One of the more frustrating things about being a woman is the sometimes debilitating experience of shopping for clothes. No matter what size you are, shape, color, height, etc. … chances are there’s something about the shopping experience that pisses you off.

If it’s not about the fight with clothes on the rack, it’s about the fight with societal beauty standards in your head. I’m so fat. My thighs are huge! This makes my boobs look flat as pancakes. I need to be a foot taller to pull this off.

I know. I’m right there with you suffering in the dressing room next to you. But these days, my plight is relegated to the few — very, very few — places a pregnant gal can even try on clothes. Why? Because there are no maternity clothes!

Well, let me back that up a stitch. There are maternity clothes. They’re sold primarily at Motherhood Maternity or the other two corporately related stores. The problem is, what if you don’t fit in the clothes at Motherhood Maternity? Or, what if everything at that store makes you gag? Or, what if you don’t want to wear cheap polyester? Too damn bad! Because that’s all you get, suckers! You get one chain of moderate adequateness. (Yes, I know I’m making up a lot of words in this post. I’m also 8.5 months pregnant and very cranky.)

Even if you go to the mall, which is where the semi-adequate maternity stores are, you are basically SOL. Nothing at major department stores or the like. There’s a cluster of a half-dozen or so racks at JC Penney and Kohls. And if you are feeling really energetic you can drive from the mall over to the ONE Old Navy in town (in Henderson) that has a tiny number of racks of clothes or the ONE Gap store in town (on the Strip). (And really? The Gap brand stores with maternity clothes can’t be next to each other or at least in the same mall?! Really?!)

I have survived most of my pregnancy with a handful of shirts (actually I’m down to 3 that will fit over the belly these days) and a handful of bottoms and tried to do laundry enough to make it through. It’s boring as hell but what am I supposed to do? I’ve gone to every maternity store in town, including the fancy boutique in Summerlin which also had cheap-feeling polyester clothes but at really ritzy prices.

And the most disheartening part of the whole situation is that even as a pregnant woman, I am still subject to the beauty standard in fashion. Often, I am too big to fit into the largest sizes of maternity clothes. (I couldn’t even get one leg in a pair of pants at the fancy Summerlin boutique.) So I still have to be thin enough to wear pretty clothes, even in pregnancy! That’s just fucked up.

Now, even before I was pregnant and running four times a week I would not have called myself thin. I was basically a size 16, or the average size woman in America. I had some jiggly parts but my thighs did not rub together. And, yes, I struggled at times to find clothes then, too. (Being in that nasty middle ground between plus size and “normal” size.) But I can tell you there was a hell of a lot more out there for me un-pregnant than there has been for me in the past six months!

As I round the corner on the final leg of pregnancy I have come across the worst of all my clothing struggles yet: tracking down nursing bras. This has been even more frustrating than normal bra shopping or even swimsuit shopping. For one thing, the only place in town that carries nursing bras is the Motherhood Maternity chain. (Although, I have not tried any small bra shops, yet, so there could be hope there.) I have been led astray by websites claiming that stores carry the bras — looking at you Macy’s, in particular — but so far have only found them at MM. (I will be checking out the Greenspun Women’s Center, though, as I’ve heard they have excellent lactation services and bra fittings.)

I admit, it is a little early for me to worry about buying a nursing bra, as most recommend waiting until after the baby is born. But since I have always struggled with finding bras — I’m one of those voluptuous gals that you’d think would be rewarded for having big boobs by our over-sexed society but actually just have a really hard time finding bras and tops and anything that fits above the waist — I thought it best to get a jump on at least tracking down where I could buy nursing bras. I’m glad I did! Well, actually I’m frustrated. But at least the frustration is minus a crying newborn at the moment.

This whole paradigm seems totally out of whack. I don’t know how many pregnant women in America there are at any given time, but I am willing to bet that it is at a somewhat constant rate. There are always pregnant women. They have very specific needs that always need to be met. They will need clothes to cover their bumps and changing bodies. And even if they don’t breastfeed, they will still need new bras because things expand during the journey. (My boobs have gone up two sizes already and I haven’t even gotten my milk yet!)

I know it’s a bad economy and maternity items are probably more of a niche than other types of clothes. But at the same time, maternity clothes are much more of a given! Before I was pregnant and before I had lost weight to get down to a size 16, I did not always go buy clothes because I didn’t like being plus sized. But every pregnant woman will have to buy some things no matter how much or how little she grows and shows. EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN THIS DEMO WILL BUY SOMETHING. How often can you say that about a demographic?

And frankly, I’m deeply frustrated to find that so little exists in the nursing department of maternity clothes. I tried on every type of nursing bra there was at Motherhood Maternity. All different sizes. The saleswoman gave up! Not one single bra fit! Not one! So now what? I’m going to have to play the bra-shopping online crap-shoot. I’m sure I’ll find something, eventually. But why should it be so hard???

The medical community and society as a whole say that breastfeeding is best. But where’s the support (forgive the accidental pun) for the woman who is going to breastfeed? She needs things. These are not luxury items. These are things that will aide her in feeding her child! … And don’t even get me started on the challenges that women face breastfeeding in public …

The whole time I have been pregnant, I have witnessed first-hand how much societal pressure there is on women to have babies. For a vast sea of people I’m fulfilling my biological destiny, or something like that. I would be rich if I got paid for every approving glance, every happy smile and unsolicited belly rub. The bigger I get the more I feel like my body is public property that anyone and everyone feels totally comfortable commenting on or asking me about or touching. Everyone wants to talk to me these days from grocery checkers to people on the street. Really!

So I feel like all this frustration with maternity clothes and nursing gear is the ultimate slap in the face. Which is it society? Are you happy to see me breeding or do you want me to be invisible in ill-fitting, uncomfortable, cheaply made clothes?

This whole thing is so two-faced. You want to objectify my body and my being by asking me anything (no matter how personal) or telling me anything (no matter how much I don’t want to know it) or by being able to have physical access to my body anytime by touching my belly no matter how inappropriate or invasive that is. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of existing as a pregnant woman, you want no part in easing my journey. When it comes to the fact that when you ask me how I am doing (a question I’ve heard at least 20 times today), you don’t really want to know that my feet hurt, my back is screaming at me, the skin on my belly hurts from so much stretching and nearly every time the fetus moves these days it nearly brings me to my knees. (Yeah, not very glamorous.) You don’t want to know that. That’s not “magical” and happy. That’s reality. And so is needing a supportive bra for the days ahead. I don’t care if it makes you uncomfortable or it takes away the magic, I need that, too, damn it!

5 thoughts on “Standards

  1. Oh, dear- been there! Yeah, I went from a D to an H during my pregnancy, so I had all those bra issues too. I really did have good luck shopping online though! For bras and nursing tops. I wish they could be ultrafunctional and ultrabeautiful too, but after my son was born functional really overtook the beautiful part! Any day now this part will be over and the REAL fun will begin! As always- I wish you the best!

    • I appreciate that. And I know that this too shall pass. And yes, function is my master these days. I’m in too much discomfort already to be bothered with pretty.

  2. Emmily, have you talked to the folks at Well Rounded Mama? I know they carry some items at their center and they may be able to give you more info on where to get things. Hope that helps! You’re almost there!

  3. Amen, sister. Seriously. I didn’t have the clothes trouble as much (but you know all pregnancies have some kind of challenge, mine was just different) but I also tried looking for nursing bras before I had my kiddo and it was equally frustrating for me for the same reasons. I went into a few stores and didn’t even try anything on because I was one or two sizes bigger than their biggest bras.
    It would be kind of awesome if Lane Bryant had maternity bras but apparently plus size girls don’t get pregnant. *eye roll*
    I also didn’t find any in my size that I liked looking around online.
    I totally gave up and just lived with it until I decided Lyla wasn’t going to nurse (stubborn girl, that one) at about four weeks old due to her tongue issues.
    Oh, I have a couple of nursing shawls you can have that were given to me. They’re cute and I know they will fit you. Then you can nurse in public without whipping it out in front of everyone. Because, damn it, you should be able to nurse in public if you want to and to hell with anyone who might stare.
    OK I lost the rest of my train of thought… mommy brain! 😀

  4. Demoralizing is the word for it. You’re barely tolerated enough in this society to be large. Better not have the audacity for then reproduce. I’m excited to start a family, but not at all looking forward to dealing with this.

    Something I noticed shopping w/ a close friend was how frigging expensive everything is at Motherhood Maternity. And it’s not great quality at all.

    Ann Taylor just started a maternity line, so that might help things. Maybe not, LOL.

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