Mostly because my clothes don’t fit properly. Which is because I am pregnant. I get that, but it is still a tough pill to swallow some days.
Before I became pregnant, I heard stories about women who never needed to shop in the dreaded maternity section. I saw pictures of the freak-of-nature Heidi Klum and other celebrity mamas who are dressed by professionals and photographed only from certain angles. And I had this fantasy that my baby bump would be just that, an adorable basketball on the front of my body that had no adverse effects on anywhere else. I was misinformed.
Even though my weight gain is perfectly on track, even though people remind me I am growing a person, even though I know it seems vain to worry about my physical appearance during such a miraculous time, I find myself at times struggling with the changes to my body that have resulted in changes to my wardrobe. It doesn’t help that upon mentioning these insecurities, I am often met with eye-rolling and tsk-tsking. “You are MEANT to gain weight! Your baby NEEDS it! You’re not thinking of starving your baby in hopes of avoiding cottage cheese thighs, ARE YOU?” No, I’m not. But I am going to talk about pregnancy with honesty so as to limit the amount of eye-rolling other women have to deal with. I’ll take one for the team, and say that gaining weight, even for this great purpose, is hard for me.
Previously flat chested, I am now sporting some C-cups. And C-cups, it turns out, are more affected by gravity than AA-cups. My baby bump has also led to some baby lumps…on my bum. My thighs are touching in places and ways they didn’t before. Cellulite is now part of my look. All during bikini season. And, I realize, all minor details when it comes to the end result, but a bit disconcerting when facing my closet in the morning.
In the year or so leading up to us beginning the baby adventure, I would mentally check off certain pieces of clothing that I thought would be good for pregnancy. Since tunics and empire waists and loose lines have been in fashion, I felt I was adequately stocked with an entire wardrobe that would accentuate my glow. It all sounds so naïve now.
Firstly, those newly sprouted breasts don’t fit well in most of my tops that were in any way fitted. Secondly, even with the help of maternity bands, most of my pants became unbearably uncomfortable, if only because of bloating, by about 15 weeks. Third, I learned that as undesirable as they may seem at times, maternity clothes (at least those done right) are actually designed to fit the growing form of a pregnant woman. Go figure. I’ve changed my mindset, I’m constantly adapting, working to feel like something more than an expanding woman in a potato sack.
The following are my survival methods:
1) The good news is that, in contrast to the cruelty of a bikini, summer brings the freedom of a sun dress. Once I was over the initial shock of what it means to have cleavage instead of a Debra Messing-like gap between my breasts (and brought a properly fitting bra), I realized that my penchant for relaxed, jersey-knit sun dresses was going to pay off during the hottest months of my pregnancy. Over my bathing suit to the beach, with cute jewelry and sandals to dinner. They are comfortable, versatile and available for purchase everywhere.
2) I also discovered that while some of my favorites won’t fit me for a while, I can find budget versions of pieces I love in a size (or two) bigger, thereby avoiding the often limited selection of the maternity section and maintaining my personal style.
3) This isn’t the time for me to act like a diva. If I ever had ‘rules’ about how frequently I could wear something, I have since thrown them out the window. If I find a piece or an outfit that makes me feel comfortable and look great, I wear it as often as I can until I have to wash it, then I wear it again once it’s clean. Odds are in a week my current favorite will not fit quite right, so I am going to make the most of it.
4) Maternity clothes have their place in my life. Those women who make it through pregnancy and never wear stretchy top jeans are the exception, not the rule. I look for sales, I borrow shamelessly from friends who are willing to lend, and I make the most of basic pieces, like a pair of linen shorts or dark skinny jeans, by wearing them a lot. And in the name of karma, I promise I will lend out everything I have to anyone who wants it when their time comes, because I know the pain of buying something that you know will only fit for a few months.
5) I’ve forgiven myself. Not for gaining weight, since for that there is nothing to forgive, but for worrying about my body image. At first I felt guilty, like a vain, selfish, silly woman who has no business becoming a mother if she can’t just get over a little cellulite and some saggy boobs. But then I realized that being human, being a woman, I’m flawed and complicated. I love my baby bump, love my baby. I also loved fitting into my pants and my favorite top and not having my boobs resting on my stomach. These things are not mutually exclusive.
It doesn't work every day, in every outfit, but I find that as I continue to gain weight, I feel less fat. Less self-conscious, more comfortable in my stretching skin.
Contributing author Lane is an intentionally unemployed social worker who is currently growing a human, following her husband's dream, trying to stay relevant, and practicing her mothering skills on two rescued dogs, Enid and Falcor. Check out her fabulous blog, the Overseas Trapeze.