I should start by saying that I don’t want to be pregnant again, nor am I one of those women who claim to love being pregnant. I still remember all the crappy parts, but I confess I do get tiny pangs of envy when I see a happy, glowing pregnant woman. You know the sort: halo floating above her thick pregnancy hair and adorably round belly and not extra roundness.
Pregnancy is so much cuter than motherhood. It’s not just the glow. It’s easy to feel pretty and charming when you’re pregnant—easy-breezy-beautiful! When you’re pregnant, you have so much time to do your hair! No one is tugging on you while you get dressed or crying while you blow-dry.
When I see lovely, well-dressed and pulled together pregnant ladies, I think “Yeah, just wait ‘til the baby comes and see how long that lasts. Good luck with the whole cute thing after that.” Do I sound bitter? Don’t answer that.
When I gave up my maternity clothes a year ago, the hardest part about it wasn’t letting go of having more kids. It was remembering who I was when I bought those clothes—a professional with a job I loved, living in New York, indulging my desires for nice things that made me happy. My pregnancy clothes were worlds away from my stay-at-home fashion statements.
When my mom was pregnant, she tells me, she had one dress, which she made herself, to get her through four summers with a third-trimester belly. Lucky for those of us who need an hour to sew a button, maternity clothes aren’t awful these days, and it’s the best shopping excuse you’ll ever have. Pregnant women today don’t hide under tents. They dress to accentuate their beautiful round bellies. It’s such a lovely shape to be. When there’s a baby in there. After the baby exits, not so much. Then, it’s all about clothes that are good at hiding whatever roundness remains. Or sags. Luckily, a baby is a very handy prop to distract everyone from your impaired ability to pull yourself together. “Don’t try to guess when I last showered! Ignore the spit up covering both of my shoulders! Look at those adorable baby cheeks!”
(Tangent: I think we need to stop repeating the “you never get to shower” cliché to new moms. Veteran moms should encourage new moms to shower every day. Even if it’s only for two minutes and the baby has to scream, it’s an early way to learn that it’s okay to do things for you.)
Showered or not, it’s a rough transition. One day everyone is telling you how beautiful you look, and then silence.
Stepping on the scale as it ticks upward when you’re pregnant takes a little getting used to, but you can try to tap into the confidence that your body is doing what it’s meant to be doing. Not expanding for reasons involving ice cream.
Still, it’s hard to go from feeling beautiful to feeling like you’re stuck in someone else’s yucky body. The only thing that helped me through that postpartum funk was remembering (and feeling grateful for) the amazing thing my body had just done.
Thinking back to my pregnant self, soaking up the happy stares from strangers as I walked city streets on my lunch break, I remember trying to imagine what not being alone was going to feel like. Even as carrying a baby belly did slow me down, it’s nothing compared to trying to do things with an infant. It’s good preparation actually, the pregnant shuffle, for the slow pace ahead.
The slowdown that happens during pregnancy (literally: you can’t walk as fast) prepares women for the slower pace of life with a baby. The exhaustion that overtakes pregnant women prepares their bodies for the sleepless nights ahead. And all the changes that you make to adjust your life to pregnancy, those are just preparations for how much room you need to make in your life to fit in motherhood.
A pregnant belly can fit into your old life. It’s almost like you have a fabulous new accessory—you get lots of compliments, but it doesn’t change your life. Once that new accessory is on the outside, it no longer improves every outfit. Good thing babies are so freakin’ cute.