This weekend, The New York Times published a piece on the rise of postpartum grooming, aka the practice of bringing a hairstylist to the hospital after giving birth. It seems more and more women are choosing to have professionals make sure they look their best for those first pictures with their newborn.
For someone who doesn’t have a baby, this all could come across as a bit excessive. Really, how can someone be worried about frizzy hair when they’ve just delivered a new life into the world? The Times piece points to a preoccupation with famous new moms, like Kate Middleton, who managed to look impeccable and paparazzi ready when she exited the hospital with her daughter, Princess Charlotte, only hours after giving birth. Instagram is another likely culprit, as many birth announcements are now broadcast on social media within minutes of cutting the umbilical cord. But in my own experience, the pressure to look presentable so soon after such a strenuous task—it’s called labor for a reason—didn’t come from the Internet or from celebrities, it came from other moms.
When I was approaching my due date earlier this year, I called my cousin, who had a daughter a few months back, to ask for her advice on what I should pack in my hospital bag. She listed a series of must-have items, which included a comfortable robe, warm socks, and fresh linens, before saying to me, in the most serious of tones, “Do not forget to bring some mascara. I forgot to pack mine and I looked so tired in my photos.” Until then, I hadn’t even thought about taking makeup to the hospital, I was too anxious thinking about contractions and C-section horror stories to care about what I would look like afterward. But she raised a valid point. Those first photos with your baby last forever, and who wants to regret looking terrible in them for a lifetime? I hung up and jotted down “makeup bag” on my packing list.
Another friend who has a one-year-old son shared her prepartum grooming strategy: After she had her first contraction, she called her doctor—who told her she was still hours away from having to go to the hospital. He suggested she walk around her neighborhood in order to speed up the process, and so she strolled to a nearby nail salon. “It was the perfect way to kill time until the contractions got closer together,” she said. “Not only was it relaxing, but I was also all set for the photos.”
While most postpartum snapshots are taken by family members, some hospitals now offer the services of a professional photographer to immortalize the moment. Instead of fuzzy iPhone photos, these pictures are taken with a bright flash, making the pressure to look good seem that much more intense. A fellow coworker tipped me off about the hospital photographer in advance. Earlier this year, she was pregnant with her second child, so she already knew to prep in advance. While she didn’t book a blowout in the hospital for fear of being perceived as too high maintenance, she did book one for just before she gave birth. “I wanted to feel my best,” she says simply. “And I got a pedicure, too—because who wants to stare at unpolished feet while pushing?”
In the end, I didn’t have much time to weigh the decision. My daughter, Paloma, surprised us all by deciding to come one week early. And while I didn’t enlist the help of a professional hairstylist, I will admit that when I felt the first twinges of a contraction, I jumped in the shower and proceeded to blow-dry my hair in anticipation. Of course, after seventeen hours of labor, the blowout didn’t exactly hold up. I also skipped on applying mascara, thankfully, since I cried my eyes out after my daughter was handed to me. But looking at those first photos, I don’t notice my sweaty hair or my red puffy eyes. Instead, what I see is the look of absolute love on my face as I met my baby for the first time. And really, what’s more beautiful than that?
The post Postpartum Grooming: Insane or Indispensable? appeared first on Vogue.
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