I’ve been surviving most of pregnancy in one pair of fraying, black $20 pants. While most people have hordes of vivid dreams in pregnancy, I have one – burning these poor pants. For me, ‘pregnancy fashion’ is oxymoronic. A monotonous game of artfully rotating a few other black items, specifically an oversized Club Monaco black blazer, some comfortable Fiorentini + Baker boots, and a few Free People sweaters.
Any idea of being fashionable completely disappears in the last 10 weeks, and especially so when I pull the awkward pants extender flap over my enormous belly.
Until, that is, I pull out my phone. Haunting the internet are made-up pregnant women in hyper-trendy outfits. On Instagram, popping up as “Recommended for You,” live hosts of bloggers and fashion folk perpetually hustling goods of all kinds.
Last Saturday, Ian woke up at 5:30AM. I rolled out of bed with heinous breath, threw on my bathrobe, grabbed the lad, and descended to my 1940’s kitchen with its green formica countertops that make me think of the Loch Ness monster. Welcome to the weekend.
I began to feel something wet on my hip and realized Ian’s sopping overnight diaper was seeping through. By 6:30AM (long before any store was open), I was living in a mess of a house strewn with crayon markers and every ugly brightly colored VTeck toy ever produced. I logged onto Instagram to see a mother posing next to her adorable toddler girl, both casually attired in matching outfits, sporting perfect braids, and of course, floral headdresses. Another blogger describes herself as “a stay-at-home mom in Kansas City, Mo., ‘making a home for five, living in the rhythm of the seasons.’ Her feed is filled with pretty objects like cooling pies and evergreen sprigs tucked into apothecary vases, with hardly any chaos in sight” (Bailey, “How the mom internet became a spotless, sponsored void,” The WashingtonPost. January 26, 2018). Then Facebook’s “Cupcakes and Cashmere” informed me that I could be “saved by bell sleeves.”
I suppose it was the same in the 1950’s when women turned on TV and saw Donna Reed twirling in perfect dresses and curled hair in a large, clean suburban ranch house. But our mothers didn’t cart Donna Reed and the woman from I Dream of Jeannie around in their pockets and handbags. The “Mom internet” is never turned off — and surely, I’m convinced, at times, Instagram can perniciously suppress and over-simplify the hardships of parenting.
- I mean why is seeing someone in a stylish sweater or a gorgeously decorated home so insidious for new moms? Perhaps as Bailey suggests, “with all the explosion of affiliate links, we’ve lost a source of support and community, a place to share vulnerability and find like-minded women, and a forum for female expertise and wisdom” (How the internet became a spotless, sponsored void,” The Washington Post. January 26, 2018).
- Despite my love of fashion and interior design, why don’t I just log off? The fact is the internet allows a quick hit of connection, a window out of the dark of our infants’ bedrooms or, for that matter, respite from the 95th hundred time of finding Goldbug in Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.
While I’m now lucky enough to be connected to Chicago’s massive and brutally honest Facebook group, Momma Tribe, and to a host of amazing girl friends who all happen to be pregnant at the very same time, as a new mom, I wasn’t. At the time, I just didn’t realize the toll taken by the lack of on-line authenticity. I spent so many hours in the wee of the morning rocking Ian, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around how tough it was for me and how easy it looked online. (And yes, according to statistics most new parents are most active on Social Media sites “in the wee hours,” logging on “as early as 4 a.m.”). Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies plaintively captures the aching juxtaposition of parenting:
“Just when I thought that I’d discovered the joy
Of loving one so completely
That lonely sinking feeling creeps up on me.”
Before the explosion of Instagram, the first Mommy bloggers exuded honesty: Take for example Heather B. Armstrong, who opened up about this juxtaposition in recounting her first six months as a new mom wrestling with postpartum and a colicky baby:
“Some days were really good.
Some days I enjoyed living in the moment and treasured her little feet and fingers and squeals and excessive drool, because I knew she would never be this little again. Some days I hoped she never grew up.
But most days were really, really bad.
Some days she started screaming only a half hour after she woke up, and I immediately wanted to hit the reset button. Some days the drugs didn’t work, and the isolation of spending my entire day with someone who couldn’t tell me what she wanted, spread like a disease in my body, choking me and rendering me paralyzed.
Some days I stared eternity in the face and thought about how many diapers I would change that would only get dirty again, towels I would wash that would only become soiled, dishes I would load into the dishwasher that we’d use to eat on again and again, and I felt useless” (dooce.com).
Somehow, this plain old commercial-free honest-to-goodness frankness about the realities of mommy-hood makes me feel better about my one pair of (#unsponsored) black pants. And all those moments that I know are coming again.