It's Not Just Royals—the Pressure for a Perfect 'Baby Reveal' Photo Is Real
Just look at the hashtag #firstfamilyphoto on Instagram and you’ll find nearly 30,000 posts of happy families sharing their new babies with the world. In some of those photos, you’ll see moms with perfect blowouts, full faces of makeup, and neat manicures, often still in the hospital or even in the delivery suite. And these posts don’t just come from influencers or otherwise famous, well-followed women—as much as was made of every detail of Meghan Markle’s post-baby debut, Instagram has made a culture out of the "baby reveal" photo that it has trickled down to new moms everywhere.
The ubiquity of the mom-and-baby debut photo can turn into pressure to prepare for baby’s birth like it was a photo call at Frogmore Cottage. “I got a full cut, color, and blowout the day before my C-section. I also got my eyebrows threaded and had some very fancy PJs to wear,” says Kirsty Brown, a mom of one in Los Angeles. Angie, a mom of one in Boston, packed a “nice robe, mascara, and a hair tie” in her hospital bag for photos.
“I prepped for the birth like I was going to prom,” says Rachel Rhoads, a mom of one in Los Angeles. “Lash extensions, manicure and pedicure, you name it. I even considered getting a spray tan.” Moms have, of course, been taking new-baby photos since cameras became portable enough to bring along to the hospital, but for many, the shareability of them has changed how they prepare for the delivery room.
Case in point: Diana, a mom in Virginia, has two kids that were born before the boom of Instagram, but is expecting her third child later this year. “If I'm being honest, yes, I've put more thought into my appearance for these upcoming photos, and yes, it's because I see so many perfectly-coiffed, glowing pregnant and new moms out there,” she says.
But while social media may have created the urge to glam yourself up for childbirth and/or newborn photos, one thing that many of the moms who went through an elaborate beauty routine said was that they ended up not caring that they’d put so much effort in. For one thing, the realities of giving birth can undo any hard work that went in. “I got a blowout the morning of my afternoon scheduled C-section so I would look nice in those first baby pictures, and I still looked sweaty and gross by picture time,” says Michelle, a mom of one in Chicago.
And in the end, those sweaty pictures are cherished because of what they represent. “After all the prep I did, my favorite photo is me shirtless and drugged and messy but so happy,” says Brown. Angie agrees: “My labor ended up being so fast, I had no time for anything beauty-wise. My hair was down, I still had a sports bra on, and definitely no makeup. But that first photo with my daughter is my favorite,” she says.
Still, doing a full beauty routine before childbirth just to take a picture seems silly or fruitless to some. When Kate Middleton debuted Prince Louis just seven hours after he was born—with her hair looking perfect, naturally—fellow moms posted rebuttal photos that showed themselves a few hours later: half-naked, in mesh underwear, puffy and decidedly not glam.
And women who have done their hair or makeup while in labor have faced online backlash, too—one makeup artist whose story went viral after she applied a full face in her delivery suite got hateful comments like “poor baby, getting so close to so much chemicals of make-up on her mother's face” and users suggesting the maternity ward was no place for beauty standards.
But if makeup or beauty care makes a mom feel more confident, what does it matter? “I’m due between hair appointments so my stylist is having me come in for a root touch up closer to my due date. And my nail tech had a nail art design in mind. I don’t even have photos scheduled or anything,” says Kristan Dietz, an expectant mom in New Jersey. “It all seems so silly, but I think we can all feel a little bit like visitors in our own body during pregnancy. Little things like this help me feel better.”
Dietz is right, putting extra time into hair or makeup can—and does—help moms feel more comfortable not just in their bodies, but in front of the camera. “My beauty routine was a part of my nesting process,” says Rhoads. “And my hair was fantastic in the pictures taken immediately after the birth, so there's that!” It’s those sentiments that makes the effort worth it, many moms say.
Diana put it this way: “For our maternity session, I got my hair and makeup done, which I've never done outside a wedding before, and I was actually happy with the way the photos came out,” she says. “I am generally self-conscious in photos and don't consider myself photogenic at all, and I think having my makeup done helped. It's not just a factor of comparing myself to other moms—I want to be satisfied with our newborn and family photos because I'll be looking at them for the rest of my life. That's much more important to me than having a great pic to post on social media.”
Sara Gaynes Levy is a freelance writer and editor in New York City covering wellness and culture. Follow her @saragayneslevy.
Originally Appeared on Glamour