My daughter, Ruby, made me a mom. With her, I experienced pregnancy for the first time, blissful ignorance and all. We made it through the first trimester with very little morning sickness, cruised through the second trimester like pros and entered the third trimester feeling confident and invincible.

Weeks before my due date, I had done just about every “mom” thing I could do to prepare for her arrival. Her carseat was installed in my backseat. All of her clothes were washed and hung in her nursery closet. Our hospital bag was packed. And, of course, I had taken all of the recommended baby classes.

I am a mom

There is a class for just about everything – childbirth classes prepare you for labor and delivery, breastfeeding classes guide you through nursing, and baby basics classes teach you how to change a diaper and swaddle.

But when your first child is stillborn at 38 weeks, there’s no class that teaches you how to cope with devastation.

There’s no step-by-step tutorial that walks you through surviving the darkest days, and there’s no instruction manual on navigating your way through the identity crisis that comes with being a childless parent.

In the weeks and months that followed, I struggled not only with her loss, but with fitting in. I felt like a mom, but I didn’t know what it felt like to wake up in the middle of the night to feed my daughter. I felt like a mom, but I had never been able to gaze into my child’s eyes and marvel that she was mine. I felt like a mom but I didn’t know what it was like to witness her roll over or smile or crawl for the first time.

I haven’t had that chance, yet.

When I found myself lucky enough to become pregnant again three months after we lost Ruby, one of the hardest questions I got asked was, “Is this your first child?” I had been living this strange existence between having created, grown and delivered a baby, but not having a child to care for.

“Is this your first?”

The truthful answer to the question was, “No, it’s my second.” The simpler answer which avoids that awkward explanation and pitiful stare was, “Yes.” Why was I having such a hard time deciding what the the “right” answer was?

It took me a while to realize that my struggle with self-identity stemmed from how I was defining “being” a mom. It wasn’t the baby classes or nursery decorating that made me a mom. It wasn’t being able to contribute to a “mom” conversation about play groups or potty training, and it wasn’t even having, “Is this your first?” be an unnecessary question to ask.

I was looking for validation in all the wrong places: everywhere but within.

It’s been nine months since Ruby passed away and today, I’m 30 weeks pregnant with her sister. Throughout this journey, I’ve learned to put more value on the intangible things that make me a mom.

Bump photo - I am a mom

I am a mom because despite my heartbreak, I wake up every morning and try to make my daughter(s) proud.

I am a mom because even in Ruby’s absence, I still feel her with me everyday.

I am a mom because I have found strength in places I never thought possible.

I am a mom because I understand the true meaning of unconditional, selfless love.

I am a mom because I’m committed to keeping Ruby a part of my everyday life.

I am a mom because I choose hope over fear.

As I enter the final ten weeks of my pregnancy, my husband will once again install the carseat, I’ll rewash all of our baby girl’s clothes and blankets, and I’ll repack our hospital bag. Only this time, I’ll know that these are just details.

After all, I am a mom.

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