It's almost midnight and the house is dark and still. There are faint noises coming from the bathroom; Mr T is in there brushing his teeth. Baby A is finally asleep, snug in her straw basket, her arms thrown up in surrender, her eye lids translucent, criss-crossed with spidery, blue veins.
I'm sitting up in bed, fiddling with my phone, trying out filters on one of the hundreds of pictures I've taken of Baby A that week, thinking up funny captions to go with each picture and trying to decide if I should post on Facebook, Instagram, or both. I should put the phone aside; I'm drained and I feel a cold coming on. And I'm tired. Kind of sad, even.
But you wouldn't know that from the pretty pictures I post on Instagram and Facebook all day, would you?
Every day I take photos, dozens of them. I capture little moments of my life; little moments that I pretend make up all of my life. The vibrant colours of a sunset in my rear-view mirror. My baby girl peeking out at me from beneath her blanket, her eyes bright and alert. My husband looking down at our sleeping daughter, his finger nestled in her fist. Sweet and poignant pictures, snapped in the spur of a moment, yet always with intent.
But they don't tell the whole story.
There are no photos of me and Mr T bickering at 3am because Baby A won't settle back to sleep and I'm unable to speak to my husband without snapping at him. I don't take photos of the two of us taking turns bouncing a cranky baby around our living room every night, begging her to succumb to sleep because suddenly, our sweet-natured baby has become a teething banshee. I don't catalogue the exhaustion, or the disconnect, or the envy I have for other mothers, the ones who don't work, or the ones on exotic holidays with their babies, or the ones whose babies self-soothe and sleep unassisted, or the ones with the perfect postpartum body and plenty of time to go to Pilates classes.
I don't take photos of my expanded waistline and fleshy tummy. I don't snap any pictures of the many ways I cheat on my diet. There are no snapshots that portray the frustration I feel for the insufficient amount of time in a day, or the worry that I'll never be able to write a coherent sentence again, or the anxiety that grips me when I look at Mr T and wonder how we'll be able to survive this fatigue and still hold on to the romance.
So I don't. I take photos of the pretty parts instead. Of Baby A's concentration on her toes when she first realised they were there. Of the way the sun reflects against the skyscraper standing majestic beneath our own building. Of my handsome husband, cradling our girl in his arms, both of them dressed in cornflower blue.
They're well-orchestrated pictures that present an idyllic, joyful life. And though that might ring true at times, it's simply not the case 100 per cent of the time, because I'm slowly beginning to realise that this is hard.
Being a mother is hard. Being a wife is hard. Being a person who wants to find a way to be a mother and a wife and a writer and a working woman, all in one, while travelling the world and living the life, is hard. And there is so much worry, all the time, especially now that I have a piece of my heart living outside of my body.
Maybe that's why I take so many pictures. To hold onto those idyllic moments and fall back on them when the worry becomes a little too overwhelming. They're my acknowledgement that life isn't always perfect, but is always dotted with a series of beautiful, tiny, flawless moments that are human and that are real.
Hala Khalaf is deputy Arts&Life editor at The National
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