Somewhere in a box in the attic, there’s a photo of me taken shortly after giving birth. My face is puffy and shiny with sweat, my eyes are tired and my hair is damp and stringy. Cradling my newborn baby girl in my arms, I look like I just ran a marathon in the Texas heat. While it is certainly not the most flattering photo ever taken of me, it is one of my favorites because it truly captures one of the most important moments of my life.
Now, I suppose that moment could have been captured just as well a few minutes later after I had given some attention to my appearance. I could have combed my hair, powdered my face and put a little color on my lips. But I gave birth before Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Nobody outside my immediate family was ever going to see that picture and besides, I was really tired and couldn’t have cared less how I looked.
But times have changed. With the advent of the Internet and social networking sites, it’s not enough to come through labor and delivery with a weary smile on your face. These days, modern moms know they will be facing an Internet-ready camera immediately after giving birth and are arriving at the hospital prepared for their close-up.
And we aren’t just talking about a comb and some lipstick here. Some of the women profiled in an article at Boston.com talk about flat ironing their hair and putting on their full faces prior to heading to the hospital. Others bring along what they need to fix up afterward, including one woman whose hairstylist sister was charged with providing loving support and a new hairdo in the delivery room.
Dr. William Camann, director of the obstetric anesthesia service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says all this attention to appearances isn’t about vanity as much as it is about control. He puts delivery room primping in the same category as planned cesareans and elective inductions.
It’s not just planning the birth, but planning everything that goes along with the birth, which includes looking good for the pictures.
I am rolling my eyes over here. Maybe some mothers are motivated to pretty up in the hospital because it makes them feel more in control of what’s happening. But I can’t help thinking that most new moms who fret over postpartum photos are doing so because they feel a need to present an image of pulled-together perfection at all times. And just who are they trying to impress? Each other, I guess.
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