In the last four weeks, I’m not sure I’ve been captured in a single photo that speaks to postpartum with multiple children more than this one.

I smell bad. I’m unwashed, unshowered, and milk-stained. To be honest, we all are. I think I’m in my husband’s t-shirt, because Lord knows, mine don’t fit around my painfully engorged breasts.

I think I ate a lactation cookie for breakfast. That coffee in the windowsill is ice cold, a gift from my husband after another sleepless night. I’m sitting on an old towel, just in case. My pants are squished again under my belly. I think the Haakaa would work, if my two-year-old would take her hands off of it long enough to see. My four-year-old is blessedly out of the house at preschool. My husband and I haven’t said more than two words to each other that don’t revolve around the kids’ next meal, the laundry, the baby’s bad gas, or the ludicrous hospital bill that just came in the mail.

I could tell you that it is so hard. I could tell you that I’m so tired. I could tell you that I feel unrecognizable, foreign, off-balance in the new dynamics of my home. It’s all true, all of it. And if you’ve been here before, you may be nodding, me too.

But you know what? More than anything – I feel so, so grateful. Because this mess right here? I wanted it more than nearly everything else in my life. The tiny hands, the leaking breasts, the rumbling stomach, the suffocating feeling that I may never have space and rest and time again. I wanted it – truly. And I’m going to blink and it will be passed.

I’m with you, in the exhausted overwhelming mess that is the real postpartum story. Let’s keep talking about it. But if I could hit pause, right now, I would. Because for every discomfort, tear, or tiny, prodding, pleading hand, there is also immeasurable, incalculable joy. And that joy? It walks hand in hand with all of the mess, the sweetest gift to the woman privileged to be called mama.