In college, I had a friend who worked in a maternity store at the local mall. So, technically, the very first time I tried on maternity clothes was in college and when I was not, in fact, pregnant. My friend talked me into trying on a pair of maternity jeans by insisting they were cute even for non-pregnant ladies. Then she gave me a little cushion to put inside the panel so I could see what my future — distant future, mind you — pregnant belly looked like. As you can probably imagine, I was totally weirded out. My college student self was in no way ready for the visual of my pregnant self. Some people surely are at that age and at that life stage, but I was not one of them.
However, the second time I tried on maternity clothes, it was a much more intentional experience, and one that I enjoyed with my own mom. This is the occasion I vividly remember when I think about shopping for maternity clothes, and what I think most pregnant women and moms can relate to. I was newly pregnant, browsing with a purpose, and actually in need of what I was shopping for. (And there was no need for a friend to give me a little cushion so I could picture what I would look like pregnant.)
Still, that’s not to say that trying on maternity clothes when I was pregnant was all kittens and rainbows, since I still had plenty of feelings about the whole thing. It was one of the many times that the reality of pregnancy again sinks in, and that can inspire all kinds of responses. At least, it did for me:
Overwhelm, As In “I Need My Mom”
OK, this might be me projecting that first experience of trying on maternity clothes onto the second, real experience, but still: there’s something pretty intense about seeing yourself with a (faux) belly for the first time. I mean, I stuffed pillows in my shirt as a kid when I played house, but that was the extent of it. Knowing that my belly was actually going to grow to a size that would fill those maternity clothes left me needing some emotional support.
Seriousness, As In “This Just Got Real”
I’d taken multiple pregnancy tests, seen my doctor, and had felt multiple side effects, so it’s not like it wasn’t serious already. Still, checking one more thing off the pregnancy to-do list was a clear reminder that this baby was definitely happening.
Pseudo-Optimism, As In “I Hope These Clothes Still Look Good When I’m Huge”
I’m not sure about everyone else, butI gained weight in plenty of places beyond just my belly when I was pregnant. While the clothes looked fine when I eventually needed them in my second and third trimesters they did not look the same way they had when I was 12 weeks along and simply using the store’s foam bump.
Hope, As In “Maybe I Can Wear This After The Baby’s Born, Too”
I definitely rocked some of my maternity clothes well after my first baby arrived, and I fully intend on doing the same after my second baby is born, too. I’m not sure about everyone else, but if loving big, loose sweaters is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Excitement, As In “OMG, This Is Really Happening”
I should probably preface this one with saying I’m not a huge shopper, so actually having a specific life change that required me to (temporarily) rework my entire wardrobe was not only a big deal, it was a major occasion. Plus, I’m pretty sure the last time my mom and I went intentionally shopping was for my wedding dress, so it definitely felt like an important milestone.
Frustration, As In “I Kinda Wish I Could Wear This Now”
Looking at you, loose white peasant top with cute stitching and buttons. I liked you from the moment I met you. It’s bittersweet that I’ve already grown out of you in this second pregnancy, and I’m sad that our time together was too short.
Self-Consciousness, As In “I Can Already Feel Everyone Staring”
Maybe it was because I exited the dressing room after every item, which always invites glances from other people. Or maybe it was because I was projecting my future self-consciousness over my growing body on my reflection in the mirror. Either way, the self-consciousness was impossible to ignore.
Fashion Savvy, As In, “Um, Some Of This Is Cuter Than What’s In My Regular Wardrobe”
Please tell me I’m not the only one who experienced this. I mean, I'm not alone, right? As I mentioned, I am not a huge shopper in general, so most trips to the store remind me of that I can always use a wardrobe update. Still, it doesn’t negate that it was one of the many, many feelings I endured while searching for maternity gear.
Disbelief, As In “Wait, Am I Seriously Going To Fit Into This Whole Thing?”
I hate to tell you, former self, but not only will you fill whatever you're buying in the maternity section, you’ll grow out of it a month before your actual due date because nature is a cruel mistress and the maternity clothing industry can only do so much to help it. Prepare yourself.