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When I was pregnant, I couldn’t get to the maternity store fast enough. I bought new jeans, a dress to wear to weddings, and a couple of tops that I figured would help me feel good about myself in my new body. To me, buying maternity clothes felt like a confirmation that I was really pregnant — something I’d worked long and hard to achieve.
But plenty of women take a different approach. On Wednesday, a very pregnant Haylie Duff told Racked Miami that she’d been resisting the idea of changing her wardrobe. “I was fighting the good fight on buying maternity clothes, but now I just have this massive belly and I can’t deny that I’m pregnant any longer!” she said. “I’ve tried to not go too maternity, but at a certain point you’ve got to have room.”
Kim and Kourtney Kardashian both avoided elastic waistbands, too. “I’m not really into maternity clothes,” Kourtney told Elle while she was pregnant with her third child, Reign. “[I’m wearing] the Kardashian collection, and it’s just a size bigger than I would normally get.” When Jennifer Garner was pregnant with her son Samuel, she told InStyle.com that her stylist, Rachel Zoe, was “determined not to put me in maternity clothes.” (Zoe has probably changed her mind about the style now that she’s launching a maternity line with Pea In the Pod.)
At a certain point, maternity clothes — at least pants — are necessary, because they’re cut to fit a bump. So why the backlash? Is it a refusal to acknowledge a changing body? A symbol of lost beauty? Fear of accepting weight gain? “All of the above,” Dr. Amy Henriott, Ob-Gyn at Midwest Center for Women’s Healthcare in Evanston, Illinois, tells Yahoo Parenting. “It’s almost a badge of honor to avoid maternity clothes as long as possible. Like, ‘I made it to 24 weeks before I had to change clothes!’ That’s why women finagle their pants closed with strings and hairbands.”
An informal Facebook poll tells me that women do avoid maternity clothes. For many of my acquaintances, the issue was cost. “It felt like wasted money,” wrote one friend. “The jeans I got were ugly, but they were cheap, and I wore them for about 4 months, so I was not investing in designer. I just needed enough to eek by.” Many women echoed this sentiment.
But for one pal, the maternity resistance seemed more mental than financial. “Not sure why, [but] I just didn’t want to give in to maternity jeans,” she wrote. “My husband told me to think of it like a sport. If I was playing soccer, I’d buy cleats. I was pregnant, I had to buy a ‘uniform.’”
Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills psychotherapist and expert on WETV’s Sex Box says women feel constant pressure to appear thin and stylish, even when they’re expecting, and wearing maternity clothes might feel like letting go. “There’s a pressure to look a certain way — namely, to look thin,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “Women have trouble stepping away from that.”
Henriott says her patients find freedom when they finally give in to maternity clothes. “It’s amazing to me how liberated people feel once they have made that decision,” she says. “And in the second pregnancy, the maternity clothes come out in the first trimester!”
Walfish agrees that embracing maternity clothes is akin to letting yourself off the hook. “Relax, take a deep breath, let yourself fall off the wagon a little bit for nine months,” she says. “Know that you’re still going to be desirous later on.”
But take note: once you do give in, you may never go back. “Maternity tights were the best purchase, I still wear them,” wrote a friend of mine, mom to a six-month-old. “They are like anti-control top. Finally a solution to what to wear to a fancy dinner. Dressed up, room to eat!”