If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck, right? Well, what if it doesn't do any of those things? Is it still a duck?
I don't know who I am supposed to be anymore. I feel like a mother, but I don't have the luxury of actually having my baby with me. So it is very confusing. I don't get to do any of the things a mother gets to do. I don't get to hold my daughter, or nurse her, or change her diaper. I don't get to wrap her up in a sling while I run errands or push her in her stroller through the park. I can't hear her cry, or laugh, or coo. I'm not sleep deprived and covered in spit up. I shower every day. All of the things a mother does, I can't do. All of the things that define her are out of my reach for now. But, I still feel like a mother. From the very core of my being, I am a mother. I created a life. A life who grew inside me for 36 weeks. I sang to her. I talked to her. I loved her. I rubbed my belly and smiled. When she poked me, I poked her right back. For 36 weeks, my body prepared this life for the world - and for 36 weeks, my mind prepared itself for the moment that life emerged. (In all honesty, my mind had been preparing for years before that. We've all been there, right, ladies?)
Before Kenley was born, I was nervous about the change that was about to occur, but I was also excited. Elated. I thought about all the things we would do together. I thought about the milestones she'd achieve, the clothes she would wear, the games we would play. I imagined reading to her every night, even before she was old enough to understand what reading was. I imagined rocking her at two in the morning, bleary eyed from lack of sleep, but completely content with her nestled up against me. In those 36 weeks, I created an entire life for her. For all of us. In those 36 weeks, I cultivated a love that until then had been unfathomable to me. Every single time she kicked or turned, I smiled and thought to myself, "I can't believe I'm going to be a mom!"
And I still am - just not the way I'd imagined it. Actually, I never would have even remotely imagined it being this way. How can you really be a mother to a baby who isn't here? I have all of these instincts of motherhood, but no one to mother. Kenley's death aside, something in me changed when I was pregnant and reached its pinnacle when she was born. Something inside illuminated where before there was darkness. The light a mother has for her child. It bursts out of me like rays of sunshine. I can't control it or reign it in. No mother can. But, she is not here to absorb this light, so sometimes the brightness is blinding. I don't know what to do with myself. I have all of this love and light for a child who isn't here. I have all these desires to carry out the actions of a mother, but no baby. For so long, I defined myself as "becoming a mother", and now that she's gone, I don't know how to redirect that identity. I am still who I was before. Sister. Daughter. Wife. Friend. Teacher. And now, I am a mother. But I am also something else entirely. Something hard to pinpoint or explain. I don't know what I am, I don't know what to do, and I don't know where to go from here. All I know is that, when all is said and done, the love I feel for my daughter fills me with a bittersweet joy I can't help but share. She made me a mother. That is a fact.
Even though I can't quack and I don't have webbed feet, I am still a duck. And, one day, I'll find my way to the water.