I have become a visual stalker. A watcher. The mothers, the babies, the pregnant bellies. My eyes dart to them automatically no matter where they are - and I follow them with my gaze until I can no longer do so without looking like a psychopath. I'm like a beggar pressing her nose against the window of a fancy restaurant. I know it's a little creepy, but I can't help it. Sometimes, it makes me cry. Other times, it makes me smile. I never know which it's going to be until it happens though. On the times it upsets me, Mike always asks me why I do that to myself. Why look when I know it will most likely cause me pain? I have no answer other than I have to. Maybe it's because I am grasping at straws, trying to find some way to bring that part of my life back to me. To claim what should be mine. Or, maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. I don't know. I wish I did, but then I don't really know anything anymore.
The other day, I was waiting for my friend in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble. A woman with a stroller walked up to a car down the row from me. I watched her from across the parking lot as she took her baby out of her stroller, changed his diaper in the trunk of her SUV, and then put him back in his seat before resuming her shopping trip. From the way she cradled his head, I could tell he was maybe two months old. As I am watching her do the most mundane tasks of having a baby - probably one of the tasks she barely even thinks about while she's doing it - I am imagining what it would have been like to change Kenley's diaper. To pick her up ever so carefully from her stroller and lay her down on the backseat. To still her squirming legs so I can maneuver the diaper around her. To make faces at her. To boop her nose. To do all those things I can't do - and will never do - for her. And then, of course, I start to cry. Misty eyed and lips trembling. At that moment, I see my friend walking towards the car, a hazelnut macchiato in each hand. (one of the many reasons we are friends) I wipe my eyes and reorganize myself. When she gets in the car, I tell her about my moment, and like a good friend, she doesn't judge me. I am so grateful I have such supportive and non-judgmental friends. Grief certainly makes you do things you never thought you'd do.
I can't hold my baby in my arms, so I watch other mothers do it. I watch them tie them in slings and fasten them in strollers. I watch them stir the baby food jar and rearrange the blankets in the car seat. I watch with a sharp sadness for what I do not have now and with an ever so soft jitter of excitement for what I will have again. I can't help but feel slightly guilty over that excitement though. As if wanting (and then having) more children is somehow an affront to Kenley's memory. I know that is not true in the slightest, but I can't stop myself from feeling it. One day, that will change. One day, Kenley's brother or sister will be the one I hold in my arms, the one I nuzzle and push in the stroller. And the love I feel for Kenley will not go away and will not be divided - but instead will be multiplied. And then, sometime, I will be out and about and I will recognize a sister watcher. I will know her by the sadness in her eyes, by the way she leans forward and cranes her neck. To someone else, she appears to be a run of the mill woman who happens to admire the adorableness of a passing baby. But, I will know - and I hope she finds what she's searching for. I hope we all do.