Good luck, sister. You’ll need it.
That’s about the best advice I’ve received. And it wasn’t even given. It’s what I’ve inserted in the vacuous silence on the subject of post-partum clothes shopping.
I’m about 5 months out now from having our bouncing baby boy. He is all squishy rolls and cheeky grins these days. He is like the prized family dog: getting constant affection from all of us, even if we are feeling tense with each other at the moment. We love our little dude fiercely.
And I am…still not looking like myself. I put on roughly 35 pounds when pregnant, which is how it went with my other two kids as well. Normal for me. And I still weigh about 15 pounds more than my average weight right now. But my shape is all different. After having three babies, my belly muscles would rather give up the fight. And after dinner at the end of the day, you could pretty reliably congratulate me on my 4th month of pregnancy. Aren’t I just glowing? Nope, that’s just pot roast in there.
I’m exercising again: core strength in the living room on the floor with baby, jogging in the fresh air from time to time with the Bob stroller. But this is not a post about getting my body back. Oh sure, I would feel so much better about my own personal destiny if my body had the same shape it did 7 years ago, but I’m not impatient. I’ve been around this ride two times before, and I know the amount of time a mama needs to get herself back up and running. It’s all variable. To get sleep back, with my babies, it took a few months. To get my mind back, it slowly seeps back in through the first two years. To get my body back, I actually found around the three-year-mark, my hip bones themselves moved back to their old shape. Aaaaand, then I got pregnant again. Bring on the Relaxin, coursing through my veins, loosening my ligaments and joints, in preparation for the stretch of childbirth.
So here we are: 5 months post-partum, and nowhere to shop. I am decidedly out of maternity clothes (Don’t look in the back of my drawer at that one pair of jeans I keep for… when I have one of THOSE kind of days.). I gave the rest of my belly-clothes to another mama at school who is due at the end of the month. She was all smiles and thanks, and I was all generosity and feeling the clean heart of a well-placed closet purge.
But now, the connundrum: What to wear? I saved all my pre-pregnancy clothes, which I completely do not fit into, unless I want to be skin-tight with my mama guns, my nursing chest, my still-round belly, and my thighs of…um, glory. Not trying to turn heads here.
Here’s the thing: I’m not going to stay this size, shape, and weight, forever. But what do I wear in the meantime? The stores do not have a section for me. There are sections for Regular Ladies Clothes, Intimates and Activewear behind that, a cute little Maternity Section, and a discreetly placed Plus-Size Section right next to it. Is this the circle of life in a department store?!
Ladies, we need a Post-Partum Section. We need jeans that have just a little stretchy band at the top, or a compression panel to hold the belly back in, if that’s what you’re going for. We need a whole line of fashionable nursing shirts and tops, that do not have the side-ruchings to handle a belly. It’s weird how many of my nursing tank tops also have the maternity belly. Am I nursing while pregant? How many children are you expecting me to have, Clothing Industry?
It’s great that we have laws in place now that protect a mother’s right to nurse her baby, wherever she needs to, and not find trouble for indecent exposure. We are not trying to start a war here. We are just trying to feed our children and further the survival of the species. It’s just as uncomfortable for us mamas, especially when the baby is kicking off our nursing covers in the middle of a restaurant. Cute, really cute. Now finish up so that mama can take a few more bites of pizza.
But we need some clothes that work for our working bodies. We are soft and round. We still have squashy bellies and big thighs. Our babies need easy access to our mongo bosoms, and we need clothes that fit our shapes and our tasks at hand. Our husbands assure us that we are still beautiful to them, but it would be nice to feel beautiful ourselves, to feel remembered by the fashion industry, and to be provided clothes for this very special, very intense, but ultimately very short period in life. I am not plus sized: I am post-partum. I did not get this way by overindulging, but by creating and fostering life. I am within the normal range of every size and every bell-curve. And I would like some clothes that fit.