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The truth about parenting: "You got this".

When our precious baby boy arrived a month earlier than we expected in February last year, he caught us with our pants down, quite literally.

The nursery was nowhere near ready. We had no bassinet or baby bath. No nappies or wipes. We picked up a car seat four days earlier but it was yet to be fitted. We were totally unprepared to bring a newborn into our home.

Yet our unpreparedness on the home front paled in comparison to how unprepared we were for parenthood. Real parenthood, that is. Not the shiny, stain-free, kind of parenthood you see in Huggies TV commercials and littered across Nashville-filtered Instagram accounts.

No - it was nothing like this.

By the time our son Jack arrived, my twin sister Natasha had already brought three beautiful girls into the world. As a besotted, child-free aunt I had spent many hours with my blue-eyed nieces - feeding and bathing them, changing their nappies, pushing them on swings and lying with them until they dozed off to sleep.

I had watched my sister juggle the demands of three small children, often on very little sleep, to know what motherhood would be like (or so I thought).

In reality, I had no bloody idea.

I loved my newborn son. I really did. But I longed for a life that even remotely resembled my old one - where I could eat a meal with two hands, sleep for more than two hours at a time and get through the day without crying.
And yet as I scrolled through my Facebook and Instagram accounts - as I often did while breastfeeding in the middle of the night - I came across image after image of happy couples with perfect hair and perfect clothes planting kisses on their bald-headed babies, as if parenthood was one big loved-up party.

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The more I looked at social media the more upset I became.

I was lucky to have a shower, let alone blow dry my hair. And as for my husband, well, I wanted to punch him in the nose most days - for snoring; for leaving his shirt on the floor; for working too late or playing games on his iPhone when there was a basket of washing that needed to be folded. Because this motherhood business was really hard and it had to be someone's fault. Right?

I counted down the weeks until my first mother's group where I would hear other horror stories of mothers struggling to breastfeed and get their babies to sleep. The day came around. The horror stories didn’t.
Thankfully my sister had enough tales of tears and tantrums - her own, as well as her children's - to ensure I didn't feel like the only mother in the world who wasn't sure she had a handle on this parenting game.

My sister and I have spoken often and passionately about how important it is for mothers to be able to speak more openly and honestly about the motherhood journey - to be able to share with each other and on social media the great bits and the really shitty bits in equal measure.

You need to show the good and the bad.
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For both of us, the difference between a good day and a tough one can be as simple as receiving a reassuring smile from a stranger when your child is throwing a tantrum in the supermarket aisle, or running into another mother at the park who will tell you her one-year-old is also waking every 2.5 hours to be fed back to sleep. I want to kiss these women because they make me feel I am not alone.

Late last month my sister and I launched The Hood. The Hood is our way of bringing these honest and supportive conversations on to the streets and into the playgrounds.

To launch we have released two graphic T-shirt and sweater designs (there are plenty more to come) which we like to think of as a wearable pep talk to the motherhood and the greater sisterhood.

The 'YOU GOT THIS' design, for example, is our way of saying no matter what life (or your toddler) throws at you, you’re not alone and you’ve got it covered. It may not always feel like it, but YOU GOT THIS.

A percentage of the profits go to COPE - Centre of Perinatal excellence. COPE is a brilliant not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving the emotional wellbeing of parents during pregnancy and the year following the birth of a baby. (Post continues after gallery...)

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From the moment we met COPE's founder and Executive Director, Dr Nicole Highet, we knew she was the perfect fit. Nicole's mantra is "keeping motherhood real" and she is absolutely committed to encouraging more honest discussions about the challenges of motherhood and addressing the high levels of stigma that prevents women from seeking help when they aren't coping with those challenges.

At The Hood, we also try to keep mothering real by posting images on our social media pages that showcase the reality of our motherhood journey - the moments that melt out hearts as well as those that push our patience to its very limits.

It is amazing how many women who have already contacted us to say thanks for 'keeping it real'. While others have commented our wearable messages make them feel that little bit more empowered.

It is also encouraging to see a small but growing shift towards more mothering blogs that tell the real story of motherhood, such as Olivia Anderson's Flat Out Mum and Beth Macdonald’s BabyMac.

I hope it is these blogs and social media pages that new mums stumble across during their midnight feeds rather than the over-styled, filtered versions we see far too often.

Rachel Wells is a journalist and co-founder of The Hood. You can find her on instagram here

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