You May Think I'm Vain, But I'm Glad I Brought Makeup to the Hospital to Give Birth

The author, Cheryl Brody Franklin, shortly after giving birth to her son. (Courtesy of Cheryl Brody Franklin)

I’m a list maker, so when it came to packing my hospital bag, I made sure I included everything I could think of: Soft pajamas: Check. Face wash. Check. But makeup? I never thought of it. I’m a beauty product-aholic, but packing my lip gloss and mascara didn’t seem like a necessity (like those triple-thick pads did).

I pushed for three hours with my son—he did not want to come out—and when the doctor told me I had about 10 minutes of pushing left before a C-section, I bore down harder than I ever thought I could, and it worked. The photos of my son on my chest right after he was born are some of my favorite shots. My hair was a sweaty mess and my face was a marshmallow, but I just went through childbirth, and I was proud.

Fast forward to the next morning when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. I pushed so hard during labor that I broke the tiny capillaries all over my face, and my cheeks and chin were covered in red lines. I even took a selfie to document it (see below) that I never planned to share with anyone but myself, but I’m all about visuals, so why not? It’s a bit blurry, so it doesn’t show the extent of the redness. I looked like a puffy beet.

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The author’s broken capillaries after a drawn-out labor. (Photo by Cheryl Brody Franklin)

According to Joel Kramer, D.O. a obstetrician/gynecologist at Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania, it’s not uncommon for this to occur, especially now with more and more women getting epidurals (I had one), which decreases your ability to push. That, combined with improper breathing techniques, can add to the frequency of these inflamed blood vessels.

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“When most people push, they take a deep breath, hold it and push like a bowel movement,” Kramer explains. “It’s ingrained in us to do that, but that increases pressure in the veins — which are dilated due to pregnancy — and the added force causes them to burst.” To stop this from happening, Kramer suggests opening your mouth and expelling air as you push. But when you’re doing everything in your power to get the baby out, you aren’t always thinking about breathing instructions.

It takes about 7-10 days for the broken capillaries to fade away, so that is why on day two of motherhood, makeup is your friend. Years ago, I remember watching an episode of Bravo’s “Pregnant in Heels” featuring a mom who hired a hair and makeup artist to come to the hospital after birth so she would look perfect, and I thought she was out of her mind. Now I get it. I’m not saying you need to bring in a professional, but if you pack a few key products, at least you’ll have the option to feel a bit more polished.

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A week before I had my son, a friend gave me a sample of Clinique’s new Moisture Surge CC cream ($37, clinique.com), and even though I had never tried it before, I threw it in my hospital bag along with my face wash and moisturizer. Forethought? Who knows. But that tube was a lifesaver. Before family members whipped out their iPhones, I applied a thin layer over my cheeks and chin, and the red lines faded away. I didn’t look “made up,” but I felt like myself again.  

 “A CC cream is your hero product because it color corrects and moisturizes your skin which will likely be very dry in the hospital,” says hair and makeup artist Emily Kate Warren. The mom to two-year-old Ellaire says it’s best to keep things simple and apply the CC cream with your fingertips to cover red splotches around your nose and mouth. “You’ll look silly in full Kim Kardashian-makeup two seconds after you meet your child, so you want to be quick so you can focus on what’s really important.” She suggests swiping on a couple coats of mascara because “most people feel naked without it” and finishing with subtle tinted balm like It Cosmetics Vitality Lip Flush ($20, itcosmetics.com). “It’s sheer and lightweight, and if you’re kissing your baby, you want your lips to be hydrated, but you don’t want to leave gloppy stuff on their face and hair.”

Feel free to think I’m vain, but I’m happy I have both sets of photos to remember such a momentous time in my life: Me au naturel, and me with just a tiny bit of help. And when all else fails, an Instagram filter always saves the day.

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