This story was first published on January 21, 2016, and is one of TODAY.com's most-loved stories.
“This is what 24 hours postpartum looks like. Baby in sling. Skin to skin. Adult diapers. And a rosy glow,” wrote Erica Andrews in an Instagram caption alongside a picture of her with her newborn, Silas Ambrose.
For Andrews, the postpartum experience was familiar; this was her fifth birth, and she has four older children. But as she held her newborn in 2016, she said she was “called to share this image” with other mothers — and it's an image that has been widely embraced.
“This is my last baby, and I was feeling very emotional knowing that was the last time I would look and feel this way. So often the BIG feelings and changes we go through as new mothers are overlooked, brushed aside, or misunderstood completely. I shared the image to my Instagram feed to journal about my feelings (it's how I navigate the world, with words). It was only my intention to show the beauty I felt at that very moment,” Andrews told TODAY Parents in January, 2016.
In the photo, Andrews showed the tumult mothers often feel just out of childbirth in a gritty, vulnerable way, including the disposable mesh underwear new mothers know so well, her cluttered bathroom sink, and, underneath her baby’s head, her still-protruding postpartum belly. The image and her words resonated with other women: After babywearing retailer Sakura Bloom shared the photo on Facebook, almost 34,000 people shared it from that page alone. Others soon followed.
“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,” Andrews wrote.
Andrews believes new mothers could use more and better support in those first few days of what she calls the “fourth trimester.” “New mamas need exactly what their new babies need...love, warmth, food, and security. It is unrealistic to expect us to just fall back into normalcy,” she says. “We need time to process that big changes, to move through the sheer happiness, the unexpected grief, the feeling of your heart being stretched bigger than it ever has been.
“All a new mama needs is for those nearest her to hold her space and to love her, you don't need to understand, you just have to be willing to be there for her as she figures it out for herself.”
The enthusiastic response to her photo has “overwhelmed and shocked” Andrews.
“It is humbling and refreshing to hear so many mothers who have resonated with the words and/or image,” she says, “and to know that I may have in even the smallest of ways spoken to the heart of so many.”