Maternity 101

I started wearing maternity clothes this week.  I felt bad about it because it seems so early.  Nonetheless, suddenly none of my pants fit.  It was nearly overnight, and for a person like me who views a closet as something to be curated and tended to, like a garden, it was cause for minor mourning.  For some reason, I thought it would be a more gradual and less dramatic transition.  But no.

Let me say this.  I understand that many people in my life have already been through this at least once, or even multiple times.  I am late to the party.  For some, this experience was years ago, and for others it much more recent.  I have come to realize how isolating an experience this is, although I also recognize that to be part of nature's plan.  You aren't supposed to be focused on child-free aspects of your life when all of your body's energy is working to prepare you mentally and physically to produce and care for offspring.  Biology requires that I learn how to put the needs of another before my own interests and curiosities.  Since this is not easy, nature wants me to start practicing now,  months prior to birth.  I have never questioned the fact that my pregnant and new-parent friends kind of disappear, but before this, I had also never examined the minutiae which creates this dynamic, nor how it feels to be the one disappearing.

One of the strangest things has been the loss of use of tools that normally bring me comfort.  Aside from the love and caring of my husband and friends, which I have obviously not lost, food and clothing are two things which I consistently rely on to make me feel good, better, energized, comfortable, comforted, happier, more relaxed.  When I am anxious, I organize my closet.  When I am not thrilled about getting out of bed, I make espresso.  When I feel toxic, I eat more salad.  When I need a pick-me-up, I reach for a favorite outfit.  If the budget is tight, I style new outfits using old clothes.  When the budget is generous, I enjoy the energizing power of new clothes.

The first trimester of pregnancy yanked those familiar crutches right out from under me, making it harder to feel excited about the baby whose arrival I already found intimidating.  Even though we completely brought this upon ourselves, I can't deny that it feel profoundly unfair to not only have to give up cocktails and my favorite jeans, but to also not find appetizing most of the foods which I normally would use for nourishment.  Luckily in recent days, my appetite has been returning to a version of its former self.  Clothing, however, remained a source of depression.

My job offer arrived the same week that I outgrew all of my pants.  Along with the offer came the news that the dress code is business casual.  Not unreasonable, but bad news for the woman who was hoping to skate through pregnancy in muumuus and leggings.  It also thwarted my goal of making my own maternity clothes, at least in the very short term.

What followed was a harrowing round of research.  I do most of my shopping online, and only venture out to stores occasionally or out of necessity.  So I started looking for new clothes this way as well, but then got nervous about the fit of garments on my new shape; I had no idea what to expect.  I fell down the rabbit hole for days, disappointed with how few choices there seemed to be, and amazed that I had never known about this situation before.  I combed through my pattern-drafting books, and there was not a word about the fit of maternity garments.  I also reviewed my vintage sewing books, of which I have a handful.  They were also silent on the subject of the pregnant female figure.  I couldn't even find any fashion design sketches on the topic.  How could this be?

I commonly hear people remark on how expensive maternity clothes are, and then ask why someone would want to spend money on items they only wear for a short time.  But I will say this: sad as it is, for how long do we normally wear garments that we buy?  Certainly we have items that we wear for years, but on the other hand, I would wager that most people buy many things that are worn for far less than a year.  Especially those of us in our twenties or thirties.  In recent years, I have been working to buy things less impulsively, and with a longer view, but on the other hand, when I broke down yesterday and bought those comfy maternity jeans and a cute new business-casual outfit which shows my bump, I felt very happy.  I felt good, and comfortable, for the first time in weeks.  I felt like my old self and my new self were finally united.  That in and of itself has value.  And even if I can't wear these things for the entire next six months, I know that I will continue to need them for at least a period of time after the baby is born.  If it turns out I can't use them after, I'm sure some other woman in my life will be thrilled to use them, and there is also value in that.

I still plan to try to make some garments, but in the short term, I'm thrilled to be able to once again throw on some jeans, eat something yummy, wonder who my baby will be, and go about my day.