In the early weeks of being pregnant, I didn’t give much thought to maternity clothes. I was consumed with just the new, frightening, wonderful, exhausting possibility of motherhood. As far as I thought about clothes, I think I figured that I wore pretty stretchy clothes, so I probably could get away with those.
But, yesterday I packed away nearly all my non-maternity clothes, because even the stretchiest of my shirts leaves a few inches of my expanding belly exposed if I move, and all my non-yoga pants stopped being comfortable, let alone button-able, months ago.
Fortunately, the other women in my life knew, even if I didn’t, that I would need real maternity clothes.
At 8 weeks, we had lunch with church friends, and I left their house with 3 borrowed stretchy dresses and a couple of sweat shirts. At 10 weeks, a friend from Washington DC emailed to ask me if I wanted all her maternity and nursing clothes.
At 13 weeks my mother took me shopping at my favorite thrift store for maternity wear. At 15 weeks, a friend showed up at church with a bag of maternity shirts, many that had belonged to other women at church. At 19 weeks, a DC friend passed along a bag of pants and tops that someone had given her since they were the same size.
And just this week (week 28!) my sister-in-law and I went through her sister’s maternity clothes, picking out a few gems.
It has been surprisingly meaningful to be clothed in motherhood in such a tangible way by my community. I am wearing the same shirts and tops that stretched and held so many other mothers: some who I knew when they were pregnant, and some I’ve only met after their babies are the rambunctious children darting in and out of our legs in the church fellowship hall.
I have been amazed at how I feel connected through the knit cotton and stretchy elastic to this community of motherhood. (Evan kids me about being part of the Motherhood of the Traveling Pants) These women have wrapped me up first in their hugs and then in their warm sweaters—meeting a need that I did not even anticipate really having.
Not every shirt or dress has been something I would have picked out for myself. I am a rather plan jane, classic casual kind of lady who avoids shopping and loud patterns—but I have found myself wearing neon-yellow and purple flowered shirts and even jean capris…which normally I would simply refuse to consider.
I am learning, in bold t-shirts and shorts, that motherhood stretches us to try new things, to try on things we might have dismissed and missed all together.
I am learning to let go a little of what I thought pregnancy would look like, and let it take the course that it is taking.
Pregnant bodies are simultaneously something that we love — we love to see babies and bellies growing, strangers commenting or even wanting to touch the expanding miracle.
And at the same time, pregnant bodies are something we avoid the reality of—images of pregnancy are often tiny models with tiny empathy bellies sporting beautiful and expensive outfits—like little girls playing dress up with basketballs or pillows down their shirts. Women compare and bemoan pregnancy weight gain, before the baby is out they talk about losing baby weight, and buy a dozens creams to avoid or repair stretch marks.
I do not have the answer to this. I both love my body now, and I also feel that it is too much—takes up too much space. But putting on a dress that has expanded and contracted with real live moms whose children I know and teach at Sunday school grounds me. I feel like it is alright to be a real person, eating and breathing and expanding at the rate that I and this little baby are. And there is comfort in that.
And maternity clothes are nothing if not comfortable. I have discovered the wonder of the belly band and the full-panel maternity pants—both of which allow me to breathe so much more deeply and freely. I didn’t even know that I was uncomfortable until I tried them on.
I didn’t know that I would appreciate this gesture of welcome by the women in my life. We are so often worried that our closest female friends echo the harsh voices in our own heads about how we should look. They’re not. So I am trying to listen to a different story, the one that my stripped maternity tank says to me—we love you as you are, as you are growing, as you are nourishing yourself and this baby—we are making room for you here.
How have you found your community has welcomed you in unexpected ways?
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