Free to remove the mask

Photography is a hobby of mine. While I will never claim to be a professional, I love being able to capture life at its finest (and not so finest) moments.

When selecting photos to hang on my wall or include in our family photo books, my go-to choices aren?t always the ones with smiling faces and put-together poses.

In fact, some of my favorites are those that include tears, pouting and eye-covering. The ones with red and blue striped socks paired with a green plaid shirt. The slight blur made by bolting from the camera. The ones that picture life as I know it.

But photography is one-dimensional in the sense that it captures only a split-second image. That a picture is worth a thousand words is really only in the eye of the beholder.

In honor of pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day Oct. 15 (in conjunction with pregnancy and infant loss awareness month in October), I posted a remem?brance essay on my blog,

With the essay, I posted a photograph from Halloween 2011. The photo focuses on three individuals?grandma, mom and child dressed as a bumblebee?walking downtown during Trick or Treat Main Street.

A quick sweep shows three happy faces. Grandma enjoying her role. Mom smiling and holding hands with the bumblebee. Bumblebee carrying an Elmo candy bucket.

But fitting for Halloween, the mom wears a mask.

You see, just that morning, that mom woke up knowing?but not wanting to believe?that she was miscarrying for the second time in six months. Just that morning, she drove to Newton where a blood test confirmed her nightmare.

Just that morning, that mom held herself together during what seemed an eternal drive home. On a whim, she took her two young daughters to the park where they could play without noticing her lack of enthusiasm.

Just that morning, not able to contain her grief any longer, that mom called a friend sobbing something like, ?It?s happening again.? That friend opened her home, made lunch and supplied the first pain killers that helped dull the physical intensity of the loss.

That?s the thing about photography. It only shows the surface. Only the people in and around the photo can lend useful insight into the stories behind the smiles, pouts, tears or even the striped socks.

And unfortunately, that?s the way it is for many families experiencing miscarriage?especially when it?s early. It?s easy to keep that one-dimensional. To plaster on a smile and carry on, even when life has been extinguished. Because to the outside world, there was never evidence of a baby.

But under the mask, that mom had just the day before been dreaming boy or girl, dark hair or blonde, butterflies or monkeys. No matter the duration, dreams were made. There was no ?it?…only baby!

And that is why I like the October awareness movement. Because as more and more moms drop the mask?if only for Oct. 15?it brings solidarity to a vulnerable state of isolation.

It?s only through truth that we?re set free to live in a new normal, miscarriage or otherwise.

If you?ve experienced a miscarriage or infant loss, take some time to contemplate and remember. Grieve if you need to. Feel freedom to begin to take off your mask.

And for others, please remember to be sensitive with pregnancy conversations and assumptions. You never know who is wearing a mask. Let?s create a safe place for ?that mom? to reveal herself.

Malinda Just has been writing her column for the Free Press since 2008. She can be reached at

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