I got back from vacation a week ago. As I was getting ready this morning I realized my make-up bag was nowhere to be found. Then it hit me. I hadn’t unpacked it yet. I paused and a smile crept over my face. This was a first. For the last seven days not an ounce of make-up went on my face. It was such a funny moment that I walked into the family room with the towel around me to tell my husband. He too seemed a bit surprised… and impressed.

As a new mom with a six-month-old baby boy, I’ve witnessed a transformation within myself. Gone are the days when I needed to get all dolled up in order to feel beautiful in my own skin. To give you an idea, I was that girl in college who showered and was all done up…even for my 8 a.m. classes. I can’t recall a single time where I just threw on my Marquette sweatpants and rolled out for Philosophy class. Then, after graduation I moved from TV market to TV market. My make-up bag was like another appendage. I would double and triple check my work bag before helping people start their days in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. I would even throw on mascara to hit up the gym. So much of my life in TV was based on appearance. In the moment, I didn’t think twice about. You constantly feel judged for what’s on the outside and do all you can not to receive negative criticism from complete strangers.

Now, as a stay at home mom with my little guy I find beauty in just being me. I don’t have anyone to impress. I’m in the trenches, learning this new mom life and reveling in the make-up free selfies that show me in the thick of it. My husband has always preferred me without make up. I think he’s loving this “new me” too. Sure, it’s nice to get all glam for weddings and family parties and outings with friends. But, those moments feel like dress-up in a way. It’s not the me I’ve come to love. The beauty of motherhood is that your focus goes from being on yourself to someone else. It’s a journey of self-discovery and roller coaster ride that I’ve been in line for my whole life. The twists and turns and unknowns are amazing and scary at the same time. You see your body transform in miraculous ways while you’re creating a life and then in the months following the baby’s arrival, it’s all too easy to look in the mirror in angst at your new, foreign body.

Now, when I look in the mirror with my son on my hip, I don’t focus on the bags under my eyes… instead, I focus on the joy I see within them. The pride I feel just knowing that this little guy doesn’t care if mommy’s eye shadow is on point or if my eye liner is still on. He sees me the way I’ve always hoped to see myself. It’s empowering to leave the house whether it’s to Target or to the grocery store and just grab my purse and not even look in the mirror. My messy bun, plain face and yoga pants are my reality. And I’m not afraid to show it. My mom recently visited and said, “I didn’t realize you were such a t-shirt girl.” I wasn’t, until I had my baby. What’s the point of wearing nice clothes when my miniature sidekick is just going to spit up and drool all over me. I choose comfort. And for the first time in my life, I can honestly say I’m comfortable just being me.

Natalie Hayden

Natalie (Sparacio) Hayden, 36, is a former TV news anchor living in St. Louis. Her mission in life is to be an advocate for those battling inflammatory bowel disease and to show that a chronic illness doesn’t have to dull your sparkle. Natalie was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in July 2005. After several hospitalizations, countless medications and flare ups she underwent her first surgery in August 2015. Natalie and her husband have two children, Reid and Sophia.