Postpartum perfection: The impossible standard of glamour after giving birth

Kate stuns the world with a third immaculate postpartum appearance right after giving birth to Prince Louis. Photo: Ian ...
Kate stuns the world with a third immaculate postpartum appearance right after giving birth to Prince Louis. Photo: Ian Jones/Alamy Live News 

As Danielle Bayard Jackson was putting together her birthing team, she made sure to include a doula, all the details she wanted taken care of during delivery and how bright the lights should be for ambience.

She passed on the makeup artist.

"I even looked up various prices, but something about that felt frivolous," said Jackson, who lives in Tampa, Florida. "I decided I didn't want to worry about that after such a monumental moment."

Duchess of Cambridge Kate immediately after the birth or Princess Charlotte. Photo: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Duchess of Cambridge Kate immediately after the birth or Princess Charlotte. Photo: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) Photo: AP

Therein lies the debate centred on pregnant women in today's social media- saturated world: to glam or not to glam soon after a whole human being exits your body, or do as Seattle-area mum Robin Rucinsky did by the time baby No. 4 rolled around:

"I didn't pack a single cosmetic. I brought a toothbrush and chapstick."

With the Kate Middleton postpartum hair blowout (three times!) fresh in our minds and another royal birth upcoming, the debate over perfection during labour and just hours 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," Amy Schumer, suffering from chronic nausea throughout her pregnancy, cracked during her new Netflix comedy special. "She's out there in, like, 6-inch heels, adorable outfits."

While we won't know 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 next month.

And when she does, anti-glammers will take notice.


"I think that a mother who has just given birth is beautiful - with dishevelled hair, with smeared or no makeup, with top wide open for skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding," said Kirsten Brunner, a perinatal counsellor in Austin, Texas. "I love the trend in birth photography of capturing the reality of childbirth and the postpartum experience. I encourage my clients to let go of all pressure to get back to normal as soon as possible."

But, no judgments of those who choose to spruce up. 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 mum feel best cuts both ways.

For Julien Farel's wife, it meant pulling her look together to greet visitors - including her Old World British grandmother - after the arrivals of their two children.

Farel owns the Julien Farel Restore Salon and Spa inside the Loews Regency Hotel on New York's swanky Park Avenue. He's been providing and arranging for in- hospital services for women giving birth since 2001, with prices now ranging from $450 for a blow out, makeup or manicure to $2,800 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 has between 10 and 15 in-hospital pregnancy clients a month among his usual customers.

Donna Yip, 38, a Manhattan attorney, used one of Farel's stylists, Jackson Simmonds, in the delivery room for the births of both her children, the first in 2013 and the second in 2015. He massaged her head, blew out and styled her hair and did her makeup.

"He stepped out during the pushing part," Yip laughed. "I think for everyone, they have what makes them feel good and if it makes you feel good and brings a little bit of normalcy into an exciting but also a hectic and anxious period of your life, you should go for it."

Brenda Kosciuk, outside Scranton, Pennsylvania, 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."


Image and caption by @mygreatestwonders. ・・・ | Taken 3 days postpartum | I’m not going to share how little or how much weight I gain during pregnancy, I’m not going to talk about how slow or fast I get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and I’m not going to reveal at what point I’m able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans. Why? . Because weight gain alone is not a definitive marker of anything during pregnancy nor do I believe it to always be 100% in your control. . Because I don’t want to add to the pressure our culture puts on mothers to be/look a certain way during such an extreme transformation (whether intentional or not). . And most importantly, because I don’t want to reduce the beautiful miracle of creating, growing and birthing new life to a number on the scale. . Women are more than that... I AM MORE THAN THAT. #embracethemombod #embracetheprocess #takebackpostpartum

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Still the hashtag "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, who - ironically - wrote a book titled "The FAB Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby," said all the social media- fuelled self-doubt among new mothers isn't good for mum or baby.

"If you want a blowout to make yourself feel better a few days after having a baby, go for it! It's the constant posting, showing, sharing that drives me absolutely nuts and indicates a sure fire, unhealthy start to new motherhood," she said.

Simonian supports a 30-day hiatus from all things glam after giving birth.

"These days, Instagram is split into two kinds of mums," she said. "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 photoshoot."