Making friends with lycra and other maternity clothes musings

3 May

I was lucky. I was donated and lent a lot of maternity clothes by my incredibly stylish and generous friends. That’s what happens when you are 34. Your friends are done with pregnancy and babies and frankly want all the paraphernalia out of their loft.

I didn’t really get into maternity clothes until I was around 6 and a half months pregnant. I wore my regular jeans for a long time, then bought 2 pairs of stretchy Primark skinnies one size up and wore them all the time with the waistband rolled down.

My boobs did not balloon into massive Jordanesque beasts (sadly) so my tops were fine for quite a long while too. It was winter so I just bought long vest tops and bump bands (amazing inventions) to bridge the gap.

At 7 months I moved into leggings and lycra maternity dresses. This became my uniform for the next 2 months. Lycra was my friend for the first time ever. My growing bump was low and round and I was incredibly proud if it. Wearing stretchy, close fitting clothes was a revelation.

At this point in my pregnancy I could no longer exercise ‘properly’ so I took up Aqua Aerobics, or Crone Splash as it was known in our house. In a one piece swimming costume I looked like an egg with legs. Not exactly the sexy pregnant lady ideal, but you get what you’re given. Being in the pool was fantastic. Hauling myself out? Not so much. Think: calling Greenpeace and winching equipment. But, the exercise helped both physically and mentally I’m sure.

As I wore my lovely stretchy lycra most days, the bump was obvious. It was Out There. Everywhere I went, people would now ask me when my baby was due. Strangers in the supermarket would try to TOUCH MY BUMP. To say this annoyed me is putting it mildly. Very mildly. It drove me nuts. I developed the following strategy and I advise all pregnant women to try it at least once. It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

Random: Ooh, when are you due, love?
Me: [deadpan, staring straight into their soul] I’m not pregnant.

It’s fucking hilarious. My husband was mortified when I did this when he was with me. Especially right at the end when I was huge. Do it. It’s awesome.

Anywaaay. Sorry, I digress. Back to the maternity clothes…

I found most mat clothes to fall into one of two categories.
1. Fucking horrible.
2. Hideously expensive.

These categories are not mutually exclusive either. Here are my views on what’s worth the money.

H&M
Great for tops, vests and dresses that double up as breastfeeding accessible.

Next
Good quality over all.
Great leggings.
Good choice of jeans.
Good swimwear and nightwear.

Mothercare
Vests great, underwear great.
Quite pricey for the quality.

Dorothy Perkins
Good maternity versions of their regular range.
Great for coats.

New Look
Some nice lycra tops and dresses.
Leggings are awful quality. Avoid.
Bump bands!! Brilliant.
TOO MANY SLOGANS! Slogans are my bugbear. Especially maternity slogans. Just. Say. No.

Red Herring (Debenhams)
Really lovely, good quality stuff.

Mamas & Papas
Remortgage your house.

My advice is borrow mat clothes or just buy stuff in a larger size until you really need to resort to maternity ranges, because you will get bored of them. Believe me.

Also, you’ll need them after the baby is born, for a little bit at least. I found my maternity jeans useless after the birth as they just wouldn’t stay up (vital, I find). My pre pregnancy jeans were nowhere near fitting for a month or so, and then they looked awful due to my other new acquisition.
The Overhang.
This is not a muffin top, it’s a whole fucking cake.

So, maternity leggings were still the staple of my wardrobe for a while. They come up to your boobs. They’re comfortable. It was what I needed at the time. Find good ones. Buy lots.

I haven’t had what I would class as a good figure since my teens, if I’m honest. And even then I thought I was fat. FFS. I was a size 10.

Pregnancy gave me a newfound admiration for my body. My bump was nice. Round and firm. Nothing jiggled. I felt comfortable in my skin. I did not feel fat. Even when I felt so slow and huge I couldn’t imagine ever running again, I felt good about myself.

Minus the baby my stomach looked and felt like a deflated ballon with porridge inside. It disgusted me. None of my real clothes fit and I have never felt so unattractive. It was a bleak time. I felt incredibly selfish and guilty for worrying about my body when I had a newborn to look after. Looking back it was ridiculous. I was way too hard on myself.

I also didn’t want to buy new clothes in a bigger size, which now in think was a huge mistake. I muddled through with mat clothes until I got back in my old clothes. Then I put away all the mat clothes in the loft. That was a good day.

You need to make yourself feel good in whatever ways you can after the physical and emotion wrecking ball of having a baby. It’s easy to downgrade yourself and your needs so much that you start to look and feel like a ragged crone.

You don’t need to like the changes, but it’ll help you in the long run if you try to accept them as they come. Some people I know have pretty much the same body as before pregnancy. I do not. I have stretch marks. I have soft flab that I never had before. I have carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s just part of the deal. I don’t resent it. It is what it is. In order to grow a baby in my mid thirties I acquired some collateral damage.

Midwives and other women said to me over and over, “Your body is designed to do this.” The thing is, it was actually designed to do it twenty years earlier at age 15 rather than 35. I was busy back then.

Embrace the bump. Pull on the lycra and deal with the aftermath as best you can. Physically, you won’t be the same as before, but nothing else will be the same either.

Pregnancy and childbirth leave you with battle scars, but they should feel like a badge of honour. And at least we have more maternity clothes options than the tent dresses that our mums had to deal with in the 70s. I hate polyester.

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