Losing a baby is hard. Remembering them shouldn't have to be.
When Kevin Mahoney asked photographer JoAnn Marrero to photograph his wife Jessica's "rainbow pregnancy," Marrero knew she had to find a way to make the shoot particularly special.
A "rainbow pregnancy" is what a pregnancy after a miscarriage (or several) is often called because it's the embodiment of hope and light after what may have felt like a storm of grief and loss.
By this point, Jessica and Kevin had already weathered six storms.
The couple have one son, Corbin, but when they tried for a second child, they miscarried six times. So when, on the seventh pregnancy, it looked like Jessica was going to carry to term, Kevin wanted to do something special to commemorate their rainbow baby and all the ones who came before.
Since JoAnn was their friend and neighbor — and an accomplished birth photographer who offers free photo sessions to new parents weekly at the Yale New Haven Hospital NICU — she was the perfect person for the job.
JoAnn stumbled upon the idea to use smoke bombs to create the rainbow-inspired photo shoot while looking for a gift for her own son's birthday.
She knew the smoke bombs would create an extraordinary effect, so during a day of newborn mentoring with her friend Mary Mahoney of Pebbles and Polka Dots Photography, she set out to make it happen.
"Bringing this photo to life was definitely a concerted team effort," JoAnn wrote in an email.
"Mary shot off the first colored smoke bomb and — oops! I forgot to tell her they were double-sided," she explained. "There was dense, vibrant smoke everywhere."
"Note to everyone trying this: pull the ring and run!" she added.
The photo shoot was a bit of a trial by fire, with several duds and everyone choking on smoke at one point or another, but...
The end result was spectacular:
"Through our rainbow haze, Jess stood with composure and her pregnancy glow came shining through like the sun," wrote JoAnn.
According to the American Pregnancy Organization, 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Despite that awfully high number, society still seems to treat miscarriage as a taboo subject, which makes it that much harder for those who experience them to grieve the loss.
The photo shoot was a huge success in so many ways; it brought joy to expecting parents and cast a brilliant light on weathering the storm of miscarriages — a subject that is too often kept in the dark.
The numerous women (and men) who offered up their own rainbow baby stories in response to the photos are a testament to the power such meaningful symbolism can have.
"This touches my heart," wrote Becky Rose Dailey. "I was blessed with 3 rainbow babies including the one I'm pregnant with now. Such an amazing picture. Thank you for sharing."
"I'm currently pregnant with my rainbow baby and this picture is so meaningful and stunning," wrote Marie Annin.
"Holding my 10-day-old rainbow with tears in my eyes. This is breathtakingly beautiful," wrote Erin Johnson.
Hopefully JoAnn's inventive work and Jessica's experience will inspire others to find a way to open up about their miscarriages. As products of love and hope, they deserve recognition.