Why moms are sharing their 'what the actual f**k?' photos

Erin Donnelly
·3 min read
Emily Adrian's photo of herself with her then-newborn son struck a chord with other moms. (Photo: Emily Adrian)
Emily Adrian's photo of herself with her then-newborn son struck a chord with other moms. (Photo: Emily Adrian)

Wondering why your Twitter timeline has been flooded with photos of bleary-eyed, slightly bewildered-looking women cradling tiny infants — otherwise known as new moms? It’s all due to author Emily Adrian and her relatable post about what a shock to the system having a baby can be.

On Feb. 2, Adrian — a novelist whose 2020 book, Everything Here is Under Control, explored the strains put on parents — took to Twitter to share a photo of herself as a new mother. Taken nearly four years ago, the black-and-white snapshot shows the first-time parent shooting a weary look at the camera, her infant son perched on her lap.

“Does every mother have a photo of herself as a new mom, eyes screaming ‘what the actual f**k?’” Adrian wrote. “Here's mine.”

“My son is now almost 4, and he’s aging out of naptime,” she tells Yahoo Life of her now-viral post. “The day I tweeted that picture, I was home alone with him and desperate to rest, but Wes wasn’t having it. As I closed my eyes, he started singing ‘Baby Beluga’ loudly in his own room.

“Whenever I reach a certain level of exhaustion, I remember those early days of motherhood — when you’re so tired it feels like your skull is vibrating,” Adrian adds. “After giving birth, women often feel so shocked and vulnerable and overwhelmed. Yet it’s a time when people look past you, to the baby you’re inevitably holding.”

Similar photos soon came flooding in from other moms, a wave of dead-eyed stares and sheer exhaustion. Some were pictured amid sickness or recovery from childbirth; others were simply caught in the daily chaos of diaper changes, breastfeeding and erratic sleep patterns.

“God I want to hug that poor overwhelmed girl,” one woman said of her photo, taken 18 years ago.

“Was never not on the verge of tears,” another mom remembered.

“I want to give past me a hug,” read another response. “I was SO tired. This level of exhaustion is unfathomable to me now, but I’ve done it twice. Moms are so strong!”

Adrian tells Yahoo Life that her message “struck a chord” with moms who, like her, know all too well the physical and emotional struggles and astonishing responsibility that hit new parents. That’s especially true now, given the pandemic and the disruptions it’s caused to even the most seasoned parents.

“I think the tweet resonated with women because we all remember how we really felt when we were smiling (or not) for those pictures,” she says. “And clearly, moms at all stages of motherhood are being overlooked and dismissed right now.”

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