When we decided to start trying for a baby, I immediately went online to research tips on getting pregnant. From that moment, and pretty much right through my pregnancy, I was confronted with images of pregnant women proudly displaying their bumps.
Of course, what else are you going to use to accompany your article about how to get pregnant, when to be concerned about back pain, or how to deal with morning sickness? But these images made me feel as though I needed to look pregnant, even early on when my bump was practically non-existent. These images made me feel like I wouldn’t be pregnant enough until I had a huge belly to show off. The thing is, I don’t tend to go in for figure hugging clothing. I buy larger sizes in women’s clothing, and I’ve even taken to buying men’s t-shirts in smaller sizes (partly because I prefer the sleeves). When I riffled through the maternity clothing in stores, it was hard to find anything I liked among the bump hugging t-shirts and dresses.
What’s more, by the time I had a bump to display, I’d realised that how visible my bump is doesn’t really matter. Sure, I got offered a seat on the subway once or twice (on one occasion I actually gave up my seat for an even more heavily pregnant woman), but I also didn’t need external validation. I was pregnant enough, without needing others to see that I was pregnant.
In the end I didn’t actually buy that much new clothing. Early on I bought a pair of dungarees that I wore until they got too tight. My baggiest pair of jeans also fit me through to about five months pregnant, when I switched to a pair of grey skinny jeans from H&M’s maternity line. I also bought a pair of blue shorts from H&M that saw me through most of the summer but, despite the stretchy waist, got too small by the end of August. My men’s t-shirts continued to fit me for most of my pregnancy (though they may be looking a little stretched out now) and I bought a couple of loose fitting shirts from H&M (can you tell where I do most of my clothes shopping?) and UNIQLO. The few dresses I own also fit me for most of the summer.
Things did start to get a bit desperate around month eight, and I was very grateful for the two maternity t-shirts and a maternity dress from my mother-in-law. As the weather started to cool I also realised how grateful I was not to be heavily pregnant through the winter. Instead of having to buy a new winter coat I was able to get by in the early days of autumn by wearing my husband’s hoodies, with an unzipped jacket over the top.
All this to say: a) it’s possible to be pregnant and not conform to the images of pregnant women on blogs and baby websites, and b) it’s possible to be pregnant and still wear clothes you actually like (as well as saving money on expensive “maternity” wear).
N.B. This Vox article charts the history of maternity clothing, which morphed from being about hiding pregnancy in the Victorian era, to today’s celebrity endorsed “baby bump” fetish. According to the article: Fortune estimates that pregnant women, on average, spend almost $500 per pregnancy on maternity clothes. $500!
This long form essay about a trans man becoming pregnant and giving birth also adds a different perspective to the notion of looking pregnant: Even at full term, he never looked pregnant. He looked like a guy with a beer belly. He wore collared shirts to work, often with sweater-vests, and when he couldn’t button the shirts any longer, he bought bigger ones. When his pants stopped buttoning, he wore them lower and got suspenders.