What I Learned About Clothes During Pregnancy and Immediately After

1. Interim jeans are worthwhile. Interim jeans are ones in a size bigger than your regular size. I wish I had bought some before buying maternity jeans rather than struggling with using a hairband to hold my pre-pregnancy jeans together. Because now that my pregnancy is over, maternity jeans no longer fit, but neither do my pre-pregnancy jeans. So I’ve invested in a couple of pairs of interim jeans to wear until I DO get back into the pre-pregnancy ones (because I WILL!). I could have had more wear out of them by buying them in early pregnancy though.

2. You can wear pre-pregnancy hoodies and baggy jumpers without stretching them. Many of the T-shirts I wore in late pregnancy were not expensive “Maternity” T-shirts, but regular Lycra T-shirts and they’ve all retained their shape just fine. The unseasonably mild temperatures at the end of my pregnancy meant that I got away without needing a maternity coat, but I lived in warm hoodies instead and they are also undamaged. The drawback of this is that I will not be able to tell my child/ren not put their knees inside their jumper “because you’ll stretch it” in the way that my own mother did!

3. It is perfectly possible to get away with buying larger sizes of basic clothes such as stretchy tees, rather than buying expensive maternity t-shirts, despite what the akers of maternity clothes will tell you. See the above point about non-stretching. The worst thing that will happen in the T-shirt will be longer at the back that at the front over the bump. So what?!

4. Lots of maternity jeans and trousers do not have pockets. But many do, if you search for them.

5. Maternity jeans are more comfortable, and fit better, than almost any other kind of jeans I’ve ever worn. Why all jeans do not have a stretchy wasitband, I do not yet understand! Although obviously it would need to be a stretchy waistband without the shape to cover a beach ball!

6. A hairband is an excellent accessory for prolonging the life of pre-pregnancy trousers and jeans, and costs a fraction of the price of expensive proprietary bump band extender thingys. However, see point one about interim jeans.

7. Maternity bras are not sexy. Or particularly supportive. Ironic, no?

8. Maternity knickers are not required. I was quite shocked when I learned of the existence of specific maternity knickers at about 37 weeks pregnant. I continued to wear my own pre-pregnancy knickers throughout pregnancy, although I‘ll admit that from six months on I only wore boy-shorts style ones. They sat perfectly comfortably just below the bump. I would not advise spending the extortionate amount of money asked for knickers with a bit of a cut away for the bump.

9. Slip-on shoes and flip flops, however, are a must have. Bending down to put your shoes on whilst eight-and-a-half months pregnant is possible, but why strain yourself? Likewise following a c-section. And when your feet balloon to twice their normal size due to hot weather and too much standing in late pregnancy, you’ll be very glad of a pair of flip flops. Even in October!

10. Maternity clothing catalogues are very seductive. They are full of women who looking absolutely blooming, with their neat little bumps as they skip in a sprightly fashion along the sea front. They sell an ideal that if you spend £50 on that tunic, you too will look sleek, neat and gorgeous, rather than hot, tired and ungainly. It’s not true. And once the baby is born, avoid like the plague. Those lovely images will have you missing your pregnant body and wanting to do it all again!

Big Pants

This morning I found myself being ordered by my husband to “just go out and buy some big pants”.

You see, I’ve been procrastinating about packing my hospital bag. It was on my list of things to do as soon as I started maternity leave, and it was something that I was actually looking forward to. Looking ahead to it, it seemed exciting to think about gathering together all the little bits and pieces I’ll need when we bring our little one in to the world, and it seemed to signify the beginning of the end. But now that I’m here, it is actually just making me think “Woah, this is really happening and I’m not ready.” The irony here, of course, is that without the bag packed I’m quite right: I’m not ready!

There have been other obstacles, though, to actually getting it done. Like getting out and buying miniature sized toiletries, and making sure my pyjamas are washed. The there has been the little crisis about clothes  that has prevented me from getting the baby’s stuff ready. And then there have been big pants.

Yes. BIG. Pants.

The single biggest stumbling block to getting my hospital bag packed.

Everyone tells you all about how you need to pack plenty of pants for after the birth. The “official lists” (in places like the NHS pregnancy literature) suggest disposable pants. And honestly, not many thoughts right now could horrify me more, including the thought of my waters breaking in public. The idea of wearing crinkly paper pants that likely will not fit at all, and potentially will chaff horribly, when I’m almost certainly going to be feeling pretty sore…. No thank you. The suggestion from real women who’ve been there is just to buy big, cheap granny knickers that you can always throw away after the birth if needs be. Preferably in black in case of leakage,  so I’m told. (Between you and I… ewwwwww, I do not want to think about this. And I’m so not ready.) Apparently they need to be big to hold the maternity pads mattresses in place, and come up nice and high in case of a c-section, to avoid the scar line. (Lala lala la la… I can’t hear yoooooou.)

So what I’ve really been procrastinating about is not packing the bag, it’s going out to buy said granny pants. I’m not sure why it’s such a stumbling block. I’ll be a heavily pregnant woman in the middle of the M&S lingerie department. No one is going to think that I’m actually going for sexy, and failing. I think, I hope, it will be obvious why I’m buying gigantic granny knickers that would put Bridget Jones to shame. But somehow it still hasn’t got done.

We’re going away this weekend, on a little last-weekend-away-without-baby thing, also known as a Babymoon. (No, I didn’t know that either.) It would seem sensible to toss the bag and my maternity notes in the boot of the car “just in case”. (And because I have an irrational theory that having it there will actually prevent anything from happening. Because sod’s law dictates I will only go in to premature labour miles away from home if I’m completely unprepared with no hospital bag. And hence no big pants.)

Which is why my husband felt the need to order me to go and buy big knickers. And which is why I‘m sitting here writing this… procrastinating!

A Crisis About Clothes

I’ve been having a bit of a crisis about baby clothes. Or more specifically, about baby clothes not fitting our baby.

Since we’ve elected not to find out the gender of our child, we actually haven’t bought that many clothes. This is partly because we might want to buy some more gender specific clothes once they’re born, but also because it’s actually remarkably difficult to find that many unisex clothes, even in newborn size, unless you want to dress them purely in white or cream. Most of the ones that we have found seem to have a bit of a boyish bent too, but I may just feel that way because I’m convinced we’re having a boy. So we’ve bought a small selection in a mixture of Newborn size and 0-3 months size.

The problem is that I’ve completely convinced myself that we’ll be having a big, fat baby. And lately, I’ve convinced myself that big and fat means way more than 10lbs, which means that “Newborn” size (generally “Up to 10lb”) won’t fit even when they are actually a newborn. For some reason it’s become the focus of all my fears about the baby’s size. Ridiculously, I feel sad, to the point of tears, that some of the cute sleepsuits we’ve got might not actually fit our baby. I’m also worried that because we’ve divided our buying between the two sizes, we might find that we have way too little stuff to actually dress them in, if half of it doesn’t fit at all. In really irrational moments I can actually imagine the midwives tittering about the silly girl who didn’t bring any clothes to fit her baby, as they try to rustle something up to dress it in whilst Ian makes a mad dash to the shops in the first hours of our baby’s life.

It may seem like a silly thing to worry about, but it’s actually keeping me up at night. Along with the question of how much to unpack and wash. I can’t decide whether to keep some of the newborn size clothes and vests in their packages and unwashed, until we see if we will need them. That way, we could swap some for the next size up. Or do we just swap them all anyway, on the basis that 0-3 is likely to fit pretty much from birth in any event, and that way I guarantee not wasting any clothes. And not feeling bad that I don’t get to see our little bundle in some of the stuff we’ve picked out. These thoughts go round in my head at night, chased by all the numbers I’ve seen on my meter that day as I try to calculate the probability of not having a big, fat baby

Written down like this, they do seem such silly, trivial worries. But they represent something much deeper for me. It’s this nagging fear about having a big baby, which leads back to the worry that I’m not doing a good enough job of looking after myself to keep him or her safe. I’m even beating myself up with sleepsuits now. Teeny, tiny cute sleepsuits, but they pack a right punch.

The Mystery of the Missing Chair

Last week I ordered one of the last big bits of equipment for the nursery: a glider chair. I’ve wanted one of these since I sat on one in John Lewis when I was about twenty two weeks pregnant. Sliding backwards and forwards felt so soothing, and I could just picture myself with my baby across me, doing night feeds and rocking off to sleep. (I can dream, anyway!)

I didn’t want to buy from somewhere like John Lewis or Mothercare though, because they are ridiculously expensive chairs in those shops! Especially when you can buy the exact same thing from a number of online outlets for literally a fraction of the cost. About a quarter of the cost, to be more specific. And I wanted to wait until I was on maternity leave to order it, so that I could be more likely to be at home when it was delivered. I finally got around to last week, choosing a company who specified a delivery time frame which meant that I should be in to receive it. It was due to arrive this past Tuesday, but didn’t. I didn’t have time to chase it up on Wednesday, but still no chair arrived, so I finally gave the company a call to see if we could figure out what had happened.

As it turned out, the chair had been delivered. Just not to me. In an administrative fuck mess up, it had been delivered to someone else who had ordered something else entirely. Yet strangely, on receiving a large glider chair that they hadn’t ordered, rather than ring the company to report it, they just decided to keep it! It reminds me a bit of the occasion earlier in the year when I was woken early on a Saturday morning by a banging on the front door and upon opening it a man in overalls shouted “I’ll just get it off the van.” Bemused, wondering exactly what it was he was going to “get off the van” I looked down the road to see another guy beginning to unload a brand new washing machine. But at that point I began shouting and waving at him that no, he’d got the wrong house. Evidently not everyone would do the same!

Fortunately I’m not expected to wait for the chair to be returned. A new one has been express dispatched to me and is due to arrive on Monday!

Cloth vs Paper: To Enter the Fray?

Babies poo. A Lot. That’s one thing I do know about them. And in order to avoid messy stains and social exclusion, it’s imperative to have a way to contain that particular output. Nappies are the answer. Simple, right?

Well, yes. And no. Nappies indeed – this is not a post about elimination communication or other nappy avoidance techniques – but it’s not as simple as it might seem.

Traditionally, nappies were made of cloth. I grew up wearing terry towelling squares, folded and fastened with a big nappy pin, and plastic pants over the top. But sometime in the last 30 years there has been a massive shift towards disposable paper nappies. It’s a shift that many would argue has paralleled the general move towards a disposable society. It’s also a shift that has woven itself so deeply in to society that people now seem to expect all nappies to be made of paper. Despite growing up wearing cloth nappies myself, and dressing my dolls in them, if you’d asked me about nappies five years ago, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind that you’d use anything other than a disposable paper one. Frequent television advertisements and supermarket aisles stacked high with endless varieties (super active mega dry new baby, anyone?) make them commonplace. The idea of bulky cloth nappies with no stay-dry top sheet could seem old fashioned in comparison.

But now that I’m about to have need of nappies in my life for the first time since toddlerhood, (yes, I really have been potty trained for a long time!) I’ve been rethinking.

Cloth nappies first re-entered my subconscious when Ian’s sister gave birth two years ago and elected to use cloth nappies with her daughter. Seeing them at her house was the first time that I realised so-called “modern cloth nappies” existed. And I was bowled over by their cuteness. Bright colours and soft, fluffy fabrics. She showed me a couple of times how you could change the inserts but reuse the outer and it was also plainly obvious that plastic pants were a thing of the past. But that was as far as my awareness went then. I didn’t properly consider the practicalities because it wasn’t something that was relevant to my life at that time.

Roll on two years to my pregnant self, and suddenly it was relevant. Those seeds that had been sown began to grow, and I chose to look in to what cloth nappies really entailed. Initially I was in a large part driven by how cute they were, how much nicer, softer and more fun than any white paper disposable whose Disney character printing just cannot compare. I also liked the idea that not using disposables would save an awful lot of space in landfill. I started to think about some of the advantages to using cloth.

As I looked in to it, it became plainly obvious that disposable vs cloth nappies is a contentious issue. There are arguments on both sides, and it seems that environmental benefits might not be so clear cut.

Opponents will argue that they’re no more environmentally friendly than disposables when you take in to account the carbon involved in producing them, then the environmental impact of washing them in terms of water and electricity used.  It’s difficult to make a direct comparison, because it depends on things like how often you wash, whether you tumble dry or line dry and how efficient your washing machine is. But one thing is certain, cloth nappies free up a lot of physical space in landfill site. I’m sceptical about some of the claims of how long it takes a traditional paper nappy to degrade, since they haven’t been around long enough to truly test the theory, but I do know that even so called eco-friendly disposables take time to break down and in the meantime we have to find space for them on our tiny little rock in the ocean.

Opponents will also argue that the cost savings are negligible. Again his depends very much on how you work it. Projected costs for use of disposables until average potty training age vary between £1500 to £2500. This is clearly dependent on which particular nappies you buy, whether you can get them on special offer and how long it actually takes your child to be totally out of nappies. Some cloth nappies are indeed expensive, running up to £20 per nappy. Laundry costs agin depend on how efficient your machine is and how often you wash, but many estimates seem to run in the region of 50p per week. However, you can  do cloth nappying cheaply if you stick to more basic types – especially the more old fashioned flat terry nappies with separate plastic covers (now poluyurethane laminate wraps, rather than plastic pants). The savings are increased if you save your nappies and use them for subsequent children.There is also a thriving pre-loved market which can both save you money starting out, and then make you money back if you sell your nappies on.

I’ve also had a number of people say to me “Yeah, see how long you last when you’ve got tons of washing to do….” I can’t really comment on this one until I’ve actually got to do it, but I’m taking for granted that with a new baby in the house the washing machine will be on near constantly anyway. I’m not totally convinced that putting nappies in the machine then taking them out and hanging them up is much more difficult than bagging up pooey disposables and carrying them down to the bin – which also involves going outside, even in the cold and rain. Plus the fact that you actually have to go out and buy them! Some people have tried to put me off by telling me all about how I’ll have to flick the poo down the loo. Doesn’t really put me off since as far as I knew you needed to do that with disposables too! And the same applies to bringing the dirty nappies home from a day out. If there is no bin to hand when you change the nappy, disposable or not, you’ll be bringing it home!

The final area of arguments are the health reasons. A few people have suggested that bulky cloth nappies cause bandy legs. First off, cloth nappies are a lot slimmer now than they used to be, but secondly these people are failing to consider that as recently as 30 years ago, cloth nappies were the norm. Disposables haven’t always existed. And I don’t see every person over the age of 30 (myself included!) walking around with bandy legs! What I do know is that disposables are stuffed full of chemical gels to allow them to be slimmer than cloth nappies. I’m not totally keen on the ides of encasing my newborns genitals in chemicals, especially since disposables haven’t been around long enough for us to really know what the long term effects might be

In then end, weighing it all up, I think the debate, for me, swings mainly in favour of cloth, or at the very least is too close to call. I’m swayed by the cuteness and think if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for my child. Also, people telling me that I can’t do something is like a red rag to a bull, and I want to do it just to prove them wrong. So we’ll be trying out cloth nappies. Even Ian is on board with at least giving them a shot. I also want to be realistic though. I think disposables have their place – being slimmer fitting and smaller to carry around. I expect we will use a balance. I anticipate using them for the messy meconium and also for long days out or holidays away where the inconvenience of lugging lots of bulky nappies doesn’t seem to be outweighed by the benefits.

I might regret wading in to it, but I’m willing to enter the fray and at least try it out before deciding whether or not it’s for me.

Decorating the Nursery

I haven’t talked much about the baby’s room, although I‘ve spent hours thinking about exactly how to decorate it.

Like, I’m guessing, many parents-to-be, the thought of preparing a room especially for the baby is pretty exciting. And shop catalogues, baby websites and department store room set-ups are extremely seductive, with their beautifully co-ordinated furniture and accessory ranges. I’ve had plenty of moments of “Oh wow, that’s gorgeous, I want, I want, I want.” But fortunately those moments have been swiftly tempered by a dose of reality. Because the thing is, when the word “Nursery” is tacked on to the front of a furniture range, a zero or two gets tacked on to the end of the price tag.

I mean, really, who wants to spend over a thousand pounds on a wardrobe? Especailly a half size one that may be ideal for baby clothes, but will be quickly outgrown by an incessantly growing child. And “changing nits” are often little more than a chest of drawers with a a changing area screwed on to the top. Given that the changing part will only be useful for a year or maybe two – most have a strict weight limit – these quickly become expensive chests of drawers with impractical top surfaces.

As for the decor – well, who is it really for at this stage? I’ve heard plenty of people use decorating the nursery as a reason for finding out the gender of their child. If you want to know the gender, obviously that’s fine. But you don’t need to know it in order to decorate the room in which it will sleep. Under the age of one or two, the child is really not going to care what colour the walls are, or whether they have boats, teddy bears or safari animals dancing across them. I, on the other hand, might care a lot what the room looks and feels like when I’m spending hours of each day changing, dressing, feeding and putting to sleep my child, all whilst staring at the walls. I’m happy to do what I fancy, and we can cange it when the baby is old enough to want to choose something else.

The final problem with the shop bought accessory ranges is the lack of individuality. Yes, the catalogue pages look cute and neat. But they’re not very representative of real room shapes and sizes, and you ca bet that cramming that many items with the same pattern in to a real room won’t look anywhere near as nice, and it will look “ready-made”. Persoanlly I’dprefer to put a bit of our own stamp on the room.

So all of this led to me thinking about what furniture we already have that we ca re-purpose and how this would fit wit items we do need to buy, and then to searching for some unusual decor and finishing touches. I spent a lot of hours online looking at cots and cotbeds, at bedding and paint charts and most importantly at pictures of other people’s nurseries. Doing the latter led me to the idea of using a wall sticker, so I then spent hours looking at those too. The ones that were readily available felt a bit gaudy – almost too childlike given what I said about who the room is for. Eventually though I found an etsy site that sells outline stickers, in a single solid colour, and had a gorgeous giraffes shape with it’s head to the side as it peering over. And all of a sudden I conceived the idea of painting the wall behind the end of the cot a strong feature colour, with the giraffe superimposed as if peering over the cot. I fancied the idea of cream wals, with the feature wall in a bright green

Next up, I spotted a lovely pair of spotted curtains in a picture of someoen else’s room. The picture was on a networking site, so I mesgaed the wner, who was kind enough to let me know that hey were from the Gro company’s “Jolly Day Out” range. They are lined with balckout material, doing away with the need for a separte blackout blind. And better still, they were on sale! Once I had the curtains, we took them to B&Q and had a paint sample mixed in the exact colour of the green spots, a sort of lime colour. And I love it!

The cot we’ve chosen turned out to be pretty much the first one we saw. It’s cream with natural wood accents, and converts from cot to toddler bed, so should last a good few years. The cream colour co-ordinates well with the colour we’ve picked for the non-feature walls in the room. We’ve elected to get a cot top changer unit as, despite everyone saying you can just use the floor, I think it will be useful for the first year or so to have somewhere at waist height for changing and dressing for the sake of my back. But it can easily go in the loft after that, and is a cheap solution. We already have a full size Ikea wardrobe doing nothing, which is ideal with half hanging space and half shelving, and two Ikea tallboy chests which we went to pick up from the family flat we have access to in London today. They weren’t being used there, and fit perfectly at the end of the cot.

I just need to order a chair for the corner by the window now. Oh, and we need to actually finish the painting and setting it all up. But I love it already. Simple and smart, but cosy and calming too.

Pictures to follow!

Clothing Meltdown

My maternity jeans don’t fit.

Seriously. The first pair of maternity jeans that I bought no longer feel like the most comfortable jeans in the world . The elasticated band now rolls down under my bump and digs in when I sit down.

I have some more generous maternity jeans with a really big jersey panel that pulls right over the top of the bump. A few weeks ago they looked like a saggy sack of potatoes. Now they fit pretty well. The only problem is, they don’t have pockets. Neither do the comfy black linen trousers I have, or the yoga style pants that I like to wear around the house. That’s a problem because all the high waists mean I don’t have a proper wasitband either. All of which means I have nowhere to put my pump on a day to day basis.

I can still stuff it in my bra, but I don’t find that the most convenient for everyday wear, and especially now that I’m in non-wired maternity bras that simply don’t feel like they support my breasts as robustly, never mind a pump as well. The sock trick isn’t working so well as bending down to retrieve it is beginning to get uncomfortable and will only grow more difficult in the next three months.

I’ve had to resort to stuffing the pump just inside the jersey waistbands of my clothes. The trouble with this is that it shows as an awkward bump sticking out of my hip or sticking out of my… well, my other bump! And it absolutely does my head in to have it fall to the floor every time I visit the toilet or when I get undressed. It even works its way out after I’ve been sitting down, or if I walk too fast. My days are punctuated by the sound of my pump crashing to the floor.

This week, I had an absolute meltdown. Nothing seemed to fit right. Nothing seemed to look right. I feel uncomfortable, and an awkward shape without the pump getting in the way as well. Even without that, my T-shirts have all begun riding up and exposing the bottom of my bump. For some reason tops that ride up are on my list of most annoying things. The feel of the waistband sitting where it shouldn’t really grates on me. I don’t own any light cardigans that even remotely cover me, and although several of my jumpers and sweatshirts still fit, I’m worried about irreversibly stretching them as I get bigger.

There were quite a lot of tears. I shouted at Ian that I’d never look attractive or feel comfortable again. I felt angry because buying new maternity clothes isn’t even easy, as well as being expensive. There are so few high street shops that stock maternity lines and virtually everywhere expects you to order online. I’m usually quite happy to order clothes online. I know my size and how clothes from different shops fit me. But how an earth can I be expected to shop for this unfamiliar, distorted body without being able to try things on?

Ian, with his characteristic patience suggested that we go shopping today. With my characteristic stubborn anger I moaned how pointless it would be, and how I didn’t want to spend loads of money on clothes to wear for just a few months. I was convinced I’d still feel fat and frumpy and would never find anything to fit my new awkward shape. Fortunately I was wrong. After some internet research, we discovered that the branches of Next and Dorothy Perkins at Lakeside Shopping Centre stocked their maternity lines. And I was convinced to take the trip up there as we needed to go to Ikea anyway to check out furniture for our loft room. (Which incidentally is becoming fairly urgent to find as we need adequate bookshelves to enable us to remove the remaining boxes from what will be Flangelina’s room and get them unpacked.)

I was happy ecstatic to find a really comfy pair of jeans that actually work with my shape in Next. And better yet, I got them in a size 12. Pre-maternity I’d often end up in a 14 to allow enough room for my hips and bottom. Because the cut of maternity jeans is necessarily generous in these areas, I fit in to my true size! And even more importantly, they have pockets! In fact my rant yesterday about maternity trousers never having pockets seems ill judged now as every pair I looked at today came complete with pockets! Dorothy Perkins proved a good shop too as they had a Buy One get One Free offer on, so I picked up some proper maternity T-Shirts, and finally we stopped by Primark, whose T-Shirts this season are cut very long, so by buying a size 16 I could get good coverage of the bump. Oh, and found a nice long, loose cardi too.

Ian took out his card to pay in each shop, and told me that it didn’t really matter what we spent on maternity clothes that I’d possibly only wear for a few months. It was worth it for me to be comfortable and happy. Which is just another reason that I love him.