Once you’ve had baby, most people say you will want to burn everything you’ve been wearing for the last nine months, but there may be some practical reasons why you can’t.
Dressing while being pregnant was not something I ever gave much thought to, and spending money on clothes that were going to specifically be about housing a giant belly for a finite period of time was not something I was going to plumb for either. If I bought anything, it would be with the hope that I could wear it after being pregnant, or if not, that it would have served its sartorial purpose and we’d happily part ways, belly back in some recognisable shape, tent-like structure confined to history. There were a few things I hadn’t counted on though.
1) I was totally unprepared for how incredibly broke I’d be after I had a second child. The doubling of childcare after returning to full-time work left me reeling at the end of each month. I knew it was coming, but for some reason, nothing can quite prepare you for the nose-bleed level of outlay in creche fees when it actually arrives. Everything bar absolute essentials, including any kind of social life, went firmly into the hazy days of the past and the squeeze was full-square on. Living in the red quickly became the norm, replacing anything in my wardrobe was completely out.
2) I’ve either been in work, or with the kids pretty much every day – due to an opposite schedule to my other half, even if I had money from Christmas or birthdays, shopping for clothes with two kids is a kind of hell that no sane person would or should ever visit upon themselves.
3) My body took longer to return to a more familiar shape and size then I expected. And let’s face it, it’s never going to be the same. Yet there is this false notion that with the grace of a couple of months, it should be like you’ve never given birth. After my second child, I still looked pregnant for months, if I didn’t have a baby attached to me, people would openly ask when I was due. They would be mortified to learn I wasn’t, I was determined not to feel ashamed. Why shouldn’t I still look a bit pregnant just a few months after actually being pregnant? But their reaction was so telling. Even when you’ve just had a baby, you’re still not supposed to actually look like you’ve just had a baby. The reality is it takes often up to a year for you body to fully recover, it’s something that needs to be acknowledged in a far more real way, right down to the extension of maternity leave to fully embrace that time. But that’s a whole other column/campaign.
Before I had my first baby, I spent much of my time cinched-in and buttoned up and in lots of skinny jeans – a pair of goatskin hip-grazing Jim Morrison-esque pants a particular going-out favourite. The comfort element was not something I ever gave much thought to, the fact that the imprint of the stitching on my jeans was often indented onto my bare skin when I peeled them off at night never really bothered me. But then pregnancy introduced me to jersey, a habit I’d never developed, and now I can’t get off the stuff. It hugs, it cuddles, it would make you a cup of tea if it could. Jersey super sized is an even tougher habit to break. This also, unfortunately for my other half, extended to underwear, which became one of the cheapest forms of contraception I’ve encountered.
My maternity clothes remind me of happy times. I loved being pregnant – to paraphrase Observer columnist Eva Wiseman, being pregnant is like being a celebrity, people smile at you in the street, you get seats on trains and general special treatment, sharply contrasted to when you give birth where you are rendered to the position of a PA at best, except to a high diva of J-Lo status where it’s all drama, pouts and unmeetable demands.
But ultimately there comes a time when you have to let go. For the simple reason, that despite the comfort, the memories, the jersey addiction, the clothes I wore when I was pregnant still make me feel pregnant, but not necessarily the fully popped and totally in bloom type. I don’t need to feel that way anymore. That doesn’t mean that I’m not eyeing up this one pair of wide-waisted jersey yoga pants for possible reprieve, they are so girth-giving that you could potentially fit a six-pack of beer in them and no one would be the wiser, an excellent extra functionality that I think merits a place in the back of the drawer, just in case.
Main image via Zara