What Becoming A Mother Has Taught Me About My Beauty Needs

Both my self-perception and self-care have changed since I spent 30 hours in labour.
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Both my self-perception and self-care have changed since I spent 30 hours in labour.

Now that I’ve been through the abject horror that is childbirth, I feel like I know what needs to be done; the world doesn’t stop for you when you’re busy carrying around and squeezing out a child. You’d think that I unleashed the Woman Within, just tooling around with a bare face and wild hair, laughing, all the time--laughing at all the whimsical things that come with parenthood, like finding your phone in the trash (stashed there by a gnome) and hair loss.

I’d love to say that since having a child, I love my body more and appreciate what it’s done. But that didn’t really happen. I hated my body more than ever during the process of having a kid and right after. It’s not easy, beautiful or fun for everyone. 

In the gross, sweaty, sleepless nights leading up to going into labour, I didn’t wash my face or put on mascara. Directly after giving birth, I couldn’t even get a comb through the monodread I’d worked up while writhing around for 30 hours of labour--I had to cut big, indiscriminate chunks of hair off to get it out at all. I remember fighting the urge to just cut it all off and be done with the whole mess for awhile.

THIS guy. Sorry for the Baby Rabies.

THIS guy. Sorry for the Baby Rabies.

Grudgingly, I accepted most of the changes in my physical appearance. Mostly, I accepted how little it mattered to anyone but me, and it made me re-examine why I cared at all, who exactly I was trying to impress. There’s a difference between playing with your nails or hair for YOU, and feeling like you look gross without makeup. I was squarely in that latter category. 

My husband was there in the room when I gave birth; he’s seen me at my absolute worst. And never once did he comment on my physical appearance. Never once was he like “Dude, you look JUST like Rodney Dangerfield right now! I don’t know why I love you! Ewwww!” No, he'd just send mind lasers via eye contact, right into the back of my skull, sending me “You’ve got this” vibes when I needed them most.

It’s kind of sad that it took me so long to get used to my face and body. I’m glad I’ve stopped needing to "fix" everything about me, instead, settling in to who I already am, not fighting the tide. Even though it started as a coping mechanism, I’m a lot more relaxed about maintaining a look. Bangs are all crimped and wonky from a session of sleep-sweating? Put on a beanie and roll with it. Maybe I’m not always polished, but I put that effort into my health and well-being--a whole new kind of beauty routine.

One of the few times reading a book didn’t end in tears.

One of the few times reading a book didn’t end in tears.

The biggest change is what I put on my body; I’m usually pretty good about using non-carcinogenic, organic, simple products, but there’s best-practice, and there’s cheap beauty products with adorable packaging that I NEED. But with my Pancake, I’ve been militant about not using weird, gross chemicals on him--the long-term effects of which we don’t yet fully understand. 

So I keep it simple and use mostly coconut oil for everything, but there are a few other products that I’ve started using since he came along that I don’t know how I lived without before.

Vitamin D

Pancake was born in the middle of winter, and our pediatrician recommended that we add vitamin D supplements to his food. I set my jaw a bit, graciously accepted all of the photocopied literature his nurse gave me (seriously, I can just Google it later, the 1980s wants their technology back). 

At home, I started researching vitamin D deficiency, and was more than a little surprised. I try to stay on top of nutrition, but I just had no idea how prevalent vitamin deficiencies are--it’s estimated that about half the population of the U.S. is deficient in vitamin D. It’s been linked to bone health, metabolic rates, depression, joint pain and fatigue, and it’s easy to get enough once you’re trying, especially with a diet full of nuts, mushrooms, fortified juices and fish. 

If you’re going the supplement route, consult your healthcare provider before you start dosing yourself up, as they can let you know about interactions certain supplements might have with other medications.

Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Oil

Yes, that's an actual bee.

Yes, that's an actual bee.

I’ve been seriously addicted to Burt’s Bees Baby Bee line forever. The mild ingredients plus the scent of what I can only describe as fresh butterfly milk make this body oil a new essential. 

Made with primarily apricot kernel oil, it’s light enough to apply all over, and it absorbs FAST. I slather Pancake with it after his baths, not just for the legit heavenly scent, but because it totally zapped the infant keratosis pilaris that cropped up on his upper arms and thighs. 

A longtime sufferer of the rough, dry, turkey-skin patches as well, I don’t always have time to exfoliate and wait for coconut oil to absorb. I put some on dry patches about once a day, and it leaves me smelling sweet and heals it within a few weeks.

Hydrocortisone Cream

This is the BIG Mamma Jamma.

This is the BIG Mamma Jamma.

I’m a big proponent of "You’ll probably be fine” when facing anything at all, but MFing allergies are the absolute worst. I’d never had them until after I’d had a baby. Thanks again, Mother Nature, for just really sticking it to women. 

I live in a place with HIGHLY allergenic trees--aspen, birch and willow--and even weeks before they budded, I was a swollen, red, itchy, weepy mess. My first instinct is to absentmindedly itch all the time. Ruddy red spots on my cheeks and chin that puff up after a few hours of yard work severely cramp my style, and my intense love of scratching an itch is literally a recipe for more inflammation. 

Hydrocortisone cream to the rescue! Along with my seasonal allergy medication (read: off-brand Benadryl), it really helps the little itchy spots from become big, mad, red welts. It’s also great for mosquito bites, bee stings and random rashes.

Nothing puts perspective in you like having a tiny human modeling their very own existence off of your every move. Already, Pancake (it’s a nickname, turkeys!) loves playing with my makeup brushes, and somehow knows how a flatiron works, despite the fact that I haven’t really used it in months. 

It really makes me think about what I spend my time doing, and worrying about my appearance in front of mirror has taken a backseat to finding tiny socks, which is easily ten times harder than finding regular socks in the sock bin, trust.