As their due date approaches, mothers-to-be face a lot of decisions: hospital or home birth? C-section or natural? To glam or not to glam?
What a minute: What’s that last one?
In today’s social media-saturated world, pregnant women are under increasing pressure to have a makeup artist on duty during the birth, if not in the delivery room itself, at least within easy hailing distance.
If someone must take the blame for this trend — and, let’s face it, part of the draw of social media is finding someone to blame — it’s the British royal family. With the Kate Middleton postpartum hair blowout (three times, we’re told!) fresh in our minds from when she gave birth to son Louis last year and another royal birth upcoming for Meghan Markle late this month or early in May, the debate over perfection during labor and right after giving birth looms large for some women.
“I’ll tell you who it’s not fun to be pregnant at the exact same time as: Meghan Markle,” cracked Amy Schumer during her Netflix comedy special. (Schumer suffered chronic nausea throughout her pregnancy.) “She’s out there in, like, 6-inch heels, adorable outfits.”
While we won’t know for a few weeks whether Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, will follow in the footsteps of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, when it comes to postpartum perfection, we have an inkling Meghan will at least slap on some makeup as she introduces the latest royal to the world.
And when she does, anti-glammers will take notice.
“I think that a mother who has just given birth is beautiful — with disheveled hair, with smeared or no makeup, with top wide open for skin-to-skin contact and breast-feeding,” said Kirsten Brunner, a perinatal counselor in Austin, Texas. “I encourage my clients to let go of all pressure to get back to normal as soon as possible.”
But with some hospitals providing in-house spa services and plenty of women hiring specialists for hair, makeup and nails, the argument over what makes a postpartum mom feel best cuts both ways.
Julien Farel averages 10 to 15 in-hospital pregnancy clients a month among his usual customers. The owner of the Julien Farel Restore Salon and Spa on New York City’s swanky Park Avenue has been providing and arranging for in-hospital services for women giving birth since 2001, with prices now ranging from $320 for a blowout, makeup or manicure to $2,000 an hour for all three at the highest level of design and expertise.
“Mostly they’re looking for those three things, makeup, nails and blow-dry,” he said. “These people care so much about their appearance. You have other people with much more money who don’t care. It’s about how you’ve been raised to look when you have people over.”
(Farel helped his wife prepare to greet visitors — including her Old World British grandmother — after the arrivals of their two children. We’re hoping he at least gave her a discount.)
To glam, or not to glam?
Some new moms are caught on the fence. Danielle Bayard Jackson, who lives in Tampa, Fla., vacillated on the makeup issue before finally opting to go without.
“I even looked up various prices, but something about that felt frivolous,” she said. “I decided I didn’t want to worry about that after such a monumental moment.”
For other women, the decision hinges on how many times they’ve been down this road before. Seattle area mom Robin Rucinsky worried about her appearance less with each birth, and by the time baby No. 4 rolled around, “I didn’t pack a single cosmetic. I brought a toothbrush and ChapStick.”
Brenda Kosciuk, who lives outside Scranton, Pa., took matters into her own hands for the birth of her second child, now 3.
“Everyone wants that perfect social media photo that does NOT at all show the reality of what we just endured,” she said. “We see it everywhere — on social media and on magazine covers.
“With my second child, before leaving for the hospital, I applied my makeup carefully because with my first child I didn’t have that perfect ‘after’ photo and I wanted it. The reality is that after 60 minutes of pushing, I was sweaty, red-faced and my mascara had melted down my face. I looked worse than I would have if I had forgone the makeup altogether.”
Still, #takebackpostpartum is alive and well on Instagram.
“Women are more confidently owning their bodies, not feeling obliged to always look good and social media-ready after giving birth,” said Marianne Ryan, a New York physical therapist who focuses on pregnant and post-baby bodies.
Jill Simonian wrote a book titled “The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump and Bounce Back Fast After Baby.” But even she says that all the social media-fueled self-doubt among new mothers isn’t good for mom or baby.
“If you want a blowout to make yourself feel better a few days after having a baby, go for it,” she said. “It’s the constant posting, showing, sharing that drives me absolutely nuts and indicates a surefire unhealthy start to new motherhood.”
Simonian supports a 30-day hiatus from all things glam after giving birth.
She said “These days, Instagram is split into two kinds of moms: the ones who want to show the absolute raw, very personal, private things, and the rest, who want to pretend they’re models in a staged photo shoot.”