The recent fascination with Kim Kardashian’s maternity wardrobe, and the media's general fixation on pre- and post-baby bodies in general, has got me thinking that most people really have no fucking clue about the journey a woman’s body takes during and after pregnancy.
I say this with peace, love and understanding because I myself was also totally ignorant before I got pregnant last year. I thought I would have this cute bump for a while, my face and ass cheeks would soften, and then 5-6 months of post-delivery healthy eating and occasional exercise would bring me back to my pre-baby shape. I know. I am an idiot. But based on the way pregnant women's bodies and clothing choices are covered in the media, I am not the only one.
The truth is, most of us are only “cute pregnant” for a very, very tiny sliver of the pregnancy pie. The majority of the time our bodies look like they were drawn by some half-ass art student going through a Cubist phase and nothing, not even maternity clothes, fit quite right. Allow me to break down the perils most of us encounter when dressing while pregnant, stage by stage.
A woman finds out she is pregnant. Mazel Tov. Now she probably won’t really start to show for a few months, but even though she doesn’t look much different on the outside, she feels like a dizzy, vomitty mess on the inside. Nausea and skinny jeans, heck, nausea and any constricting waistband whatsoever are not friends. So even though she isn’t much bigger yet, and might even be smaller, she still might need to mumu and yoga-pant it up.
At this point she is showing alright, but there are no neat little half-domes involved. Instead, she just starts to thicken up all over, but the action is most concentrated in her stomach which has becomes this jiggly wiggly pile of mush. Maternity clothes are still way too big, but her old clothes are too small. She is in no-mans land and can only pray that it is summer and empire-waist maxi-dresses are on sale at Old Navy.
Hooray. She has arrived. She officially shows. And she is no longer nauseous. She goes out and buys fashionable maternity clothes. Everyone, come and look and touch the totally cute pregnant lady. So cute! Tell her how
she looks! How she has barely gained any weight! Isn’t being pregnant so fun?!!
Remember that pregnant lady who looked so cute and barely gained any weight except for that perfect little bump? Well, she’s back. Except this time she isn’t so cute. She is starting to get big, all over, like even in her nose. (Can noses gain weight?) Remember all those tops and dresses she got from the Pea in the Pod? Well, they're starting to pull. Over her belly. Over her boobs. People stop and tell her she must be due any day now and she just nods and smiles because it isn’t worth it to tell them the truth. Lewd men STILL stare, and occasionally whistle, at her impossible-to-hide boobs. Chairs start to squeak, loudly, when she sits in them.
Months 8 -9:
Wait. Remember how she was feeling kinda big? How all those cute maternity clothes she bought were starting to pull? Now they don’t fit at all. She bought all those stupid maternity clothes for three fucking months! She can barely stand, she is so big. She can barely sit, she is so big. The seams on her maternity leggings are starting to split. The three shirts that still fit are stained. But she keeps wearing them, over and over again, because there is literally nothing else.
She gave birth to a healthy child, thank goodness. Yay, she might think, she can start wearing her old clothes and maybe even shop in the normal section again. Goodbye disgusting fraying maternity leggings and stained, stretched-out tops. To the incinerator! But hold-up, pretty lady, you can thumb away on Gilt Groupe while breastfeeding all you want, but that belly isn’t going anywhere for awhile. For at least one month she will still look straight-up pregnant. During this time it is easier to just push that shit out and pretend she really is still pregnant than trying to suck it in when out in public.
Months 11 and beyond:
Her body begins to shrink, but it is a slow trickle and some areas move much, much faster than others. She's eating healthy, she's exercising and still, success means pulling her old jeans over her ass. Zipping is out of the question. She sucks it up and buys mom jeans just so she has something to wear in addition to those muumuus she wore during months 1 and 2. The end.
Elissa Strauss is a blogger and essayist who writes about gender and culture. Follow her on Twitter at @elissaavery.