Putting together the perfect Insta-friendly pregnancy announcement is basically a competitive sport at this point. But not everyone sees the sometimes-challenging realities that come with pregnancy behind the scenes. Which is why one mom's honest—and creative—photos are finding an enthusiastic audience on Instagram.
"I was taking pretty pictures of my family and stuff like that, but at one point, I was just portraying something I wasn't," 28-year-old Maya Vorderstrasse tells SELF.
"I had just had a baby and I was pregnant again—I felt horrible, I was very emotional, I was exhausted." The New Jersey–based stay-at-home mom gave birth to her first daughter, Zoey, last summer. And when she became pregnant with her second daughter, she decided to let her feed get a little more real. "I said, 'You know what, let me just embrace my life and throw it out there,'" she says. "It's not possible that I'm the only person who doesn't fit into this 'perfect motherhood' scene."
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To create the first photo in her new "honest" series, Vorderstrasse drew on her advertising background and included a letterboard explaining that she was dealing with a sciatica flare-up and a "wild bladder." From there, she began posting updates every other week, including not being able to see her feet, having an increased appetite, and, of course, just needing a freakin' nap. The letterboard seemed to be catching on, and as her pregnancy progressed, she posted more frequently.
Although she was initially a little afraid to be so open, Vorderstrasse says the response has been "incredible."
She's received tons of thankful messages from other pregnant women who also don't feel like they're glowing or like their pregnancies are easy. "Throwing your personality out there—into the perfect world of Instagram—and being who you actually are is scary," she says. "But I don't regret it."
She does have one regret, though: that she didn't start earlier.
Vorderstrasse gave birth to her second daughter, Hazel, on August 3, and is continuing her series by posting honestly about her postpartum experience, including dealing with breastfeeding and hormonal challenges as well as the struggles inherent in having two kids so close in age.
Today, she tells SELF she hopes the women who see her photos "feel normal" and know that they're not alone. "I understand that pregnancy is very special—it's a wonderful time—but it's also very hard," she says. "I hope they look at my stuff...and try to find something funny or something to laugh about. Because it is hard, but you can get through it, and it’s normal."