If we were to believe the baby product advertisers, life after childbirth is one of fluffy white towels, constant smiles, happy babies and gentle, peaceful co-sleeping.
But the reality of parenting can be quite different – as evidenced by the thousands of mum who have shared their own trials and struggles on Instagram, using the hashtags #postpartum and #powerofpostpartum.
As these powerful posts show, women battle with everything from dramatic post-partum diets to dealing with depression and anxiety.
Here are 10 snapshots that confront the highs – and lows – of motherhood.
Elisavet decided to tell fellow new mums the truth about the “rollercoaster ride” that is parenting. “Dear First time Mumma,” she writes, “I’m not going to sugar coat this. You will more than likely feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted but honestly I never met a new mum who hasn’t.” She goes on to say: “You don’t owe anyone an explanation for the choices you make. People will judge you no matter what you do but you have the power and you have the right to do what works for you and your baby.”
Struggling To Bond
Rebecca shared a message of hope after admitting she struggled to bond with her second baby. “One thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the way love would change and feel different for a while after our second baby Bell was born,” she writes. “I was in a mixed state of hormonal changes and postpartum tiredness and I struggled to find joy in the new life dynamic. Health visitors would ask if I’d bonded with him yet and I’d answer yes as I’d forgotten what it should feel like. The reality looking back now was that I hadn’t. But then it clicked.”
Brooke’s honest message about why so many women find it hard to admit they’re struggling speaks volumes. “I’ve needed some anxiety help for a bit since having Echo. It has gotten waaaayy worse that it usually is,” she writes. “Regardless of being postpartum, mental health is IMPORTANT, so if taking a little medication will help you tremendously, I say do it.”
Pain And Recovery
Victoria posted a photo of herself with her second child, Hugo, on her birthday – but admitted it wasn’t entirely the “usual celebrations”. “He was back to back and I tore quite badly,” she writes. “It’s knocked me for six how much pain and trauma I am actually in this time. Nearly a week has passed and I was out and about with Harriet last time whereas this time walking from the car to the restaurant was just about enough as I could manage.”
Showing Your Flaws
“At my six week check up the nurse said “wow girl you just bounced right back! You don’t even look like you had a baby!” and of course it made me feel great but I think it’s important to show the flaws!” writes Ash, a mother-of-three who admits she’s suffered from “emotional eating binges” since giving birth. “Yes, that’s a back fat roll! Yes the pants are a little snug! Yes I wanted to suck it in and show “my best angle” but you know what? My best angle is the REAL angle!”
Finding Your ‘Tribe’
Karina, a mum of three boys, posted this sweet outdoors snap and paid tribute to her support network – and said if you don’t have family to help you, you can find your ‘tribe’ in other ways. “I tried so hard with the boys to do it by myself but this time it’s so much easier with more people around to help,” she writes. “A good tribe particularly in those early days can make a huge difference and it has this time even if they don’t realise it.”
In this tongue-in-cheek post, Stacey writes about how tired she feels on just three hours sleep – and says she needs help (and wine). “I saw this and had to share, it’s so true,” she writes. “I’m so tired today. I probably only had about three and a half hours sleep last night as Reggie has been cluster feeding over the last few days.”
Christina gave birth to her second child less than a year ago, in July 2018 – and has given herself the challenge of losing 100lbs. In this shot, she thanks her husband for “being so supportive and always encouraging me”.
The Need For Self-Care
There’s no pressure like the pressure on mothers to have - or do - it all. Heather shared this photo to remind fellow parents of the importance of self-care. “Last night I reconnected with an old high school friend. She asked a lot of questions on how I manage to work full-time, extracurricular activities with my children, being a mommy of two, being a wife, and getting up to work out and show up every day. I simply replied with: it’s my me time.”
Dealing With Depression
Eimi shared a powerful post about how it felt to experience post-natal depression after the birth of her third child. “At first, it was just tears,” she writes. “Then, moments of panic. Then periods of indifference. Mix it with a hefty dose of shame and you have a picture of my first 8 weeks as a mother of 3.” But, she adds, it didn’t last. “Slowly, it did change. I stopped feeling like the ceiling was pushing down on me. The urge to hold my breath forever tapered and eventually stopped. The panic and tears stopped. And then, I gained a bit of energy. I wanted to be active again.
Looking After Two
Sam shared a sweet picture of her daughter and talked about the struggle of balancing two children, both in need of care, time and attention. “This little lady has actually been quite patient recently while a lot of my attention has been focused on the baby,” she writes. And she shared her tip for making an older sibling feel special: spending the day alone together. “Tomorrow is time to have a mummy-daughter date just with her.”