Open 2022 Vasant Stories - Brianna Schramm


My daughter
By Brianna Schramm

I feel a tap on my shoulder, ‘It’s time to go’ she says as she scrambles through the kitchen making her way to the car. My wife Colleen is pregnant with our first child and her water just broke. She’s ushering me to the car to avoid a home birth. I don’t blame her, if I was about to give birth to a small human, I would want to do it in the hospital under the care of doctors and nurses who could give me something to numb the inevitable pain.

My wife and I have been dreaming of this day for months- since we found out she was pregnant. We’d been trying to conceive for what felt like years. Month after month, Colleen would track her ovulation. We would wait and wait for her peak ovulation window. I never learned this in health class, but she told me there was only a narrow amount of time to get pregnant once she was in her window.

‘Time to baby dance!’ she would shout from the bathroom when she reached her peak. Baby dance was Colleen’s word for intercourse. Two weeks later, we would test once a day, twice a day, and even three times a day. We were beginning to think the tests were defective. We both started to take the negatives hard after two years of trying. What were we doing wrong? Maybe we were’t meant to be parents.

The stress of tracking and testing was overwhelming us and putting a strain on our otherwise strong marriage. I still remember our first month of trying. We sat on the bathroom floor, Colleen between my legs, staring at the blinking timer on a pregnancy test cupped in her hands. ‘How exciting would it be if we were pregnant?! A summer baby! Playing in the pool and going on walks in the park.

‘Oh, come on. Tell us already!’ Colleen went on as the three minutes the test claimed to take seemed to be taking an eternity. Seconds later the blinking hourglass turned into the words not pregnant. Her head fell back onto my chest as her hands, which were just holding the test, now begin to cover her face as tears roll down her face. ‘Don’t cry, sweetheart.’

I tried to comfort her as I felt my own eyes welling up, ‘in two weeks, we’ll try again.’

Those weeks turned into months of ‘trying again’. Colleen made an appointment with her doctor to discuss her concerns. She was afraid her years of promiscuity led to permanent infertility. The doctor reassured her there was nothing wrong. She’s always had normal pap smears and she was young and healthy. He advised her to stop tracking and stressing and just have fun. ‘It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen’ and he was right. Two cycles after that doctor’s appointment, we got our big fat positive.

I had come home from work to Colleen calling me from the upstairs bathroom, ‘Parker.

could you come here, please?’ there was a shake in her voice but she didn't’t sound afraid. I dropped my things and rushed up the stairs. I walked into the bathroom and Colleen was holding out her cupped hands to me. Within the grasp of her dainty little hands was a familiar sight. I fixated my eyes to the tiny window on the stick and see two pink lines.


‘It’s a dye stealer!’ Colleen exclaimed- this meant the test line was darker than the control line. ‘We’re fucking pregnant!’ she exclaimed as she leapt into my arms. ‘Oh my god,’ I said while squeezing her, ‘I can’t believe it! We’re pregnant, baby!’

I met Colleen in the late summer of 2009. It was September. The moment my eyes met hers, I knew I was going to build my life around her. Colleen is tall- 5’8. Slim build. Her long brunette hair encases her perfectly sculpted face and pale skin. She’s kind and intelligent. If we are lucky enough to have a daughter, I hope she resembles Colleen.

Next came the joy of telling our friends and family of the newest addition coming to our family. Colleen is her father’s first daughter, his first baby girl. He looks at her like he put the stars in the sky just for her. When we told him of the pregnancy, he wept such tears of joy. His little girl is having a baby. I’m an only child and telling my parents resulted in bursts of screams, laughter and excitement- their first grandchild.

Twenty weeks in, we were able to learn the gender of our child and our families put together a gender reveal party. I wore pink in hopes of a girl, Colleen, the opposite. Gender didn’t matter to us at the end of the day, only that the baby would be healthy. Colleen’s father brought over a large black balloon. Inside, the balloon was filled with a colored confetti to correspond with the baby’s gender.


‘Five, four, three,’ everyone counted down, ‘two, one!’ Colleen and I raised a needle toward the balloon and popped it open. A cloud of confetti sprinkled over us as everyone around started screaming and cheering. ‘IT’S A GIRL!’

The months following were spent getting the nursery assembled. Everything was pink and princess themed. Many nights Colleen and I would sit in the nursery and talk about all the things we were nervous and excited about.

‘Do you think we’re going to be good parents?’ she asked as her hand played in mine.

‘Of course we are, babe. Who is going to change all the diapers?’ I countered.

‘We both are, silly!’ she exclaimed, pushing me back onto the floor of the nursery. Colleen stood up and walked toward the closet. ‘What outfit is she going to wear home from the hospital?’ she asked as she rustled through the hangers.

‘Col, you still have to tell me which tie to wear with my dress shirts, I don’t think I’ll be making any of the fashion choices’ I joked.

‘Aha! This one!’ It was a small onesie with sunflowers covering the front. Colleen had the matching shirt and sweatpants. ‘That way we can match’, she said as happy as a clam. This is one of the moments I dreamed of when I married her- I couldn’t wait to watch Colleen be a mother

Our daughter’s due date was fast approaching but the doctor told us after thirty-seven weeks, we could expect her at any time. There was one thing left to do- figure out a name for our little girl. We spent weeks going through baby name books and google searches before we found the one.

‘What do you think of Deandra? We could call her Dee for short!’

‘Eh,’ I muttered, ‘not a fan. How about Evelyn?’

‘I like it, but I’m not obsessed. Hmmm. What about-’ ‘Elda’ we both said as our eyes turned to meet each other. We were always finishing each-others’ thoughts.

‘Ha ha ha, jinx!’ She laughed, ‘You only said that because I’ve told you since we met if we ever had a daughter, I’d name her Elda.’

‘It’s a great name!’ I smiled.

Elda. Elda Elayne. After we agreed on it, there was nothing else to do but wait. Every day we got closer and closer. ‘We’re ready for ya, Elda Elayne’, Colleen and I would say as we rubbed her belly every night before drifting off to sleep.

Our patience paid off on October 27th just after we had our lunch- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Colleen blamed the baby for the less than nutritious craving, but I didn’t mind- It was her favorite. I remember rushing out of the house with the hospital bag we prepared months ago in hand. It was here, it was time.

We were finally on our way to the hospital to meet our daughter. I was both trying to drive safely but as quickly as possible to get there. Colleen’s contractions were getting closer and closer together. Despite the pain she was in, she was smiling the entire way into the hospital. I don’t know who was more excited.
When we got to the labor and delivery room, the nurses examined her and determined

she was already 6 centimeters dilated. In other words- too late for an epidural. She was progressing quickly. ‘You’ll be delivering this baby in no time’ the doctor said as he stepped out of the room to prepare to deliver our baby. If Colleen was scared or in pain, she didn’t show it. She always had a high pain tolerance.
‘Ahh, I’m getting excited!’ Colleen said as she was squeezing my hand.

‘Me too, honey. You’re doing great, keep focusing on your breathing.’

‘Right. I love you.’ She said as she calmy exhaled.

‘I love you, Colleen.’ I responded while running my hands through her hair.

A nurse came in after some time to examine Colleen again, ‘it’s time!’ the nurse said, ‘let’s get ready to push’ she finished. The doctor came into the room. I was nervous as all hell but I wanted to put on a strong and supportive face for my wife who was about to give birth to our daughter. ‘Alright, Colleen, we’re going to make this quick and easy. You ready?’ the doctor asked, ‘Yep!’ Colleen exclaimed.

Just as Colleen started pushing, I could see in it in the doctors’ face, something was wrong. ‘Give me another good push, Colleen, you’re doing great’ he said but his whispers to the nurses said otherwise. After another push, he rolled back in his chair. ‘Alright, here’s what’s going to happen. Your baby is breached so we’re going to have to perform an emergency csection.’ Colleen quickly gave her consent and the doctor and nurses quickly got to work. I took a seat next to Colleen’s bed and grabbed her hand.

‘It’s going to be okay, honey’, I said to her.

‘I know babe, I trust them. Gosh, I won’t let her live this one down when she’s older!’ she laughed.

The staff put up a blue curtain and began to cut into Colleens lower abdomen to deliver the baby. Colleen controlled her breathing as the staff quickly got to work. She’s squeezing my left hand and my right hand gently rubs her forehead. She looks up at me with her big beautiful eyes and even shares a smile. Despite the chaos, she is beautiful and peaceful.

‘Happy birthday, miss Elda!’ the doctor exclaimed just as Elda was making her appearance into the world. Seconds later, a cry came from behind the curtain.
‘Time of birth, 8:45pm’ he finishes.

‘Come say hello to your baby girl, dad’ a nurse said as she motioned me over toward the small bed at the back of the room. She was even more beautiful than I could’ve imagined. Dark hair just like my wife. Colleen is going to be ecstatic.

‘Time of death, 8:47 pm’ the doctor followed, as he gently closed the eyes of my wife.

I felt the blood leave my face and time stop. I turn my head to stare at my wife’s lifeless body. The infatuation with my daughter rushed my emotions and overshadowed my senses so much that I didn’t hear the alarms going off as a warning sign of my wife’s deteriorating vitals.

‘She’s gone.’ I think to myself, ‘How could this be? We were just joking about-’ I can’t finish that thought.

I turn my head back to look at my daughter. This beautiful, tiny human that my wife and I prayed for, planned for, spent nine awaiting the arrival of, has just caused the death of my best friend, the love of my life, her mother, my wife… I was robbed of the joy of a newborn in that moment and was pummeled by immediate grief and resentment. I looked up to see the nurses pulling a white sheet over my wife’s face.

‘Wait you can’t.. I didn’t get to..’ I stutter while lunging toward my wife’s side, lip quivering.

‘I’m sorry, Mr. Shaffer, we have to ask you to leave while we close your wife’s incision.’

The nurse said while another is following behind with our newborn swaddled in a pink blanket. We were taken to a room where person after person came in, first apologizing for my loss, followed by a hesitant congratulations and finally an explanation on what was going to happen from there. I couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying. It was like a flashbang had gone off in the room. I heard sounds, but the ringing in my ears prohibited me from hearing their words. The pain of my aching heart felt as if it was about to burst through my rib cage like a cannon.

The hospital staff wheeled Colleen’s body down the hall toward the morgue as I pushed the stroller toward the exit. I dreaded every second more than the last. The stroller came to a stop beside the passenger side of our car. The same car Colleen was just smiling in hours ago. I snap out of it and gently load Elda into her car seat.

As I’m fastening the buckle, I notice it. The sunflower onesie. I gently shut the door, and the overwhelming wave of emotion brings me to my knees right there next to the car. Even then, the worst is yet to come. I was about to face a home that we prepared for the arrival of our daughter, alone, and grieving.

The entire ride home, I occasionally look into the rear-view mirror and see Elda peacefully asleep in her seat. One second I’m admiring her innocence and beauty, the next I’m staring into an empty passenger seat at red lights. We make it home safely and I place Elda in her crib before getting cozy in the recliner seated next to it and falling asleep to the sounds of her cooing.

Trying to balance how to feed a newborn while trying to make funeral arrangements proved more difficult than one would imagine. My wife planned to breast-feed, I wasn’t prepared to learn how to mix formula. How am I going to fucking do this without her? There was no time to question.

Colleen’s funeral was one week to the day after she died and one week to the day after our daughter was born. I disassociated at the viewing until everyone was asked to leave the room. The funeral director invited me over to her casket for a final look.

‘Could you give us a minute?’ I managed to ask through the tears.

‘Take as long as you need, I’ll be in the hallway’ he responded kindly as he walked out.

I stood over Colleen as my trembling hands grabbed hers. She was still just as beautiful.

‘I love you, Colleen.’ My voice began to crack. ‘I’ll make sure to tell Elda all about you. I’ll- I’ll take really good care of her too. Damnit, she looks just like you, Colleen.’ There was no holding back the tears. ‘There’s so much I wanna say, honey but just know you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I would have given anything to take your place and I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. Thank you for carrying our daughter and as much as I would trade to have you, thank you for leaving me a piece of you.’

I leaned over and put my head on hers. The pain was almost unbearable. This was never supposed to happen. This only happens in movies and books, not in real life, and not to us. I never thought I’d have to bury my wife and I never thought I’d be raising our newborn alone. I leaned back up and wiped the tears and snot from my face before kissing her on the forehead.

‘And don’t you worry, I won’t let her dye her hair red.’ I laughed before grasping her hands tightly one last time.

‘I love you, Colleen Elayne Shaffer.’

The viewing was followed by a private grave side service. My parents took Elda and they told me I could come stay with them later. There was no avoiding that, I was going to need all the help I could get.

I watched as the cemetery staff lowered my wife’s body into the grave. This is not how I pictured our first week as parents going. ‘I.. I love you, Colleen’ I managed to mutter out through the tears, dropping a single red rose on top of her casket. I stayed beside the grave as they dumped pound after pound of dirt on top of her.

I never expected this day to come, after all, we always joked that I would die first when we were old. Fuck, I’m really going to miss you Colleen. I feel a tap on my shoulder, ‘it’s time to go,’ the funeral director says as he ushers me away from her grave back to the hearse. Chills run down my spine.

I never wanted to write this story- I never wanted to live in a world where Colleen ceased to exist. Rather the narrator would suit me just fine, so I wouldn’t have to sit in a room across from a stranger and express how the birth of my daughter caused the death of my wife and why I wasn’t coping well with it. This journal and I will be getting to know each other, but before my daughter begins to read, I’ll set the pages to a blaze.


The love I once gave to Colleen will become the unconditional love I give to Elda. Afterall, she’s a spitting image of her mother and who better to teach her about her mother than the man who loved her most.


Brianna Schramm from U.S. writers short stories and other works.


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