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1. You get a new wardrobe
Unfortunately, most maternity clothes fit awkwardly at best and look more like bedsheets than dresses or shirts. Early in your pregnancy, every outfit you put on sags, practically frowns, over your suddenly formless body.
Later, it’s your belly that sags – out from under the hem of each of those giant, ugly, suddenly tear-stained blouses. Nevertheless, most first-timers can’t wait to slip into the world of elastic waistbands and tie-back tops. I remember receiving what’s called a “lot” of maternity clothes I had ordered on eBay.
I spun around like a princess in each jumper and baggy-butted pair of jeans, demanding my husband invent something to compliment.
I was four months along and barely showing, but to me, the bad clothes – and specifically my needing to wear them – confirmed that I was really going to have a baby, something it took me a surprisingly long time to realize.
2. You change
And not just your clothes. Pregnancy represents a really obvious transition: One day, you’re a confused existentialist who wishes she had more ambition and then the next, you know for certain – and for the first time ever – what you are going to be. In a fairly rigid amount of time, you will be a mother and while this means something different to everyone, it always means something. Armed with this percipience, you begin reimagining yourself.
You envision yourself taking care of a newborn and grant yourself whatever traits you’ll need to get through it: alertness, stability, reliability, courage. You might know nothing about being a parent. You might never have been strong in your life. It doesn’t matter. You know you need to be strong for your baby. You also develop determination.
You only have a matter of months to get ready, so there’s no time for shame, self-pity, anxiety – in short, for the regular “you.” What a relief.
3. You learn patience
Of all the honorable characteristics soon-to-be moms adopt, patience is the most unavoidable. Foremost, you learn to be patient with the pregnancy itself. Yes, pregnancy lasts only a matter of months, but when you’re waiting to meet this new love of your life, when you suffer daily from a long list of pregnancy “symptoms” (if you have hemorrhoids, fat feet and a moustache, you might be pregnant) and when you start burning your belly on cookie pans because your big, round body actually extends out over the stove top, sort of rests there on the cool, glassy surface – nine months is a cosmic length of time.
Second, you learn to be patient with all the non-pregnant people of the world. They don’t mean to but they say everything wrong. When I was barely seven months pregnant, I had a woman ask me, “When are you due, yesterday?” I’ve had multiple women tell me I must be having a girl because I’m “wide.” And when I’m tired, unfailingly there is someone around to remind me that it’s only going to get worse once I have the baby. Non-pregnant people don’t like to be told they look fat or that things are going to get even harder. Why would pregnant women enjoy this sort of discouragement? Prior to becoming pregnant myself, I said plenty of wrong things. Now, I know what pregnant women need to hear: They look beautiful, they’re going to have healthy babies and they’re going to love being moms. Anything else is cruel.
4. You learn who people really are
Despite the abominable comments they hear, pregnant women get to see the very best sides of people. No matter what people say, they like life. They value all this breathing and hugging and chatting they’re allowed to do for 70-some-odd years. I think being around pregnant women reminds people of how lucky all this is and thus, goodwill prevails. I never knew how kind, thoughtful and selfless people could be before I became pregnant. Since then, friends and acquaintances have given us nearly everything we’ll need for the baby: clothes, toys, towels, blankets, bibs, bumpers, cloth diapers, a diaper pail – even nursing pads. I’m not talking about gifts we received at our baby shower, either. I received a full truck-bed of baby accoutrements, including a super-cool Baby Einstein “gym,” from a woman in my adult ballet class whose last name I didn’t even know.
Michael received two garbage sacks full of little-girl clothes from a woman whose parents live across the street from us. He knows her from a project he worked on a couple years ago at LANL.
These donations saved us hundreds of dollars. Furthermore, we don’t know how many burp clothes or baby socks we’ll need, but we don’t have to – these generous moms knew and told us and provided.
The advice, suggestions, encouragement and offers of help from other mothers and fathers have been the most amazing gifts of all. They prove to us repeatedly that this really is a community we live in, not just a lab surrounded by separate houses and guarded lives. We are part of something remarkable, and our baby will be as well.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Amelia Charlotte Dolejsi was born July 1. Both she and Kelly are healthy and recovering well. Kelly promises to write lots more about her newborn daughter in upcoming columns.