I was prepared as I could be for the birth of my first child.

For me, this actually meant that I didn’t have a birth plan, per se, in terms of how labor would go.

But I had imagined that we would be taking some amazing photos once our baby girl arrived, and we would have an instant connection.

What I didn’t plan for was a long labor that left us completely exhausted. Don’t get me wrong – once they placed my daughter in my arms, I was overjoyed. But I was also dumbfounded. What the heck just happened? Did this tiny being in my arms actually come out of me?

And as for those amazing photos that I hoped we would take? Well I think that neither my husband and I had the energy to think that we needed to take any pictures—we were drained empty by, well, a laborious labor.

As I cradled my daughter in those first few moments, I was having difficulty processing everything that had just happened in the moments before. Looking back, I think I was in a bit of shock. And I also felt a bit guilty. Where was the instant love I was supposed to be feeling? That “elation” that I heard that parents feel as soon as their babies are born.

I sat in this cloud of guilt through the few weeks after giving birth.

So much for those pictures of made up women who were glowing mere moments after delivering their babies.

I certainly didn’t fit the bill.

I regretted that I “missed out” on capturing those first moments that my daughter spent outside the womb. I felt guilty that my “birth story” included a bit of unexpected trauma.

As it turns out, my husband DID take photos of me and our daughter as soon as she was birthed. Probably in the midst of my initial shock, I don’t remember him taking them. But there I am, looking as exhausted as I remember feeling. No make up, or touch ups needed—even now I can feel how raw the moment was.

But isn’t that how motherhood is? Raw, unedited, with no time for touch ups. The moments of frustration and exhaustion are equally as beautiful and the ones of expected joy. I made peace with what I originally believed was only a traumatic labor, and see it as a moment of beautiful vulnerability.

I never felt more vulnerable than in my first moments as a mother—and I suspect that I will continue to experience those moments as I raise my daughter.

I choose to retell my story—moving beyond the fantasty of how I imagined it would be—and see how powerful and profoundly humbling it was the day my daughter entered this world.