When this new mom welcomed her daughter into the world in December 2016, she couldn’t contain her joy. Wanting to preserve the moment forever, she did what any social media-savvy woman in the 21st century would do: she took a selfie. Little did she know, though, that the resulting picture would send the internet into a frenzy.
Thaise de Mari, a 32-year-old fashionista from Santa Caterina, Brazil, is used to attention on the internet. The stylish businesswoman regularly posts fashion and travel updates to Instagram. Many of her 231,000 followers, in fact, came before this far less glamorous photo went viral.
On May 30, 2016, de Mari shared some exciting news with her followers. Accompanying a photo of her walking with her husband, their arms around each other, she wrote in Portuguese, “When love between two people no longer fits within them, God sends a new life. We are PREGNANT!”
For the next six months, De Mari posted regular updates about her pregnancy. She posted from the beach, by the pool, in New York, Los Angeles and Hawaii and closer to home – all while proudly showing off her growing baby bump. But she never seemed to lose her sense of glamorous-yet-casual style.
And then, on December 9, 2016, De Mari and her husband welcomed their first child, Carmel, into the world. After a C-section delivery, any new mom could surely be forgiven for not wanting a camera near them. A surgical procedure such as a C-section can be a stressful experience, after all.
However, De Mari’s overriding feeling was one of unbridled joy at seeing her daughter for the first time. After baby Carmel was carefully removed from De Mari’s womb, the child was handed to her father, who held the newborn close for mom to see.
Despite all the pain, exhaustion and effort that goes into child birth, for many women there is just one paramount emotion: the joy of producing a new human being. De Mari, in fact, was so keen to capture the happy moment that her husband reached for the camera.
Many women might prefer to look a little more presentable for their first photo with their newborn. Indeed, with a glam image to maintain for her social media following, it would be forgivable if De Mari had wanted to wait. But in that moment, she didn’t care for a slick of makeup or fixing her hair.
In the photo, De Mari’s husband wears a hospital gown, while the new mom is still lying flat on the operating table. It certainly seems that this is one snap that just couldn’t wait. In fact, the C-section had not yet even been fully completed when the photo was taken.
The new mom looked at her seconds-old baby girl and saw what appeared to be a smile on the newborn’s face. In that moment, De Mari mimicked the expression of her daughter, and that is when the picture was taken. It was a priceless moment captured forever.
Writing on Instagram in Portuguese, De Mari recalled, “And suddenly the picture of my life is without production, without resolution, without worry about hair, makeup or angle! My face is swollen and crying, dad with a face of baboon and Carmel already showing in the first seconds why she’s here… to make a family HAPPY!”
De Mari told Brazilian television network Globo in March 2017, “My husband was registering the moment with the cell phone, they put her next to me, and he approached us to do a selfie. He said it looked like she was smiling! I looked at her and also saw the same thing. We looked at the phone and smile, ‘imitating’ her face.”
To some, it looks more like the baby is crying in the picture. But De Mari told Globo, “Contrary to what a lot of people are talking about, she was not screaming!” The mom does believe, however, that there was probably another force at play.
Studies suggest that babies don’t start smiling as a result of stimulus until they are at least a month-and-a-half old. Given that De Mari’s baby was new into this world, the expression on her face was more likely a “reflex smile,” an instinct the same as sucking or rooting. It’s a theory the new mom agrees with.
“I think it was a spasm that coincided with a smile,” De Mari told Globo. And while it may not have been a real smile, the now-three-month-old Carmel undoubtedly wears a cheeky grin in the photos regularly shared to Instagram by her proud mom, who – perhaps inevitably – is starting to nurture her daughter’s fashion sense.
Rarely without a big bow in her hair, Carmel has so far rocked a leopard-print bikini and gone double denim with her mom. She’s even gotten a bespoke mermaid outfit made especially for Carnival. Whatever she wears, though, it’s rarely without the best accessory: her beaming smile.
Curiously, it was only when the C-section was some three months past that it suddenly went viral. But the joyful nature of the picture has struck a cord with many, with De Mari telling Brazilian news outlet ZH in March 2017, “It’s good to get so much affection from people we do not know.” Not all attention, however, has been positive.
“Unfortunately people have preconceptions every time,” De Mari told Brazilian news outlet ZH. “We get comments about the C-section, about the selfie, saying it’s a fake photograph.” She added, “People even mock my daughter’s name. I was annoyed, so I stopped reading.” Instead, De Mari encourages well-wishers to visit her on social media.
And despite the negativity, De Mari will continue to update her Instagram followers with her daughter’s progress. She told ZH, “That was I decision I made while still pregnant. I receive a lot of affection from people I do not even know. Since Carmel arrived, that affection has been even greater.”
De Mari has already returned to work. And although being a parent is a tough role and incredibly stressful at times, it doesn’t take much for the new mom to remember the job’s biggest reward: her daughter’s smile. She told Globo, “It’s a new life. It’s tiring but very pleasurable. Even at dawn when we’re exhausted, it opens up a smile that makes up for anything.”