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Masters of disguise


There’s no greater actress than a grieving mother. A “bereaved” mother.

I had never even heard that word before my son died, and here it is, the word I identify with daily. I am -we are- “deprived of a loved one through a profound absence,” according to Google’s definition.

Yet, you would never know it when you look at me.

Physically, I wear the scars of a mother. I have stretch marks etched upon my once-tight skin, but even if a passerby noticed that, the truth of what has happened is still not visible.

To everyone, I am just another woman. Somebody’s wife, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister. But I am so much more than that, even if I don’t show it.

  • I am a bereaved mother.
  • I am a woman who holds her baby silently in her heart instead of noticeably in her arms.
  • I am the lady grocery shopping, who avoids the baby aisle at all costs and has to fight back tears when she places her purse in the cart seat where the baby is supposed to go.
  • I am the woman who listens with a breaking heart to every cute anecdote her friend tells about her new baby.
  • I am the wife who buys a pregnancy test every month, hoping and praying that it’ll be positive.
  • I am the woman who no longer has her innocence. The woman who fears the “impossible” and is a living part of the statistic - one of that 2 percent chance.
  • I am that cautionary tale. No one wants what happened to us to happen to them.
  • I am also the woman who gets told how strong she is, how amazing her will to keep going is, when in reality, I’m a basket case. Up one minute, down the other.
  • I am all of those and more. But when you see me, you have no idea.

Not one person notices. I am a master of disguise, feigning the old me. The before me. We, as bereaved mothers, wear the cloak of normalcy, but truthfully, we are anything but normal.

It is not normal to hold your cold, dead baby’s body in your arms. And it is not normal to lower a tiny casket into the dark, cold earth. But I did it. And you probably did it too.

And although you may keep your grief hidden in an attempt to control something or to have some semblance of normalcy, it still is in your heart forever and always. You are not alone, and you have more sisters in this “bereaved mama society” than you will ever know.

We wear the masks together, and only the lucky ones get to see who we really are. Who our babies really are. Not one of us is the same person after. But you’ll learn to take that mask off a little more each day, until the world and all those around you can know your story, and the camouflage is wiped clean off your face.

Until that day comes, wear your disguise proudly, strong sister.

Masters of Disguise (part of Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss) by Gabriela Ibarra Kotara