Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Clothes Horse

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve cared about the clothing I wear—a favorite sweater or perfectly broken-in pair of jeans or shiny knee-high black boots that perhaps would have been better suited for riding horses than attending Care-Bear-themed birthday parties—I chose these items carefully each morning, relishing the “look” I felt I was creating. Bookish one day, flowy and romantic the next. I was a shy kid—friendly, but quiet—and used clothing as a way of expressing myself to the world without having to open my mouth.

I never understood people who wore pajamas all day long. One of my least favorite parts of the week was Sunday morning when my mom and dad hung out and read the newspaper in their robes—All. Morning. Long. Weren’t they bored and icky-feeling? I was bored and icky-feeling just being in the same room with them. A day of pajamas was a day of nothing interesting happening. And, frankly, after decades of use, those robes didn’t smell so great. Even when I was sufficiently sick to stay home from school, I hoisted myself out of bed and put on clothing. Just being in my pjs after 8am made me feel more unwell than I already was.

So you can imagine how poorly I’ve been rolling with the whole maternity clothing thing. Just toss on some yoga pants and one of my husband’s extra-large t-shirts advertising some extreme sporting event? I’d pretty much rather kill myself. Call it vanity, call it stubbornness, call it making my life more difficult than it needs to be—I do not wear exercise clothes unless I’m exercising. And even then I’m inclined to wear things like cute, stripey knee-socks rather than the requisite puffy white sweat-collectors.

As for actual, official maternity clothes, why must they be so hideous? There’s nothing quite like not being able to fit into pants unless they feature a “secret fit maternity panel”—essentially a giant tube of pantyhose where belt-loops ought to be—to send a woman, or this woman at least, running into the arms of the nearest therapist.

I’m surprised by how difficult it’s been. I always fancied myself to be one of those women who would like being pregnant. But that was before I came to grips with the grim realities of all-day morning sickness and permanent indigestion, and before the realities of maternity panels, granny-cut shirts, and the poly-blends maternity clothing manufacturers prefer because, hey, pregnant ladies don’t need natural fibers—they’ll just throw up on them anyway. As if being huge and hormonal and uncomfortable and nauseous and desperately hungry—but not wanting to get fat—all the time weren’t enough, we have look like we dressed ourselves from the Sears catalog, too.

The other day I was so desperate to wear pants after spending three months in a $10 stretchy skirt from Old Navy that I went out and happily—happily—purchased a pair of khakis with a secret fit maternity panel and rushed home to put them on along with a heather grey maternity t-shirt that actually covers my entire belly, so excited by the prospect of wearing clothing that fit and was reasonably comfortable that I neglected to remember that I don’t like khakis. They make me feel frumpy even when I’m not pregnant and they don’t feature a giant cylinder of panty-hose around the waist. I slid the cylinder up over my hips and belly until it was practically touching the bottom of my who-knew-cup-sizes-went-that-far-into-the-alphabet maternity bra and pulled the t-shirt down to cover the cylinder. I took one look in the mirror and collapsed onto the floor wailing, “I look like a pregnant army mom!” Nothing against army moms, pregnant or otherwise—it’s just not a look I've been meaning to cultivate.

My very sweet husband suggested I go shopping for some accessories to cheer myself up—perhaps some shoes or funky rings or hair ribbons—but by then I was in such a bad mood it just made me feel worse, like he was acknowledging that the core of my body is so hopeless I should just focus on my extremities.

Increasingly I’m realizing how afflicted I was by the soft-focus image of pregnancy our culture is intent on projecting. I thought when I got pregnant I would feel strong and useful and happily ripe, like the first tomato of the summer. I swore I would not be one of those women who complained about feeling fat and then polished off a pint of ice cream. I would just eat the ice cream and enjoy being filled with the miracle of life. I would grow round and wear horizontal stripes. I would be patient and soft with myself as the flood of hormones washed away the standard flood of insecurities, leaving me content and fulfilled and certain about my purpose.

Basically I thought pregnancy would make me an entirely different person.

But in reality I miss my form-hugging jeans and clingy shirts and sweaters. I miss being able to run up and down the stairs without holding onto the railing and worrying I’m going to kill precious cargo should I trip and fall. I miss wearing bras whose cup sizes belonged firmly to the beginning of the alphabet and came in colors other than beige. And I miss the days when my husband’s hospital scrubs were too big for me to wear as pajamas.

Mostly I miss feeling like myself, weather in my favorite jeans or snuggled up naked next to my sweetie at night without a big, hard beach ball wedged between us. Don’t get me wrong—I’m excited to have a baby (who, incidentally, will not be sleeping between us)—I’m just not loving the whole being pregnant thing. And it’s not the maternity clothing industry’s fault that I feel this way, but they sure as hell aren’t helping.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pair of secret fit maternity panel khakis to exchange, because guess what? Maternity stores don’t take returns! Only exchanges! If they took returns they’d be out of business—all two of them. Hopefully they sell accessories because I could really use a new pair of stripey socks and a nice set of funky barrettes right about now.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Land That I Love

Today is the beginning of my third trimester, more or less. No nausea or massive exhaustion, just indigestion worthy of one of those commercials showing a red, pulsating esophagus.

I fear that I’m already becoming completely boring, and I’m not really even a mom yet. All I want to do is shop for baby stuff (cribs, changing tables, stuffed bears). So I’m not just boring but hopelessly American.

Monday, August 03, 2009


This morning I took a sip of water from a glass that had been sitting out all night and quickly discovered that it tasted like worms—an observation I immediately shared with my new husband.

“How do you know what worms taste like?” the good doctor replied.

“Well, in Iowa whenever it rains the worms crawl out onto the sidewalk, and they smell really bad, and this water tastes like that. Like the smell of worms.”

“Oh. The smell of worms. That’s different.”