Maternity Clothes Have Always Been Complicated
I am eight months pregnant. I am thrilled to be eight months pregnant. I like being pregnant. I waddle along the streets of Austin, Texas, with my head held high, both out of a sense of enduring accomplishment and for balance. We wanted to have a kid, we tried for some time to have a kid, and now this kid is pretty much creating himself with minimal input from me. I need only:
- Eat what I’m supposed to;
- Not eat (or drink) what’s verboten;
- Keep well-hydrated;
- Exercise some (but not too hard);
- Wake up in the middle of the night to pee;
- Wake up again to pee;
- Wake up a third time to pee;
- Steer clear of speedboats, harsh chemicals, and jostling individuals;
- Monitor my blood sugar levels on a strict schedule of finger pricking and bloodletting;
- Never forget my prenatal vitamins;
- Never forget that new iron supplement (that costs way more than it should);
- And visit two different obstetricians, at this point, every other week for some regular prodding and poking and heart-stopping drama.
It’s really very simple!
None of that, though, keeps me up Googling all hours of the night. Finding maternity clothes that are comfortable for ballooning girth while still being cute(-ish) does. Dressing an unfamiliar body is hard, rationalizing a financial investment in a temporary wardrobe is stressful, and the fear that this temporary state could be even more temporary than it’s supposed to be — if we lose the pregnancy — is real.
In Bump It Up: Transform Your Pregnancy into the Ultimate Style Statement, a pregnancy style guide,former Vogue accessories editor Filipa Fino delivers this decree, summing up much of the modern expectations surrounding dressing-while-expecting: “Deciding to look like a slob during pregnancy is a choice. Adapting who I was to pregnancy — in fashion, at work, at home — kept me feeling positive during my pregnancies. I just refused to give in to feeling dowdy. And therefore, I did not look dowdy!”
I’m not the glamorous pregnant person you’ve seen on Instagram. I’m not your stylish friend from high school whose well-documented life looks as if it were masterfully lit by tree sprites and I’m certainly not one of the legion of pregnant tastemakers and influencers who never wear the same outfit twice.
I’m not a “good” pregnant person. I must be doing it wrong.
We will meet women in this story who make maternity look easy and flawless, but here’s a truth for others like me: There’s a long history of women who’ve had no clue how to do this right.
In the Middle Ages, dresses were roomy enough for two. Come the 1400s, lace panels could loosen as bellies swelled. But the mid-1800s marked the introduction of the maternity corset, a characteristically Victorian instrument of prudishness meant to keep a baby bump under wraps and effectively render pregnancy (and sexuality, to a certain extent) invisible. Yes, corsets carved waists and emphasized breasts, boasting sex, but they simultaneously concealed a frequent outcome of sex. “Pregnancy for [Victorians] was a condition to be concealed as far as possible,” writes Judith Flanders in Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England. Doctors at the time could scarcely leave sanctimony at the door to perform pelvic exams — “it was too indelicate, in its assumption that a doctor would perform a physical examination,” writes Flanders — though plenty did recommend maternity corsets.
“Better Babies is the slogan heard everywhere,” reads a 1909 ad for Gossard Maternity Corsets. “Diet and exercise are the essentials for the Mother. Your doctor for the diet and the Gossard Maternity Corset for your exercise. Thousands of Mothers praise it. Endorsed by Physicians. The figure always looks trim and shapely in the Gossard Maternity Corset.”
Maternity-specific clothing finally arrived in the early twentieth century with the 1904 launch of Lane Bryant. The brand began not with the plus-size offerings it’s known for today, but with adjustable maternity dresses whose drawstring waists were “Designed to Grow with Your Figure” (though the ads showcased models with narrow waists bearing no hint of pregnancy).
Next came Page Boy’s patented, “scooped-out” skirt in 1937, which attempted to address Lane Bryant’s issue of hemlines that hiked up in the front as pregnant bellies expanded by removing the panel of fabric that would cover the belly (and styling the skirt with a long jacket). Page Boy encouraged their clientele to “have a pretty Pregnancy.” The 1950s crop of pregnant celebs, like Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor, loved Page Boy, marking the unofficial start of celebrity “bump watches” doubling as maternity brand endorsements. It would be nearly 50 years, however, before the term “baby bump” became a thing, largely thanks to US Weekly. Page Boy eventually sold to Mothers Work, which was later renamed Destination Maternity, a monolith in the maternity space known for its offshoots A Pea in the Pod (its “luxury” line) and Motherhood Maternity (a label with the “lowest prices around”).
Still, pregnancy remained something to hide for decades; the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which barred employers from wrongfully firing and withholding benefits from pregnant women, didn’t pass until 1978. A bow-riddled maternity dress in the mid-’80s didn’t look a whole lot different from a bow-riddled maternity dress in the mid-’50s.
“There wasn’t anything in the maternity department she would have touched with a 10-foot pole,” write Juicy Couture co-founders Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy of the former’s pregnancy in their book The Glitter Plan. “It all looked like something from the I Love Lucy era: oversized like a tent.”
The pair went into business together in 1988 and launched Travis Jeans for the Baby in You, a maternity denim line that “wasn’t crazily profitable,” but received a boost when Glamour published a paparazzi shot of pregnant Melanie Griffith wearing a pair. Fred Segal in Los Angeles sold them for $89. Suddenly, pregnant and moneyed women could wear the stylish, slim-fitting jeans that they would’ve worn before pregnancy with the aid of a stretchy, Lycra belly band.
Most maternity brand origin stories follow a similar script: desperation begets inspiration. “Necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s exactly what Belly Basics was for us,” says the company’s co-founder Cherie Serota, a veteran of the buying and marketing offices at Saks Fifth Avenue and Henri Bendel and now the director of fashion merchandising at Long Island University. Serota shunned maternity clothes during her early ’90s pregnancy. “You had to go down to the basement to find the maternity department, and you felt like an outcast.”
Belly Basics introduced the Pregnancy Survival Kit, a “Chinese takeout-style box” of four “essential pieces to survive your nine months in style,” as Serota describes it, to department stores in 1994. The launch fortuitously came a few short years after Demi Moore’s famed Vanity Fair cover in which she appeared naked and pregnant. “It was really a time of celebrating your pregnancy,” says Serota. “Celebrating your belly, celebrating the parts of your body that are expanding, and emphasizing the parts of your body that aren’t expanding.”
And here we are, close to 25 years later, and the “bump celebrating” philosophy persists, though we’ve recently taken it a step further: Today’s bump should be accentuated. Overwhelmingly, maternity in the year 2018 means bodycon, a la Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy (and non-pregnancy) style.
The bump is a coveted accessory to flaunt, now more than ever. According to Bump It Up, it’s “the ultimate style statement.”
Now in my third trimester, I easily pass for a casting agency’s stock “pregnant woman” background character. My belly is convex, a sphere interrupted only by the rest of my body, and I put on whatever fits over it. The roundness only hits me when I’m standing in front of a full-length mirror at Special Addition, a boutique maternity store and resource center here in Austin that offers everything from breastfeeding classes to nursing bras.
When a sales associate named Bronwen asks if I need help, I say, “I’m pregnant.”
She nods and smiles kindly. “Yes.”
We don’t own a full-length mirror at home, so I take full advantage of inspecting myself in the one inside the fitting room. The nursing bra is too tight around my ribs but too big in the cups. I wonder if there’s any way to mathematically determine how big my boobs will grow so that I can just get this thing and cross one nagging “must buy!” off my list. I gaze at my belly button in the mirror’s reflection. When did my innie become an outie?
Out in the shop, I survey the racks. Clever brand names abound: Majamas, Bravado!, 9Fashion, Mothers en Vogue.
“That’s funny,” I say, pointing to a rack of nursing tanks from Ripe Maternity.
“Belly fruit,” says Bronwen.
I explain that this is more or less my first time shopping in a maternity store, that I see the sign for their shop whenever I get breakfast tacos across the parking lot, but I’ve never set foot inside Special Addition until today. Bronwen nods deeply, and I wonder if she’s heard this line a lot. “We’re the type of store that you don’t really come into until you need it.”
I found myself standing in front of a full-length mirror a year ago too, exactly one day after I learned I’d miscarried.
On assignment for Racked, I had an appointment to check out a new vintage-inspired shop with in-store styling services. The salesperson tasked with leading my tour was ebullience in a glittery bottle; she didn’t deserve the catatonic reporter that met her. Oozing sunshine as she grabbed a few outfits off the racks, she shepherded me into a fitting room encased in rose-colored velvet curtains. “For the whole in-store styling experience!” she said, and she was right, I had to do my job. Alone in the fitting room, I stripped down to nothing and caught my reflection.
The day before, my husband and I had driven to our 12-week OB-GYN appointment, though the baby had measured a week younger than expected at earlier visits, which should’ve been our first clue. He was amped and I was jittery. We listened to A Tribe Called Quest and talked about seeing “Chip,” as we’d nicknamed the small thing inside me.
But our doctor was quiet as she moved the ultrasound wand over my belly.
“I’m not seeing a heartbeat.”
Miscarriage isn’t uncommon, especially in the first trimester, and I was familiar with the statistics. But awareness is a far cry from preparation, and grief doesn’t respect reason.
“I picked out names,” Beyoncé tells the camera in her 2013 documentary Life is But a Dream of her first pregnancy two years prior. “I envisioned what my child looked like. I was feeling very maternal; my first child with the man that I loved. My family was so excited. I flew back to New York to get my checkup — and no heartbeat. Literally the week before I went to the doctor, everything was fine, but there was no heartbeat.”
Facing myself in that full-length mirror felt like a torture scene in a bad, absurdist play. I gazed at my regular-sized belly, my goosebumped skin concealing a uterus incapable of supporting life. I hated my body then, more than I’d ever hated it before for not being skinny enough, or toned enough, or clear-skinned enough. I hated my body then for being inhospitable.
rainbow baby,” as they call a baby born soon after the loss of a previous pregnancy, due to arrive in mere weeks. I cut out all caffeine, unnecessary as I’m told this is. I check the toilet for blood every time I pee and I hold my breath during ultrasounds until the doctor says, “There he is.”
I couldn’t bring myself to buy maternity clothes until well into the second trimester of this pregnancy, even though most everything I owned ceased fitting weeks earlier. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself,”I’d say to explain away my unbuttoned shorts and stretched out, too-short shirts. Really, though, it was only another way of saying, I don’t want to be wrong.I don’t want to get hurt.
They don’t tell you about the silence during pregnancy, about the weeks between appointments early on when you have no fucking idea what’s actually happening inside of you. You just wait, and if you’re religious, you pray. If you’re not, you hope. Or, you feel hope eviscerate when the worry creeps in. I don’t read the baby books. I don’t Google any questions. All the information out there will only prey on my fear.
At each appointment with my OB-GYN over the past eight months, I’ve worn the same T-shirt. I say it’s my lucky baby shirt. In truth, it’s the only way I know how to be proactive, to feel like I’m in control. The shirt is my shield. It’s red and soft, 31 years old, celebrating a “Turtle Trot for Tots” held in Baltimore when my mom was pregnant with me. An illustrated turtle dons a backward baseball cap, about to bust through a banner that reads, “The Thrill of Victory,” fists in the air. She doesn’t remember if she went to the turtle derby or not. She doesn’t have much memory of the shirt at all, something I rescued from her “knock-around-the-house” clothes back in high school when I discovered that “old” equaled “vintage.” But if she could wear it and birth a healthy baby, then by golly, it must be magic.
My husband teases me at around week 20, “You going to wear any other shirts to the doctor’s this pregnancy?” Whatever dark look I gave him has clipped his tongue since. Now, if I realize the night before an appointment that the magic shirt is dirty, he throws it in the washing machine before I can panic.
You can tell it’s maternity by the panel of stretchy fabric stitched underneath the waistband, meant to swaddle the abdomen up to the sternum. Or the Lycra. Or the wraparound style of the dress. Or the ruching of the top. Or the amorphousness of whatever it is. These ’90s-era styles remain the maternity norm, particularly at big-box retailers like Kohl’s and Walmart with affordable maternity collections, and mainstay Destination Maternity, the world’s largest maternity retailer. But oftentimes, this engineering — theoretically crafted for comfort — creates a wedge between maternity and the rest of fashion, inadvertently othering pregnant women, as if they were back shopping in the department store basement. (It’s worth noting, too, that many stores, like Gap and Old Navy, have moved their maternity offerings to online-only; the brands declined to comment on why.)
But, there’s another way.
“You don’t necessarily have to be ostracized from fashion during this moment,” argues Ariane Goldman, founder of boutique maternity brand Hatch.
describes its origins as, “born out of a desire for something chic and elevated.” After operating exclusively online since 2011, Hatch opened its first brick-and-mortar in New York this past October. The brand has found that women spend three times as much in their store as they do online, and Goldman adds that Hatch’s online sales continue to thrive too — the brand doubled its revenue goals for last year.
The freshness of Hatch and other boutique brands’ foothold in the marketplace speaks to the resonance of a somewhat revolutionary concept: making maternity clothes for women who hate maternity clothes. PinkBlush, a maternity brand specializing in boho maxi dresses and on-trend bodycon, calls itself “not your mother’s maternity clothes” for a reason.
If clothes designed specifically for maternity are a relatively new phenomenon, maternity clothes that meet trends head-on are even newer. After all, this is an apparel segment that retail has long tackled as a nuisance, not an opportunity.
“Fashion doesn’t want to acknowledge women with changing figures,” Goldman in a 2016 interview. “What I’m trying to do is defy the perception that this is a dreaded year of your life where you’re not allowed to look good. I’m trying to make it sexy and okay and lovely and interesting because that’s what it is. How cool is it? You’re having a baby!”
I do feel powerful, I must admit. It’s not just me that I speak for now; I have backup. At 24 weeks, I use some birthday money I’d squirreled away in my desk drawer for a prenatal massage, justifying the expense to my husband, “We need this.” During my session, the massage therapist confides that he loves doing prenatal massage because it’s like working on two people at once.
I laugh and the baby pummels my side. Every decision I’ve made over the past months — washing my hands until they chap and bleed, rescheduling a dental appointment from the chair when the hygienist reveals that she’s “a little under the weather” — I’ve made not for my own benefit, but for the kicking, punching, blood sugar-spiking creature wreaking havoc beneath my skin. To me, wearing body-hugging clothing right now is a declaration of dependence. Here we are!Please don’t sneeze on us!
And yet, when it comes to dressing myself “at this moment,” as Goldman puts it, I feel like an amateur. It took me 31 years to figure out how to dress myself; in the last several months, I’ve restarted from scratch. I don’t want to look ridiculous and I certainly don’t want to miss out on the self-esteem perks of apparently morphing into a temporary goddess either.
the skinny arm. At my baby shower in California, one of my closest girlfriends discreetly pulls the fabric in the back of my tent dress taut for photos, another maternity equivalent of a classic sorority move. Baggy clothes do not flaunt the bump, I learn.
Neither do leather jackets, I discover in Bump It Up. “Leather and pregnancy are like foie gras and ketchup — a freakish combo.” I happen to be reading this while wearing my leather jacket, the one piece of “cool” clothing I own. The book also recommends heels. “Every fashion editor who was interviewed for this book concurred that heels visually lengthen the legs, elongate the silhouette, and offer a literal lift from that dowdy, bloated feeling,” reads a Hot Tip encased in a mint green bubble. I don’t own any heels.
The maternity wear market is a $2 billion industry, with Destination Maternity constituting 18.7% of the industry’s revenue. Fortune estimates that pregnant women, on average, spend almost $500 per pregnancy on maternity clothes. That breaks down to between $50 and $60 spent per month of pregnancy.
A $2 billion segment of the $12 billion fashion industry (over 16%) seems like it could make sense, considering that there are just under 4 million births a year in the US, compared to a total domestic population of 327 million (around 1%). These women are, presumably, buying more than they might otherwise out of a new need to replace wardrobe essentials — new jeans, new tops, new outerwear, new all of it. Analysts, however, say that the maternity market is in decline, thanks to a “near stagnant birthrate,” “fewer expectant mothers,” and “more women put[ting] off motherhood,” according to IBIS World. Still, those factors don’t account for the untold numbers of women sick of the standard maternity offerings. Bump It Up, for instance, advocates extending the lives of high-end, non-maternity garments — or, “civilian clothes” — and tailoring. “It wasn’t cheap, altering outfits a few times,” publicist Alison Brod advises in the book, “but at least I didn’t look like I was wearing a sack every day.”
Besides the sack factor, it’s hard to defend investing in a new wardrobe for a finite amount of time. Maternity sellers know full well that the short lifespan of these clothes — many pregnant women don’t show in earnest until the start of the second trimester — is a strike against their wares.
“They don’t want to invest in a whole new wardrobe,” says Target spokesperson Meghan Roman of maternity customers. “They want to wear the same clothes as far along in the pregnancy as they can, and then find some shirts and some staples, and maybe a few more trendy pieces that are maternity, as their belly grows.”
No single item captures the hunger to wear pre-pregnancy clothes during pregnancy better, perhaps, than the Bellaband, a stretchy waistband wrap introduced to market in 2003 by maternity brand Ingrid & Isabel that accommodates wearing pre-pregnancy jeans and bottoms far into pregnancy, albeit unbuttoned. Target launched a collaboration with the brand last summer called Isabel Maternity by Ingrid & Isabel, merging what Roman calls the “aesthetic and essence” of the label — one whose offerings are more upscale than typical Target fare — with Target prices. And price is a huge motivator for Target shoppers; maternity items range from $9.99 to $39.99, though Roman adds that the chain tries to keep most pieces under $25.
But what of wearing maternity clothes post-pregnancy? Lane Bryant and Page Boy pioneered the idea that women could wear maternity garments postpartum back in the early 1900s, and the concept is seeing something of a renaissance today. “Designed to look great after pregnancy,” reads a banner on PinkBlush’s site. “Versatility is key in the land of motherhood and we’ve made it easier than ever to create a staple wardrobe with styles that can be worn during pregnancy into motherhood and beyond.”
stocks 4,000 new products a week, caters largely to a twenty-something audience. While ASOS declines to release specific analytics, Spence says that their maternity customer skews slightly older than the standard ASOS shopper, more toward late 20s. All the same, ASOS’s design and buying approach for maternity targets the same younger set that the rest of its site serves.
Take the marketing copy for Hope & Ivy, a brand ASOS carries in its maternity section: “The Hope & Ivy girl radiates hedonistic bohemianism, whether she’s dancing barefoot at a beach wedding in Ibiza, sipping champagne at a soirée in the country or dressed to kill at a London cocktail party.” Compare this with a decidedly more conservative outlook from Destination Maternity: “From basics to special occasion, our Motherhood Maternity brand delivers affordable maternity clothes designed to keep you comfortable and stylish throughout your entire pregnancy and beyond! #thisisgoingtobefun!” The ASOS shopper is spontaneous, dangerous, and all about YOLO-ing herself through these glorious nine months; the Destination Maternity shopper grins through gritted teeth, can only live the jet-set life by binging House Hunters International, and already feels too old for this shit, whether she is or not.
Herein lies an interesting paradox: If ASOS is any indicator, maternity clothes are getting younger, but moms aren’t. The average age for first-time moms is climbing, and thirty-somethings are now having more babies than twenty-somethings. How does ASOS reconcile this dichotomy?
“In terms of fashion, I think that whole kind of age barrier doesn’t exist as much anymore,” says Spence, “in the sense of, you hit a certain age and then you have to suddenly start shopping somewhere completely different.”
I realize I’ve aged 90 years by simply asking this inane question. The fashion industry is more concerned with lifestyle, aspiration, and celebrity than it is with age. On top of that, we have more means to maintain so-called “youthfulness” than previous generations had, be it through skincare, fitness, or fashion. Adds Spence, “A twenty-something can still wear the same thing, often, as a thirty-something or even a forty-something, and it’s just about how you wear it and how you style it.” Becoming a mother need not equate with dressing matronly.
I didn’t know what to make of ASOS’s “Preggers” slogan tee when I first saw it on the site. Would anyone older than ASOS’s target demo wear such a confident, borderline goofy statement? Well, Beyoncé would. Sold.
That 20-week appointment is perhaps the most dramatic of all prenatal appointments in its sterile stillness. You lie on your back while an ultrasound tech meticulously covers every millimeter of your abdomen with the wand, pressing inward here, moving the wand quickly there, measuring the size of every organ, recording blood flow, snapping picture after picture after picture. It takes close to an hour. You have no idea what it all means until a maternal-fetal specialist steps in. Ours makes small talk. We notice that he wears socks adorned with Canadian maple leaves. He’s Canadian! How interesting! We’re nervous, so we laugh.
“So, we found a small cyst on the brain,” the specialist tells us.
I’m sure my eyes look like that of a cartoon cat who’s spotted danger; my husband’s do.
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Social media has changed what’s expected of expecting moms.
First, the pregnancy announcement photo. Tiny shoes are popular. So are dogs posed next to chalkboards. Ultrasound photos are always a classic.
“The advent of sophisticated user-friendly fetal ultrasound speaks, in many ways, to our image-oriented society,” writes physician and medical journalist Randi Hutter Epstein in her 2010 book Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. “We need a film clip (something to put on YouTube, perhaps?) to show the world and to prove to ourselves that what we think is happening is real and meaningful.”
The same could be said for every other milestone of an Instagrammable pregnancy. There’s the “gender reveal” (really, sex reveal), an opportunity for a photoshoot that will yield a picture-perfect Instagram post, or a choreographed party centerpiece that will yield a Boomerang for Instagram, or a slo-mo video for Instagram, or fodder for the party guests’ Instagram stories. I’ve seen pink smoke unfurl from flares, blue balloons tumble out of boxes, pink confetti explode, and painted hands press onto bellies to form (very) abstract hearts.
Bumpies — selfies highlighting the bump — are plentiful, a trend that took off in 2014 thanks to apps like BabyCenter. To track size, stickers announce the baby’s fruit or vegetable equivalent week by week. As long as a carrot! As big as romaine! BabyCenter’s “Bumpie” feature even comes with calendar reminders so that nary a week goes by without photo-documentation. Bumpies are, unsurprisingly, controversial, alternately a source of irritation for onlookers and a connection to community for moms-to-be.
Maternity brands have tapped into that longing for community and leveraged the continuing trend in their social media strategies. PinkBlush features a rotating collage of Instagramming shoppers who tag @shoppinkblush on their accounts, and regrams them from the company handle. A lot of these women are bloggers with substantial followings, but some of them aren’t. ASOS maintains a dedicated maternity Instagram (separate from its main account) full of ASOS shoppers who tag them. “I refuse to be a frumpy preggo lady,” reads the caption on one ASOS shopper’s post, adding #BumpNotFrump, a hashtag with nearly 2,500 posts as of this publish.
Hatch takes the phenomenon a step further, selling temporary “belly tattoos” meant to “capture each stage of pregnancy and gender reveal for friends, family and your own memory book,” calling them, “photographable and flashable badges of honor!”
Of course maternity culture is bumpie-obsessed; wider culture is selfie-obsessed. And Instagram — the handheld projection that life is wonderful and picture-perfect — encapsulates the pressure to perpetuate a flawless aesthetic in day-to-day filtered life and in pregnancy. We see, and post, fantasies. Peruse handles like @pregnantandperfect and tags like #babybump (4.8 million posts and counting) and you’ll meet gorgeous, glamorous, well-lit moms, baring their bumps, sporting relaxed waves and spotless makeup, ensconced in dreamy garments. But these feeds hide the reality from the cameras: the nausea, the immobility (with a few notable exceptions), the shortness of breath from climbing a flight of stairs, the searing round ligament pain, the radiating back pain, the unwelcome spotting, the difficult labors, the episiotomies, the C-sections, the emergency decisions, the complications that no one foresees.
No one wants to subscribe to those feeds; no one would voluntarily give birth if they did.
I scroll through Hatch’s Instagram in the waiting room of my maternal-fetal specialist’s office. I’m here again, at week 30, because I have gestational diabetes.
It’s no fault of my own, I’m told. The baby simply gave me diabetes! Thanks, baby! I’m swallowing the rising lump in my throat and blinking back preemptive tears as I prepare for the news I fear is inevitable, that my erratic blood sugar readings will necessitate an insulin prescription for the rest of the pregnancy. It’s hardly the end of the world, I know, but it’s not what I planned. I thought I’d ride out the third trimester with a warm chocolate chip cookie in each hand, not calluses forming on my fingers from pricking them with a lancet four times a day.
I land on a regrammed photo of writer Jenny Mollen, pregnant and juggling six cartons of ice cream. “Yes #liferightnow,” reads a comment. “29 weeks today!” If I were home, I’d scream into a pillow like they do in romcoms. But I’m in a hospital complex, so I draw a deep inhalation and forget for a moment to breathe out.
is a writer in Austin, Texas.