As photos of new mums with their babies go, this one's pretty discomfiting. But isn't it strangely beautiful, too? Plenty of people think so, judging by the fact that it's gone viral this week after new mother Danielle Haines shared it on her Facebook page.
Danielle Haines gave birth to her son, Ocean, in November 2014. On Saturday, the Phoenix mother posted a Facebook photo of herself holding Ocean when she was only three days postpartum. In the photo, Haines is shirtless with eyes that are red and puffy, seemingly from crying.
Along with the picture, Danielle wrote:
This is a picture of me 3 days postpartum. I was so raw and so open, I was a f***ing mess. I loved my baby, I missed his daddy (he went back to work that day), I was mad at my mom, my heart hurt for my brother because my mom left us and now I had a little boy that looked like him, my nipples were cracked and bleeding, my milk was almost in, my baby was getting really hungry, I was feeling sad that people kill babies, like on purpose, I had not slept since I went into labor, I didn't know how to put my boobs away, my vagina was sore from sitting on it while nursing constantly, I was kinda losing my mind.
Katie came over and feed me the morning this picture was taken. She might have even stopped over to feed me lunch. Then one of my 7 sisters came that evening to bring the family dinner, Sarah. Sarah took this picture of me. She walked in with food and said, "Hi! How are you!?" I said, "I'm a mess." We talked, she listened, she said, "I've been right where you are." It helped to know she went crazy once too!!!
Then she said, "I know this might sound crazy but do you have a camera? You look so raw and so beautiful." I'm so glad she took this picture. She was just planning to drop off food. She ended up staying for much longer. I needed her. She knew it. I called Rachel, I needed her. I needed her to nurse my baby, I needed more help with his latch. I called Shell. I needed her to tell me my baby was ok. This is real Postpartum, mamas. Those of you who have done it before....will you share what your immediate Postpartum felt like?
I had a magical Postpartum. It wasn't easy but I was so supported and fed and reminded that the mothers before me had been through this part of motherhood, and that I'd get through it just fine too.
I can't really express just how much I love this photograph. It's such a refreshing antidote to the flawless images of perfect parenthood which we're routinely bombarded with. More than that, it's so uncommon for mums to admit to finding new motherhood challenging or overwhelming, and yet that kind of raw honesty is just the thing that helps pull us all through when we're struggling. Knowing that you're not the only one to find motherhood challenging is what gives you hope that you'll get through that moment. That's priceless.
I vividly remember the debilitating sense of overwhelm I felt when my firstborn was around three days old. As if the discombobulating experience of suddenly being responsible for the life and wellbeing of another human wasn't enough to contend with, problems getting to grips with breastfeeding culminated with my mother-in-law physically having to help manhandle my boob into my baby's mouth. Yes, really.
There are all kinds of reasons why mums might feel as if they are drowning in the early days of motherhood and yet guilt or the fear that we'll be misunderstood can all too easily hold us back from admitting how we're really feeling. Being honest about those struggles is such a brave and helpful thing to do.
I also love Danielle's experience of being caught by those who love her when she felt like she was falling. Sometimes you have to shout for help but we all have people who would reach out for us if they knew we needed some help to pull ourselves out of a struggle.
Don't cope alone - share this with someone and tell them that you need them. And reach out to the new mums in your life and pause for long enough to ask them how they're really doing. It might just be the lifeline that they need.
Image credit: Facebook / Danielle Haines