Your due date is fast-approaching, or maybe early contractions have even begun. In the midst of scrambling to pack a hospital bag, contacting their medical teams and getting their other kids to their childcare locations, some moms have another to-do in mind: glamming up for birth.
Recently, celebrities have opened up about their own pre-baby arrival processes. Ahead of welcoming daughter Esti in January, Chrissy Teigen asked her Twitter followers how painful waxing “down there” is while pregnant. When fans asked why she’d bother, she wrote, “trying to do the doctors a solid.” And last November, The Hills alum Heidi Montag posted a TikTok of her squeezing in a hospital glam session ahead of delivering her second baby boy. The video showed Montag eating chips while a woman applied foundation to her face, multiple cameras aimed her way. Some of the reality star's fans called her makeup moment “sad,” while others commended her for “pushing in style.”
Both posts have raised questions about what pregnant mothers “should” care about, and why they might try to shave, do their hair or nails, put on makeup — or not — ahead of delivery.
Perpetuating “bounce-back” culture?
Women having to worry about glamming up before birth, ahead of one of the most physically and emotionally demanding moments of their lives, has some concerned. Jenna Fletcher, a mom of four kids (three living) in Philadelphia, Pa., says she’s pretty against it. “I feel that glamming up perpetuates the notion that birth is something women just bounce back from. It feels like the precursor to Instagram parenting, where everything is posed and perfect and just not real. It glosses over how hard and scary it can be,” she says. With perinatal mental health concerns — which nearly 1 in 5 women will experience during pregnancy or within the first year post-birth, according to the World Health Organization — any additional pressure can seem out of touch. “I really feel the focus should be on the health and safety of mom and baby,” Fletcher says.
In addition, Teigen and others’ insinuation that you need to shave for a doctor is a wide misconception some doctors have tried to push back against. Dr. Erica Montes, for example, posts on Instagram that she hears daily from patients that they’re sorry they didn’t shave, or tell her “don’t look at my nails." "I want you to feel comfortable with your appearance, but I honestly don’t care," the OB/GYN says.
Passing the time in early labor
For other parents, some of these self-care activities can pass the time during early labor, as the average labor for a first-time birth can last from 12 to 24 hours, and eight to 10 hours for additional births. It’s quite a bit of time that moms might spend preparing at home, maybe even taking a bath or shower, and so everyday grooming routines might seem like a natural thing to do.
Meredith Westheimer, a Florida mom of two, realized her water broke in the middle of the night, as her husband and first son were asleep. She took her time showering and blow-drying her hair. “I worried if I woke [my husband] he would make me go to the hospital right away and I wanted to get ready instead,” she says. She applied makeup in the car on the way, so she’d “look pretty” in pictures.
Celebrity makeup artist and mom of three daughters Mally Roncal calls makeup a “great distraction.” In addition to working with clients like Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, Roncal has released a campaign titled #LifeIsBetterWithMakeup that spotlighted TV host and mama-to-be Stuart Brazell, who entered the labor room in full makeup. “I think if it’s something that fulfills you and helps you not freak out, then do it," Roncal says.
Regaining a sense of control
For some, physically preparing their bodies for birth is a self-care ritual that might be soothing in an otherwise out-of-control situation. “I was nervous and found I gained a little bit of control in the situation by paying attention to my appearance,” Lizzie Goodman, a mom of two in Chicago, says, recalling how her postpartum depression and months parenting her first baby with colic affected her. “I was panicky about being wide awake and willingly walking myself into the [operating room]. I was also feeling super-guilty and sad about leaving my oldest to go to the hospital for a few days. Having the ritual of getting ready — curling my hair, applying makeup, having my sister give me a pedicure with cherry-red nail polish that made me smile — gave me some freedom from ruminating on what could go wrong and how scary the road ahead would be.”
She calls the glam prep a "sort of care ritual that I could do for myself — and with my sister — that helped me get back into my body and out of my anxious mind. I also knew that once my little one arrived, I'd be in quite a bit of pain and be super-consumed by baby life to take care of myself in that way."
The power to choose for yourself
As with any controversial topic or debate, in the end the answer is typically to do what’s best for you and leave others to do the same, without judgment.
“I’m going to be really freaking honest with you — it’s just about what you want to do," says Roncal. "The empowering part is choosing what you want to do."
“You want to look fierce? You want to look great for your pictures? Awesome,” the makeup artist adds. “But that was their choice, not somebody else’s choice.”
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