Danielle Haines tells PEOPLE that she is happy that her honest photo has made many moms comfortable enough to share their stories

By Char Adams
September 17, 2015 05:10 PM
Danielle Haines

A postpartum photo of an Arizona mother has swept the internet in recent days, garnering attention from moms nationwide. But Danielle Haines tells PEOPLE that she never intended the image to become so popular – it was just meant to be a “thank-you post” for those who helped her during that difficult time.

“[My friend Sarah] walked through the door and I was crying,” Haines, 33, told PEOPLE of the night the photo was taken. “She said, ‘How are you doing?’ And I said, ‘I’m a mess.’ ”

It was Nov. 7, 2014, just three days after her son, Ocean, was born – and Haines was feeling a range of emotions. The Phoenix mom hadn’t slept since she went into labor, her partner was away at work and she was having trouble breastfeeding. So when Sarah showed up at her doorstep to help, Haines let loose.

“And Sarah said, ‘This might sound crazy, but can I take your picture? You look so beautiful.’ And I was thinking, ‘You are crazy, but sure, I’ll get a camera.”

In the photo, a topless Haines holds her son. She wears no makeup. Her eyes are red from crying. She uploaded the photo to Facebook on Saturday and asked other mothers to share what their postpartum time was like.

In just a few days, the photo has amassed more than 20,000 shares and received comments from other women recounting their experiences and thanking Haines for sharing hers.

One Facebook user uploaded a picture of her breastfeeding her infant and wrote: “Probably 2 days postpartum. I was emotional, in a lot of pain, my hair was a mess, and tired.”

Another wrote: “This is so so beautiful. Seriously, I felt exactly the same way and I wish more people talked about it because it’s so unexpected Thanks so much for this post.”

Haines says it never occurred to her to post the photo until a year after giving birth, which is when she began reflecting on that time in her life and the people who helped her through it.

A student midwife, Haines says she was well aware of the perils of new motherhood and had put a system in place before her baby was born, enlisting friends like Sarah to help. “I had a beautiful support system that looked more like a tribe,” she says.

The night Sarah came over and snapped Haines’ photo, she not only got some sleep, but was able to share a part of herself: “I could be honest, I could be raw, I could be me.”

Danielle Haines and family
Courtesy Jennifer Lind Schutsky

Although her family has since taken professional photos showing them at their best, “I’ve actually never posted those pictures,” says Haines. “I just posted the one of me in my raw, open, vulnerable state.”

Haines says she is grateful for the attention the photo has brought to the postpartum period mothers experience after giving birth . She and a few other moms have created a Facebook page called “Postpartum Confession” where women can post their photos and stories.

Ocean is almost a year old now and Haines is in a far different place than she was in those days as a brand-new mom.

However, Haines herself states that she was not suffering from depression, but “experiencing postpartum emotions.”

She said: “I’ve heard people say I had postpartum too. But that’s not an accurate statement. Every woman who had a baby is in her postpartum time. Not to be confused with normal PP emotions, PP depression, PP psychosis.”

Her message to women struggling in their postpartum time: “It takes a village to raise a baby. We need the human family. It can’t be just the partner and it can’t be just your mom. We need our peers as well.”