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Becoming Mothers: Ambushed By Motherhood (and bad maternity clothes)

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Motherhood ambushed me. Some women see it coming for miles, like a plodding camel on a desert horizon. Others hail it like a cab, smartly whistling and waving it to stop, ready for the ride. My experience was more ambush. It wasn’t violent, traumatic, or unwelcome. It was like when your dog greets you at the door after you’ve been gone all day. Your arms are loaded with bags, your hair is in your face, you’re thinking about dinner, and WHAM! The dog leaps like a smelly gazelle and tries to kill you with slobbery kisses and all you want to do is hit the bathroom and collapse.

I found out our first baby was on the way when my husband and I had been married for about a month. I knew the dog was there, but I guess I momentarily forgot under the crush of moving, a new job, and a new role as wife. When I smelled the Milk Bone breath and heard the yip yip yip yip, it was too late. Motherhood arrived.

My pregnancy was punctuated by night sickness and 1997′s most vigorously ugly maternity clothes. Every piece I wore was something I would have normally mocked, but maternity and fashion didn’t make eye contact until around 2003. In a strange way, I think being forced to wear a black and white polka dot tarp with a floppy bow helped prepare me for my new role. Often, I looked like a bloated carcass of a rainforest mammal who inexplicably wore white Keds with white bobby socks, too. I had to put myself aside during the larger months because I was carrying a daughter under all that chintz whimsy.

I wore bad clothes for her, I ate for her, I drank for her, I tried to sleep for her. I read books for her. I drove more carefully for her. Becoming a mother didn’t occur the moment I heard her gurgly newborn wail or the first time I pulled her to my chest with a deep breath, ready to feed.

Motherhood owns minutia. It’s noticing that your son’s fine baby hair is just brushing the top of his ears. It’s seeing a slightly crooked tooth in a five-year-old’s mouth and realizing it means, without even wiggling it, that it is loose. It’s seeing the way your boy exits school with his eyes cast down. It’s knowing there’s a fever without a thermometer, the strawberries are responsible for the contents of the diaper, the zit on the forehead means to stock up on embarrassing things with wings.

Anticipating a baby’s birth or adoption means hearing the clock tick so, so slowly. That minutia mothers embrace and perfect is honed in the sweet anticipation. It’s the gift of time that inspires a mom’s attention to preparation—while directing her gaze to the horizon.

Becoming a mother occurs the moment you squint into the distance, with your hand shielding your eyes from the sun, and you smile at what is coming.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson May 4, 2012

    Gretchen,

    For some reason you picture isn’t showing up so I put something temporarily in its place? Bad maternity clothes, indeed. :-)

    And what an apt description of how motherhood sometimes levels you in a good way!

  • comment avatar JoAnn May 4, 2012

    I love your post!

    I totally lucked out in the Maternity Clothes Department! 1) It was 2005, so the styles weren’t obnoxious, and 2) One of my friends had just had a baby and passed along FIVE TUBS of clothing. It’s true. My Maternity Wardrobe was more extensive & stylish than my Non-maternity Wardrobe.

  • comment avatar Ratna May 4, 2012

    I loved pregnancy — and the clothing too! It is afterwards that all the fun and games begin and the real work began… :-) Great post!

  • comment avatar Ratna May 4, 2012

    And I meant the FUN AND GAMES ended… and the real work began – haaa
    Slipped up there huh? It’s all fun!

  • comment avatar Sannie May 4, 2012

    I loved being pregnant but hated spending so much money on the clothes. Now lucky moms-to-be have access to really nice maternity clothes — and (shameless plug) http://www.fashionforwardmaternity.com let’s you rent these nice designer clothes so you can wear what you want, when you need it, and exchange it for something different every couple of months! Just $23.50/month for clothes that retail for over $100!

  • comment avatar Daria May 4, 2012

    So, so sweet. Taxi cab, camel or dog… um, Mine was definitely a 200lb mastiff! :)

  • comment avatar Lisa Vratny-Smith May 4, 2012

    A co-worker of mine in the early 90′s had pepto-bismol pink corderoy maternity overalls that were handed down from her sister. I felt bad for her every time she wore the horrendous things!
    So amazing what we sacrifice for our children from the moment we squint into the distance (love that image!).

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  • comment avatar Suzanne Bastien May 4, 2012

    I love you Gretchen… you said it just right!

  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz May 4, 2012

    Oh, Gretchen. I so love seeing the world through your observant eyes. This slayed me: “Motherhood owns minutia. It’s noticing that your son’s fine baby hair is just brushing the top of his ears.”

    In a good way :-)

  • comment avatar Amy May 4, 2012

    “I looked like a bloated carcass of a rainforest mammal…” Oh, my heavens. I couldn’t stop laughing. I think you have the timeline correct. 2003 brought about a marked improvement in maternity clothing options. Too bad my son was born in 2001.

  • comment avatar Jill May 5, 2012

    Just lovely… always so heartbreakingly lovely.

    (and 1999 wasn’t much better in the maternity clothes department. I remember crying at Motherhood Maternity because it was all so ugly. In 2003, for #2, Target had arrived with better maternity clothes… I was saved. Now I look at them and think, how cute! I’d wear that!)

  • comment avatar nicole May 7, 2012

    Yes, having had 6 kids between 2001 and 2010 I have seen a sea change in maternity clothes. By the last few pregnancies my maternity clothes were cuter than my non-maternity! ;) Love the way you describe motherhood here. And the minutiae–I love so much that I know and notice those kinds of things. Important to only me, maybe, but magical nonetheless.

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