Just before turning 7 months old, our little girl—normally a champion sleeper—revolted, suddenly adopting the nocturnal habits of a grandpa with an irritable prostate: waking up multiple times a night, and peeing all over the place. One day while she slept on my shoulder, I got a text from my friend Ali: "Is now a good time to chat?" I held my phone up to snap a pic of the babe and me, to wordlessly convey my Occupied status. The look I was going for: serene, soft-focused mother-and-child selfie—the kind that Victoria's Secret models post to Instagram.
What I got: Beetlejuice, only less rested and with bigger boobs. The circles under my eyes were cavernous; my scalp was playing peekaboo through my hairline. If my skin tone were a crayon, its name would be Pallor. I looked like a lactating Steve Buscemi.
Most women would hit the Delete button faster than your teenage barista can judge you for the two pancake-size milk splotches on your nursing tank. Not me. I hit "Send to Facebook," along with the caption, "Isn't new motherhood beautiful?"
My friends were incredulous that I would broadcast the postpartum equivalent of a celeb mug shot. One wrote, "Aww, you look tired but still beautiful"—the kind of lie that seasoned moms tell newbies to ensure the propagation of our species. But I posted my zombie pic because I think it's important that moms understand we're all in the same energy-drained, pasty-skinned boat. Sure, Kate Middleton looked dewy and glamorous moments after delivery, and your sorority sister was picture-perfect in her online "Sailor's 1 week old!" photo album. It's because they're faking. The former no doubt has been made up, blown out, and styled by pros (though she probably wanted nothing more than to be resting in yoga pants); the latter spackled her face with concealer and abused the Valencia filter.
Once we become moms, we disappear from our feeds. (Can you blame us? Broken sleep and a diet of half-caff lattes do not a proper beauty routine make.) A selfie featuring an í¼ber-fit new mother flaunting her six-pack occasionally goes viral, but for the most part, our social-media presence consists of videos of our frosting-smeared 1-year-old tearing into an inaugural slice of birthday cake. And that's okay—it's our new normal. So are bloodshot eyes and cheddar bunnies in our bra. We shouldn't be afraid to show it.
Leslie Goldman is a Chicago-based health writer, book author, speaker, and mom of two girls. If you believe her Twitter bio, she once touched Beyoncé's elbow and her grandfather invented jogging.