Behind all the photos of glowing moms with new babies pressed to their bare chests is a slew of darker images that rarely see the light of day. Then comes along Danielle Haines.
In a photo taken three days after giving birth to her baby boy, Haines puts her most raw, vulnerable self forward.
For the longest time the photo was shared only as part of a birth class being taught by the Phoenix-based student midwife. Ten months on, Haines decided to post it on her Facebook page, and the rest is viral history.
“This is a picture of me 3 days postpartum," writes Haines. "I was so raw and so open, I was a fucking 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 labour, 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…"
Notwithstanding the above, Haines described her postpartum experience as “magical" because she and her baby were supported by a sisterhood, a mom collective who gently reminded her that they'd all been there and she would "get through it just fine too.”
Following an outpouring of shares and private messages, Haines decided to collaborate with a web designer friend, Katie DiBenedetto, to create a space for people to swap birth stories, Postpartum Confession.
“Every birth, with each baby no matter how well the birth goes or how great your pregnancy was or how prepared you feel like you are - you (and your family) are going through a huge transition,” said DeBenedetto. “You’re recovering/healing from growing and birthing a whole human. You’re going to be vulnerable."
Vulnerable is right. And sore. I wasn't prepared for the sheer extent of sore I experienced once my natural birth high wore off, and I faced the most incredible comedown. It was as if I had been preparing and cramming so hard for labour, that once the main event was over I had no idea what to do next, or how to be... Throw some haywire hormones into the mix, and I totally see my own hot mess of a self reflected back in Haines's photo.
Beautiful, yes, but utterly shell shocked.
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