the least she could do for him.
In an attempt to set Willow at ease, Bruce said the ends justify the means. They both wanted a baby so badly. It was their purpose together. Her essence was consumed with mothering; her plants, her community, even her relationship with Bruce to a degree. How could it be that she was sitting in this waiting room?
On IVF round three, those two blue lines lit up. Willow closed her eyes and pushed the fertility clinic out of her mind. It didn’t matter anymore. At long last, they were going to have a baby.
After the mountain they had traversed to get pregnant, Willow hoped her karmic efforts would result in a blissful pregnancy. Then morning sickness started; then the sleep deprivation, swollen feet, swollen hands, swollen everything. While she never considered herself vain, the stretch marks wounded her. The ends justify the means. What did a few marks matter when this would all lead her to motherhood? It was the excruciating Puppp rash that brought her to tears and flashes of anger as she itched herself to insomnia.
As she began to prepare for her babe’s arrival, she had found the perfect clearing by the stream; lined with cedars and dotted with violets. Her due date came and went and at 13 days overdue, she had to be induced. Unbelievable she thought! Birthing was supposed to be about the baby’s timing and readiness, not the doctor’s. Her resentment grew.
When she went in for her appointment, the baby was footling breech. A natural birth was ‘off the table’. Willow seethed as panic filled her chest. She wanted her baby’s first introduction to this world to be the warmth of the Sun, the chirp of the birds, the smell of the forest. How was she supposed to connect with this baby made in a clinic, and birthed in a cold, sterile room with gloves and masks? The ends justify the means she told herself through gritted teeth. She cried for herself, numb from the waist down; exposed and vulnerable as they sliced her open.
As abruptly as it started, everything changed. Feeling Violet on her chest for the first time made her feel more whole than she thought possible. Willow pushed back everything she had done to get to this point to the farthest reaches of her mind. None of it mattered now. She had her baby. As Violet’s tiny heart fluttered, Willow tried to make their heartbeats match rhythm; they couldn’t quite align, but she was certain they’d get there.
After two long sunless days in the hospital, they were free. Willow winced as Bruce drove along the bumpy dirt road. Walking up the stairs to Violet’s nursery would have to wait a day or two, so she resigned herself to sleep on their makeshift couch. Bruce took Violet to her nursery to cuddle and show her around her new home. Emotions and exhaustion flooded Willow. She couldn’t help but feel left out. After a difficult attempt to latch and feed, the Sun set and Bruce took Violet back upstairs. The separation and darkness gave Willow permission to feel the anger, frustration and resentment that she tucked away at day break.
Nothing could fully account for all that had happened since they brought Violet home. There were the beautiful moments – the soft coos, gurgles, smiles, and the look of concentration as she studied her parents’ faces. Willow had documented it in photos and her journal to remind her of the good. Then the rest of the time; the colic, the sleeplessness, the loneliness when Bruce was at work, the frustration, the guessing game, the puke, the laundry. Everyone felt restless and divided, unsure of how they managed to get through each day.
Willow routinely collapsed on her bed. The loft oasis became claustrophobic. She was suffocated by the low ceiling and perpetual proximity to Violet. I need time to myself she would think, then immediately regret it. All the work it took to make Violet, and now she’s here! She should be soaking in the time with her babe instead of dreaming of being apart.
The days were long, uncertain, and unforgiving. The weeks were a blur. Violet’s four month ‘photo shoot’ outfit was laid out downstairs, but Willow couldn’t bring herself to get herself dressed let alone Violet. She didn’t recognize herself. The dreadlocks and sunken eyes. Her spark was gone. Her mind was gloomy and lethargic. She was withdrawn from everything and her lust for life was no where in sight.
Willow closed her eyes. Inhale patience. Exhale love. Last night had been the worst one yet. It was midnight and nothing would coax Violet to sleep. Willow did everything – she changed cloth diapers, warm bath with soft lighting, fed Violet, walked her, fed her more. The the frustration was all consuming. Angry about this life that was so far out of control. Willow’s skin crawled with anxiety and the manic demanded release. Willow screamed into her bed; yelled at Bruce, Violet, anything that would hear of her struggles.
Eventually she traded off with Bruce. He laid Violet on his chest, skin to skin. He hummed and whispered poetry Willow had never heard before while Violet cried. He persisted and it paid off. Violet was finally asleep. Holding their breath, they moved her to her crib.
Willow was relieved but annoyed. This was supposed to be her wheelhouse. She created this person. She should know what to do! Nothing, nothing about motherhood was what she imagined. It was thankless. She had sacrificed her morals, her body, her energy, her essence, her future, and for what?
Willow’s mind was working against her. She couldn’t see past the rage and confusion. Looking out the kitchen window, she felt a breeze across her chest. Who was she before she started down this path? She tried to remember why she started this journey in the first place: to nurture, to add another member to the team she loved so much.
Willow was resolved. She would wake up rededicated to motherhood. She imagined Violet snuggling into her chest. They would breathe in a new day together. A fresh chapter of their story.
Willow woke with the Sun. Soaking in the luxury of a quiet house at daybreak, she sipped a cup of tea to soothe her throat, hungover from rage. Bruce joined her in silence. A kiss on the shoulder brought them back to the same, renewed page. She felt more like herself than she had in a year. Giddy to make amends with her daughter, Willow tiptoed up the narrow staircase to the nursery.
Something felt off as Willow tiptoed across the room. She peered into the crib. Her stomach dropped and then turned. Reaching through the crib rails, she felt Violet’s icy, blue hands. She meant to scream for Bruce, but bile rose up in her throat, silencing her. Dread coursed through her veins. Willow was consumed as she remembered the last words she said to her baby; “why did we bother?”