This Raw Post-Birth Selfie Shows the True Beauty of Motherhood

Just a heads up, you will not see any post-birth ab selfies here, which if you happen to be part of the general population that does not have a six pack while giving birth, you may find comes as a bit of a relief.

What you will find here, however, is one mom showing the world the true extent of what postpartum life is like — in all its exhausted, deflated, gorgeous, mesh glory.

Erica Andrews, a mother of five, who is a midwife and a journalist with Tribe De Mama, shared the postpartum selfie above that didn’t hold back in what life after baby looks like.

On her Instagram page, Erica shared the photo of herself and her baby a mere 24 hours after giving birth with the caption:

“This is what 24 hours postpartum looks like. Baby in sling. Skin to skin. Adult diapers. And a rosy glow. My body feels like it ran a marathon and my heart is wide open from yesterday’s travels. Birth opens us like an earthquake opens the earth and I am still in the intimate, fragile throes of that opening. I feel raw. Emotional. Different. I feel like I’m on the undulating surface of the rippling ocean being tossed back and forth between happiness, gratitude, melancholy, and grief. 23 hours ago I held life within and 24 hours ago I surged and transformed allowing life to flow through me, into my waiting hands. The emptiness in my womb brings a heavy feeling crashing into reality but then this new little life whimpers, searching for the breast with soft rooting, and I feel whole again. I am still processing the beautiful transition my whole family has traveled through and I am in complete awe of our strength as humans, women, and mothers. This time is simply unlike any other.”

Sakura Bloom, a company that makes infant slings, shared the image of Erica on their Facebook page, and before you could say “newborn hold,” the picture was making its way around the Internet. (Side note: could we also give mad props to Andrews for pulling off a sling hold feed? If you haven’t tried it, it’s harder than it looks. I can assure you.)

The picture was met with passionate emotion from women and mothers around the world who reacted to an image that seemed to capture all of the postpartum feels succinctly — the strength, the exhaustion, the body stretched and healing, and the disposable underwear that are a metaphor for so much of the hard, fleeting, very physical parts of motherhood.

“I was never this brave,” commented one mother on Facebook. “To open myself up and show my post-partum body? Never. I felt hideous but I look at you and see how beautiful you look … Wish I hadn’t been so shallow. I created 2 miracles, I should’ve been proud of what my body did. You look amazing, your words are beautiful, you and your little bundle have been blessed with each other. Much love mama.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture quite like this, or read words capturing that transition so beautifully … or .. ever, honestly,” wrote another mother. “I’ve never heard someone talk about this particular change in such a way. And I love it. With every fiber of my being. Thank you. For your vulnerability and openness and for sharing it and your beauty.”

I feel the same way. It’s refreshing to see, in a public way, the intimate moments of motherhood that we all know so well, but don’t necessarily think of as “beautiful” when they are happening to us. Did I think I looked glamorous in my hospital mesh panties and glasses? Um, no, definitely not. But when I see mothers like Erica, I realize that all mothers really are amazing.

And it might sound crazy, but some of my favorite moments as a labor and delivery nurse were those intimate times when I would help a new mom to the bathroom to clean up after birth, helping her wipe down the remnants of the life she just bore into this world, cradling her arm as she found new footing as a mother in a body that was forever changed. To see a woman so changed after birth, completely unabashed in her body, and so full of vulnerability and strength at the same time  — the same emotions I see captured in this photo — is an incredible honor to witness.

So let’s celebrate Erica’s picture and her beautiful words for what they are — a reflection of the true beauty of motherhood that we should see in each and every one of us. Because motherhood is so much more than a post-baby selfie, bikini body, or a journey to get our bodies “back.” It is about being a part of something bigger than ourselves.

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