A photograph of a "terrible mother" at an airport went viral. Here's the real story. 

When Molly Lensing made her way to Colorado airport, she probably didn’t imagine that the pink t-shirt she was wearing, the runners she’d slipped on, and the quick ponytail she’d managed, would be features of a photograph shared by more than 65,000 people.

But weeks after she’d left that airport, and safely arrived home, a photograph began emerging on her Facebook feed.

“Albert Einstein said, ‘I fear the day that technology will take on our humanity… the world will be populated by a generation of idiots,'” one caption read.

There was her pink t-shirt. Her runners. And her loose ponytail.

Image via Facebook.

Lensing sat, slightly slumped, looking at her phone, while her two-month-old baby lay on a blanket on the floor.

The Internet asserted itself as the jury, and Lensing was on trial.

Her crime, of course, was being a "terrible mother". An "idiot". "Neglectful". She was swiftly declared guilty.

The shot - a representation of a woman in a nanosecond - was said to epitomise all that was wrong with the modern world.

"A woman," the Internet cried, "cares more about her phone than her baby!"

Lensing works as a pediatric nurse.

"I had recently started working on a labour floor," she told TODAY Parents, "and I was terrified of my co-workers or boss seeing the photo and comments and believing that I should no longer work with infants."

Before Lensing had the opportunity to respond, blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom leapt to her defence.

"No. Just no," Backstrom wrote. "We do not snap photos of exhausted mothers in the airport and shame them publicly. This is gross and needs to stop. I've been this woman. My flight delayed, running on zero sleep, fearful that my baby might slip straight from my arms and onto the floor if I nodded off ... I wish she knew that there are mamas who understand exhaustion and imperfection and don't choose to pounce someone in their weakest moment."

Last week, a year since the incident, Lensing decided to share the story behind the infamous photograph.

"We had the unfortunate luck of being stuck in the middle of the Delta computer shut-down," Lensing told TODAY Parents.

POST CONTINUES BELOW: The podcast for new mums, which vows never, ever to judge them.

Her flights were delayed so many times that she spent more than 20 hours sitting in airports. All with a two-month-old baby.

"Anastasia had been held or in her carrier for many hours. My arms were tired. She needed to stretch. And I had to communicate with all the family members wondering where the heck we were."

"I absolutely feel as though my privacy was violated... I am powerless compared to the internet," Molly Lensing said.

Indeed, as she contacted frantic family members, while having had no sleep, after more than 20 hours in an airport, all while caring for a newborn, a stranger decided to take a photograph without her knowledge.

An image offers no context. No complexity. No humanity.

"That'll teach her," the photographer probably thought, as they uploaded the picture to a social platform with more than two billion users.

Molly Lensing is not a bad, neglectful or distracted mother, who would rather scroll through Instagram than nurse her newborn.

She's a human being deserving of basic dignity.

If only the person behind the camera had treated her as such.

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