Adeline and I are going out to see a friend. One of my rare social interactions and very much needed. I’ve nearly mastered the art of getting out of the house with a baby, but she keeps changing so I have to keep relearning. She’s running around the house, chasing the dogs and pulling things out of the cabinets, while I make sure I have everything we need. Even a quick trip requires supplies: at nearly one year old, she still needs diapers, a wetbag, and a mat (you never know where you may have to change a diaper). I’ve carried those since she was born, but now she seems to need even more supplies: snacks, her water bottle, and hey, just to be on the safe side, more snacks. These are the things I carry. And, these days, I carry them in a purse. I’ve done away with the diaper bag.
When I was pregnant with Adeline I had all kinds of dreams about what life as a mother would be like. Somehow in those dreams I never quite pictured what I would look like. But one thing I knew for sure: I’d have a diaper bag. Because that’s what all moms are supposed to have, right? I registered for a cute one (grey with cherry blossoms) and got it at my shower. I packed it up before the birth with all the things the internet told me I’d need. And we somehow managed to remember to bring it to the hospital with us in the mad dash out of the house. And two days later when we checked out with our beautiful new baby, I carried that diaper bag proudly. “I’m a mother!” it screamed.
Two weeks later I was, certainly, a mother. And I looked the part. Not the hip, beautiful mom you see in the park with her gorgeous children and amazing clothes. No, no, that other kind of mom. The one who wears frumpy jeans and sweatpants most of the time and always has her hair in a ponytail. And of course, I was nursing, so I had the added accessory of an ever-wet shirt-front. But I was only two weeks into this motherhood thing, so I gave myself a break.
Fast-forward to a couple months later. I’m standing in a Target dressing room, deciding if the jeans I’m trying on look remotely passable. I’m not down to pre-pregnancy size yet, but if I wear my maternity jeans one more day I may kill myself. And yet, I’m hoping to lose more weight soon (“I will, surely I will,” I tell myself hopefully) so I don’t want to spend too much on pants that I (please god) won’t be wearing for very long. So here I am, buying cheap jeans. But you get what you pay for. They fit, as in, they’re the right size, but they’re not great. I suck it up and buy them. And while I’m there, I get some shirts. Most of my old shirts either don’t fit, or they’re too fancy (work shirts from my old job as a corporate lawyer don’t really fit the bill anymore), or I can’t nurse in them. So along with my passable jeans, my cart is piled with low-necked casual shirts that scream, “I’m a mother!”
And for months I walk around in those clothes. And I carry my diaper bag. At first I’m just proud of myself for getting dressed and for getting let-down under control so that I don’t have lactation spots on my boobs when I leave the house. But then we plan a trip to New York City to see old friends and I stand in my closet trying to figure out what to wear and it hits me like a pound of bricks: “Holy shit, I’m a mother!” As in, “Oh my god, when did this happen, I have no fashion sense! I have nothing to wear! I can’t go to New York like this, they’ll laugh me out of the city! I might as well wear a scrunchie and paisley for gods’ sakes!”
And that was when things started to change. I went to the mall and bought some real clothes – I don’t have a ton of money right now and they’re not as cheap as Target, so I couldn’t get a lot. But it was a start. And then I braved the bin of clothes in the extra closet: my pre-pregnancy jeans. And they fit! (Thank you Jillian Micheals.) Things were starting to look better, but there was still that diaper bag to contend with. When I was pregnant and nesting and dreaming in pastels, it seemed really cute. But now it seemed about as un-hip as possible. I couldn’t do it anymore. So I went on a hunt for a purse that would work: big enough to store her supplies but cool looking. Something that didn’t look like a diaper bag.
And I found it. As I walk out the door with Adeline I sling my purse over my shoulder. When I meet up with my friend we’ll both have our babies with us; there’s no denying we’re mothers. But now, at least, it doesn’t feel like that’s the only thing we are.
Don’t get me wrong: I still stay in sweats all day sometimes or leave the house in an unfortunate outfit on occasion and I’m certainly no fashionista. But I feel more like myself these days. It’s amazing how the clothes you wear can affect you so much. Well-fitted jeans, cute shoes, a nice top and a purse. It’s a lifeline on days when all you want is to look like a real person. When the last thing you want is to scream, “I’m a mother!”