How (Maternity) Clothes Can Come to a Woman’s Rescue — Even a Single Gal’s

It’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to being “pregnant.”

It’s no secret that I have always been on the heavy side since childhood. My earliest memories were of me asking my mom to fix me up with a bottle — not of baby formula, but of water mixed with sugar — during times when we were running a bit low on groceries. I would be content to drink this concoction while I amused myself with picture books on the sofa, or rocked myself to sleep in the afternoons.

These very scenes were to lay the foundation for my (very) sweet tooth during my teen and adult years. There was simply no saying no to cookies, chocolate milk, chocolates, cakes, brownies, and all kinds of sugary drinks. Except for a brief while in high school when my body appeared to make a giant effort to whittle itself down to what I assume would have been my natural, healthy frame if I had given up the sweets (which a newfound and unnatural fixation on a local bakery’s cheese tarts soon thwarted), I have never strayed far from the 50-pounds-over-my-ideal-weight mark.

The absolute lowest point was reached when I got a job as a call center agent working the graveyard shift. Aside from the ungodly working hours and the inability to sleep properly during the daytime, my colleagues and I got into the habit of giving up trying to sleep during breaks or after work and just meeting for drinks and food to pass the time. With my natural sleep cycle disrupted and my meals coming in anytime it felt right to eat, I soon found myself just about hitting the 200-pound mark. And with that came the dilemma of finding clothes to wear.

This was an honest case of looking into the closet and finding literally nothing to wear, despite it being stuffed to the brim with clothes. Nothing fit — T-shirts were too tight, pants never came close to being zipped up, even my underthings dug into my skin and became uncomfortable after less than an hour.

It came to a point when I had to buy new clothes every pay day just so I could have something to wear to work. And as the final nail to the proverbial coffin, none of the standard sizes for women’s clothes could fit me anymore, and even when I did find some items in the men’s departments that I could squeeze into, it just didn’t look right because the proportions were off. My last resort was to try the maternity department.

And that was a revelation. I was not pregnant (and I imagine I won’t be, for several more years), but there was something inside me that was soothed when I tried on some maternity clothes. They were designed differently — blouses were more forgiving around the chest area, and there were neat details around the abdomen area, like pleats, ruffles, and extra panels that could expand to accommodate growing bellies. Pants were also made of stretchy materials so that they wouldn’t pinch the tummy.

I cried a bit when I came home with my purchases and tried them on in my bedroom. I had let my body go to reach an extremely unhealthy state, and it took a maternity clothes shopping trip to shake me back to my senses.

A few months later, I quit my job at the call center and took a break to get my life back in order. I took up a fitness routine and made plenty of lifestyle changes instead of following a mere diet. Right now, I am still about 40 pounds away from my goal weight, but I am feeling a lot stronger and healthier, and I no longer need to use maternity clothes.

It sure makes me wonder about how women must feel about their bodies during their pregnancy, and after the baby comes. My situation certainly wouldn’t come close, since pregnant women also have a new life growing inside them and their jumble of hormones and emotions to think about. And it’s not just a matter of finding clothes to fit their pregnancy bodies — there’s also the period of breastfeeding to think about.

Maternity clothes are fine and all for a body that is adjusting in size to accommodate a baby, as breastfeeding clothing maker Peachymama says, but what about breastfeeding moms? Even those maternity clothes aren’t exactly designed to enable them to breastfeed properly, especially in public, when being discreet and nursing successfully are simultaneous concerns.

I took a peek at their website, http://www.peachymama.com.au/, once, just to get an idea of how different the breastfeeding clothes there are from the maternity garments that I used to wear. And there’s a world of difference, all right — the tops come with discreet openings that allow feeding whenever necessary, even when a mom is on the go. And they’re pretty, too — they come in basic colors and classic designs like stripes so that they look like any other tops a woman might wear.

It’s comforting to know that there are clothing makers out there who think about what a woman’s body’s needs. Sure, becoming so overweight that no regular clothes would fit me anymore is my doing, and I had to choose clothes that weren’t even designed with my condition in mind, so I had to make do with the next best things. Breastfeeding moms, on the other hand, certainly deserve one less thing to worry about as they go about caring for their kids — and having clothing for their exact needs is a definite lifesaver.

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