I was never much of a makeup fanatic. Many of my early makeup experiences (or let's say, experiments?) conjure up memories of innocently disastrous attempts to cover up teen acne with drugstore foundations. My friends would cycle through lip glosses and glittery eye shadows, but me, not so much. One day towards the end of high school, my mom pulled me into her bathroom and I watched her (half annoyed teen girl, half completely intrigued) as she leaned over the vanitymouth open in concentrationapplying her trusty Lancme Artliner Liquid Eyeliner to leave for her workday as a teacher. The idea of applying eyeliner, or any type of makeup, sounds simple, but there's no denying there's so much power of choosing how you present yourself to the world. That choice, as well as the self-care that goes into expressing yourself through your style, can be incredibly empowering. Little did I know that moment with my momand that very productwould shape my first perceptions of womanhood that would carry me into my own motherhood.
Fast-forward several years later, I'm pregnant and I awoke one day around 7 a.m. to my water breaking and strong contractions. I finally made it to the car with my husband driving like a deranged lunatic through morning rush hour. The shoulder of the road. The horn. Nothing was off limits in his mission to get us to the hospital. The contractions were so intense and I felt unprepared for what was shaping up to be a seriously fast delivery. In movies, soon-to-be moms always comment on how they forgot their hospital bag (which, lets be real, you really dont need). I had no idea where my bag was at that moment, but I opened my car's center console and found comfort in something familiar: the Lancme eyeliner my mother taught me how to use. On a typical day in the parking lot of my office building, I'd apply my eyeliner and little else. Maybe it's because it's the one product that I truly knew exactly how to use (thanks to my mom or the ease of the lineror both). And in the middle of the chaos and the strongest contractions of my life, I started applying my eyeliner in the car.
This is where we all see women on Instagram who are completely made up birthing babies naturally without making a single peep and think "oh, sure thats real life." Some even see it as vain or unfocused to try to look "good" in post-birth photos. Let me just tell you that my appearance was the furthest thing from my mind as contractions came just a minute apart. Instead, I wanted that powerful feeling I watched my mom have leaving for work. I was engaging in arguably the most feminine act possiblebirthing a babyand I was harnessing my mothers example of confidence to get to the other side.
I applied that eyeliner between contractions like my life depended on it. While my husband swerved through cars my steady hand created some seriously awful lines that werent my usual handiwork but hey, I was ready. My husband was like, You dont need makeup! I was like, Its not makeup, its eyeliner! The distinction mattered. Eyeliner was my power tool, my secret weapon to make me the confident badass mother I needed to be that day. I literally could see better with it, with my eyes wide open, and carried myself differently even in labor. Thirty minutes and a missed epidural later, I was staring at my nine-pound newborn son in the face. My calming one-step makeup trick and my sweet new baby (and I guess my helpful husband) had done it again. I felt like a superhero, and it didn't hurt that I happened to look the part too: No runny eye makeup in sight.
Three short months later, it was time to go back to work (I followed in my moms footsteps and became a teacher). She had passed down the very same vanity where as a teen, I watched her apply her trusty Lancme eyeliner. A wave of nostalgia rushed over me as I recreated that scenethis time me playing her. Let's be honest, it took more than eyeliner to get me through that day (I very much needed a good, solid ugly cry outside the daycare door), but thanks to the familiarity of my makeup routine, I felt as ready as I was ever going to be to take on the dayagain.
Alex Frost is a Cincinnati-based journalist specializing in parenting, trends, and lifestyle writing. Her work has appeared in Readers Digest, Cincinnati Parent, and other publications. Frost juggles freelancing with three sons under four years old, and her other job as a journalism teacher.