“I can’t do this, I don’t want to have to do this!” She whimpered while she drew in breath. Her face contorted, her eyes fixed on mine full of determination and glistening with unshed tears. She was so strong, far stronger than me.
I could see pain etched across her face, but more than anything I felt her heartbreak. I had never felt more powerless than in this moment.
My purpose in life ever since we crossed paths has been her happiness. To ensure her happiness.
Yet here I was, on possibly the most life-changing moment of our lives, and as the cruel fates would have it, I had to deny her. I had to take away the thing she wanted the most to keep her safe. To make sure this is not the end for us.
“I know corazón, I know,” my broken voice barely a whisper. I didn’t have any words of comfort for her. “We just keep breathing. We hold on to each other, and we don’t forget to keep breathing.” That was it, the best I had to offer. Some husband.
She nodded. She knew what I meant. We don’t give up. One ragged breath at a time.
We had talked and agonized over this day ad nauseam for the last few months. We had looked at this from every angle.
The conversation might as well have been scripted. We knew it by heart. Despite all our efforts, our desperation, our pleads to the Goddess, this was the only way in which we all get to go on. Apart but alive. Apart but with a glimmer of hope.
“I know vida. I will keep breathing for you, for us, for him.” Just as the last word left her dry lips another contraction hit, and she quietly grunted managing her pain. She was so calm, she was totally in control. To be honest, it was a bit unsettling. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. I know that birth is not the horrific, loud, done-in-five-minutes farce portrayed on TV, but I’ve also witnessed birth before, and it was messy and beautiful, but never quiet.
“Are you alright, corazón? You are being so quiet, I don’t know where you are at. How can I help?” I asked sheepishly. She looked up a bit dazed, like I pulled her back from another dimension.
“This is all I have left! I can’t control anything else! I will be damned if I can’t at least bring our son into this world under my own fucking terms!” Her eyes flashed black for a second. My wife was not one to swear, her choice of words was very uncharacteristic. Then again, this day was nothing if not the exact opposite of what it should have been...
For the first time the tears that had been pooling in her brown eyes brimmed over marking paths full of sorrow as they made their way down her freckled cheeks.
I kissed her forehead, held her hand and rubbed her knuckles with my thumb.
“It won’t be long now,” she looked up at me with a faint smile and sighed. Right on cue, another wave of pain reached her and I could see she started to bear down. Little droplets of sweat were forming above her upper lip. I tried to talk to her, to ask if she needed anything, but she was in the zone. It was like she had built this safe little cocoon where only she and our son existed.
I was just happy to bear silent witness to the sheer force of nature this woman was. Even at her most vulnerable she knew exactly what to do.
She was focusing with all her might and now actively pushing. I tried to sneak a peek, but she yanked me right back. She had told me before to stay by her head, but I had to try. “I know you probably know what I look like down there much better than even I do, but this is a remodel I do not want you to see from up close when it’s happening, OK?” She had made me promise.
Her cheeks were flushed, she sat back up a little, and with a large intake of air I saw her pushing again. I could see her stomach changing shape as she pushed. It was rock hard, and you could see downward movement. She let go of the breath she was holding, and she was panting. From where I was sitting by the top of the bed I thought I could see something. A head! Our son’s head was out!
“Corazón! How are you doing this!?”
She looked up at me, and I’m quite certain her squint harbored annoyance, her eyes were saying: “Not helping! Now is the time to keep quiet!” I obliged with an idiotic grin and just squeezed her shoulders from my position behind her.
Another 30 seconds and she was pushing again. My love stretched out her arms and ever so calmly, as if she had done this a hundred times before, reached down just as our son entered the world.
She held him under his little armpits and pulled him to her chest. I knew she wanted to have him directly against her skin, so I pulled open the buttons of the gown she was wearing for her. She laid him on her chest, and he immediately looked up at her. He was also completely quiet and serene. Did they have a pact going that I wasn’t aware of?
I, for one, wanted to scream in elation, but something told me this would NOT be well-received by my little family. There they were just staring at each other. She held him tight against her chest with her left hand as her right hand slowly caressed his back, his shoulder, then his cheek.
“Hello my little man. I am so happy you are here,” she cooed, not a hint of sadness in her tone. This was her moment, and it would not be marred by the circumstances. She was owed this joy. “You are loved. You are wanted. Please, my prince, don’t ever doubt it.” She smiled down calmly at him and then looked up at the blubbering mess I had become.
She couldn’t help but laugh at me. “You OK there, Alpha? Don’t you want to meet your son?” She asked with a cheeky smile.
I looked from her to the little bundle she protectively held to her bosom. I raised a tentative hand to pet his little head which was covered in matted dark hair. I came down to lay my head by his, also leaning my head on his mother’s chest so I could look straight into his eyes.
This baby was something else, his eyes were wide open. He was taking it all in. “My son,” I said while I grabbed his little hand in mine, my voice thick with indescribable pride, “you will never know the joy you have brought me”. I edged forward and kissed his wrinkly little forehead and then his mother’s.
“How much longer do we have?” My wife’s tired voice broke the spell. She was his mother and now her job was to protect him, above all else.
“We took extra precautions by coming this far north, so that bought us a little time. I think we should set the plan in motion by nightfall. That gives us a few hours”. I had felt so smug when I came up with the idea of coming all the way up to this remote cottage on holy ground for the delivery. I had gained us ‘extra time’ but now that we were here, I came to the gut-wrenching realization that no amount of ‘extra time’ would ever be enough.
She nodded her assent and decided to use this time to nurse and snuggle our brand new pup. There was nothing more important. She was committing him to memory. She was breathing him in. Tracing his little body with her sweet, motherly touch.
I busied myself around them. Making sure we didn’t leave anything behind. Peeking through the window, I made sure that the crystals which we had dutifully placed to mark the perimeter around the cottage to further protect us were still in place. They would disappear once we were gone. No proof we were ever here.
Two hours had passed and dusk would soon be upon us. Mother and son were still on the bed, holding on to each other. Eyes closed, breathing even.
We couldn’t wait any longer. I would have to disrupt their peace. I hated myself in this moment. I felt as if I had failed them. “We will be together again,” I repeated my mantra to myself, and walked over to my warrior of a wife to rouse her from her slumber.
“Corazón? It’s time, love.”
“My heart is breaking,” she quietly sobbed her desperation. “I don’t think I can do this. How can I leave him behind? He needs me! I’m his mother! I’m the only home he’s ever known!” She tried to keep still not to wake the sleeping baby on her chest, but her whole body was heaving with grief.
I got right down to her eye level and gently but firmly grabbed her face with both my hands making her look straight into my eyes.
“Yes you can! You are so strong, I haven’t met anyone as strong as you. You are a luna, you take care of your family and as much as your whole body is rejecting the idea of leaving him right now, you know in your heart that this is the only way to keep him safe.” I have never felt less conviction in a speech, but I think I might have gotten away with it. The fervor came not from conviction but rather from my own despair.
I moved to take our son from her chest so she could get up and was met with a low growl. “I’m sorry,” she quickly said, lifting her hand to cover her mouth in embarrassment. “I guess a mama bear has nothing on a mama wolf?” She defended with a shy grin.
For the first time since his birth a couple of hours ago, I got the chance to properly hold him in my arms. He was so perfect. And tiny. I couldn’t comprehend how this minuscule little stranger had wormed his way so deep into my heart already.
To be honest I couldn’t tell if he looked like either one of us. He already had his own powerful presence. An alpha in his own right. A right that, damn it all, put so much weight on his shoulders. It would be up to him.
I lowered my head in sadness but pushed through. We had things to do. We keep breathing. One task at a time.
First task at hand: dress my son. Right. I can do this. My wife had already put on a diaper an hour or so ago and, it would appear it was still dry. Phew. OK. First obstacle cleared. Next: his fuzzy onesie. I got this. Arms and legs in.
What’s with all the buttons? Why are the buttons so small? What would have been wrong with a zipper? I wondered. Surely, she had a reason.
I looked up and found her gazing lovingly at us. She had quickly freshened up and changed. Being a werewolf meant that she should already be healing from the birth. Small mercies. I’ll take what we can get.
She was quite amused by my predicament. “You are so cute!” She said, a smile on her lips as she walked over.
“I am not cute! I’m pretty sure alphas shouldn’t be cute. Ever.”
“Well tough break alpha boy, you are very cute to me. I’ll finish dressing him. I miss him already”.
She reached up to kiss my cheek and bumped me sideways with her hip so she could stand before our cub and finish what I had very unsuccessfully started. I walked away sneaking a glance at my mate. Seeing her body become rounder with my pup over the last few months was the privilege of a lifetime. I didn’t think I could find her more beautiful or want her more, and then her body began to morph into that of a mother’s and proved me wrong.
The minutes kept ticking away mercilessly and much to our utter dismay, it was time to execute our carefully laid out plan. We would leave this place, the only place that would ever know us as a family of three, and discretely make our way back to the human town where our son would grow up. Without us. Without knowing anything about his true family or heritage. The price we had to pay to keep him safe. To protect our pack.
We travelled light, with only what we could carry in our wolf forms. My beloved mate placed our newborn son in his little carrier. He was fast asleep and tightly secured. His mother would carry him like a little dangling package in her snout. No safer place than with her.
I shifted first. My wife came over and tied our cloth duffel bag securely to my back after placing the clothes I had just removed in it. She reached up and slowly ran her hand from behind my ear to my rump making my wolf purr and shiver. She was comforting us.
She gave me a curt nod, it was time to go. She took off her own clothes, quickly stuffed them in the bag and shifted to her beautiful chocolate brown wolf.
She slowly walked over to where her pup lay sleeping. She hadn’t seen him yet. With the utmost care, she sniffed him and nuzzled him. One lone tear streaked her fur. Her sorrow was palpable in the air, but she knew what had to be done.
She grabbed the little bundle with her teeth, much like a stork would to bring a baby home to its parents. The irony was not lost on us.
My mighty luna looked over to where my midnight black wolf was standing and set off before she could change her mind.
Armed only with the hope that all our careful vetting and research these last few months would protect him and ensure that he would grow up in a loving family, we darted forward like shadows into the night.
We knew the family we picked would love any baby they were given like their own. We had observed them, quite frankly spied them, most carefully. They were kind, caring and respectful of animals and nature. Embracing the cliché, we would leave him behind with only a cryptic note, a memento of ours and a request that his name not be changed and that the true nature of how he came to them be concealed until he himself came to ask.
We were on a tight deadline. Our cub needed to be far enough away for him to escape our lot, but we had to be back in time to join our pack when the curse befell us all.
Our fate was sealed. Our first and only act as his parents would be to leave him behind.