When Danielle Haines' sister Sarah came over to help her just three days after she had her baby, she saw Danielle in rare form.
The new mother sat topless, clutching her baby, looking sad and in-pain — not the typical Kate Middleton post-childbirth look everyone (who isn't a mom) assumes is the norm.
Sarah decided to snap a photo.
"I know this might sound crazy but do you have a camera? You look so raw and so beautiful," Danielle recalls her saying.
Danielle, a Phoenix native, posted the photo of herself to Facebook with a message that has since been shared more than 16,000 times.
Her text in full:
This is a picture of me 3 days postpartum. I was so raw and so open, I was a f*cking 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 loosing 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 PP mamas. Those of you who have done it before....will you share what your immediate PP 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.
Danielle experienced a postpartum that many other women have, but few talk about, especially on social media. Her message must have struck a nerve, however, because her message has since encouraged others to come forward with their stories. And feel free enough to open up about them in the first place.
"Thank you for sharing this, the words and the photo. You helped me find another peace," one wrote.
Others shared their hardships, too.
"My vagina would go numb from sitting on it. I didn't lay down to sleep for almost 2 weeks because we were at my moms and there wasn't enough beds," another commented.
Many shared images of themselves as well, with their babies postpartum — and no Duchesses of Wales' post-birth blowouts in sight.
According to an article by The Daily Beast, the United States seems to be the only developed country that doesn't value mothers as much during postpartum as it does during pregnancy.
"Finally, once they've actually undergone the physical trauma of it, their bodies thoroughly depleted, we beckon them most immediately to rejoin the rest of us. One New York mother summed up her recent postpartum experience this way: 'You're not hemorrhaging? OK, peace, see you later.'" Hillary Brenhouse wrote, citing Asia's culture of monitoring mothers way past their pregnancy is over.
Even if our culture won't recognize the hardships women face post-childbirth, they should at least feel free to stand up (or just stay sitting down) and say "this sucks" or even "I need help."
Danielle wasn't and now others are standing/sitting with her.
"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," she wrote.
Now she's paying it forward.