"Here,” my sister says as she rolls the carry-on suitcase across the floor to me. “This is full of maternity clothes that you can take back with you.”
It's the same suitcase that days earlier I had handed to her, full of infant boy clothes that my two year old son had long outgrown. It is Christmas time, and my newborn nephew has played a large role in bringing my own little family back to the Midwest roots where my husband and I grew up. We'd anticipated the previous year being our last year back for a while. The cost, the time change between California and Michigan, the constant threat of snow delaying or canceling flights, and the budding desire to spend the holidays snuggled in our own beds had all taken their toll. But who can pass up a new little baby? And so, we have come again, perhaps for the last time, with a surprise of our own kicking away in my belly, my last one.
I decide to take a peek and unzip the suitcase in the middle of my parent's living room floor.
"I bought some new jeans this time, so those should still have some stretch in them," my sister says as she watches me pull out the clothes. I admire the new jeans; they will be immediately useful as I think of the pair I'd borrowed from a friend that had recently suffered a rip right along the back side seam. Whoops. I move on to the more familiar fabrics, opening a forgotten closet of clothes and memories.
"Oh, I remember this one," I say, pulling out a dark blue boatneck top with tiny light blue dots on it. "It was one of my favorites." I am reminded of the picture I have of me in this top, belly full and only days away from releasing its occupant. The neckline is flattering, and it is the only shirt I had that could really manage full belly coverage in the last few weeks of pregnancy. In the picture, my face is puffy and my belly low, and I am holding a carved jack-o-lantern next to it for size comparison. The pumpkin would have fit perfectly inside the stretched skin of my stomach, had it not otherwise been full. My then two year old daughter stood next to me in that photo, smiling up at the camera with all her might as she held tightly to her own little carved pumpkin.
"And here are the pants I went into labor with Zoe in," I say to my sister as I pull out a pair of light gray loose-fitting yoga pants. I had received them from a friend shortly before we moved westward. In the five years since, they have housed four pregnant bellies as my sister and I have passed them back and forth and yet, miraculously, the maternity band still has a good amount of stretch to it. I gaze at them in my lap as I think about the sunny Sunday morning in October 2012 when I stopped in the middle of the hospital parking lot, holding my husband with one arm and my doula with the other through another contraction. When it was over, before moving quickly toward the hospital entrance, I began to sob with exhaustion and the overwhelming realization that I was about to meet my baby for the very first time, face to face. I was glad when my doula told me this was normal, to cry and be overwhelmed before the work of labor is even over. It makes sense that the nearing of holy moments like birth, divine creation brushing its lips upon the surface of earthly existence, would be overwhelming to a human heart.
“Thank you,” I say to my sister as I fold all the pieces back into the suitcase and slowly zip it up, preparing my heart for all the “one last times” that are headed my way.
Several weeks later, back in my California home, I open my pajama drawer before going to bed and pull out those gray maternity yoga pants.
The last one, I think to myself as I extend my toes through the pant legs, trying not to let my growing belly throw off my center too much as I balance on each foot.
I am struck again by the thought that this is the last season in which I will ever wear these pants. They were there the day my daughter was born, they saw the subsequent growth of my niece, then my son, my nephew, and now this newest fluttering heart inside of me. These pants have traveled across the country several times in the fulfillment of their duty to comfortably cover expanding bellies, and after this one is born, their traveling, and their duties, will end.
I peer down at my belly in the shower and am unable to see my toes because there is a baby growing there. It’s no less miraculous than the first time it happened, only a little less new. In a matter of weeks, I will be staring down at my toes in the shower as my abdomen slowly deflates for the last time, eventually enough to warrant the shedding of maternity pants.
The southern California summer heat is in full swing in the third month since I’ve given birth to a sweet, squishy, easygoing baby girl. I’ve continued to wear maternity shorts most of the summer because they’re the only clothes that still fit, but the stretchy panels have finally become too hot for comfort. My midsection needs as few layers as possible when I am nursing my newborn personal heater. I attempt to squeeze into a pair of pre-pregnancy shorts for the first time in a year, sucking in as I zip and then button. The previously comfortable loose-fit jean shorts now fit as if they were leggings - tight with an aim at showing off my derriere. The midsection that needs more ventilation is indeed reminiscent of a muffin top as it rolls over my beltline.
“It would take only a swift bend over to render these shorts unfit for even the Goodwill pile,” I think to myself as I shuffle them back off of my thickened thighs and slip on the maternity shorts again. It’s going to take some new running shoes and several early mornings a week to get comfortable again, but now I’m more ready than ever to take this first step back into an unshared body.
I shoot a quick text to a friend from church. She just recently found out she was pregnant, and is just about at the point in pregnancy where she will start to show. Perfect.
Hey—any chance you need some maternity clothes?
She texts back:
Yes, that would be awesome.
In a tidying frenzy, I start pulling the ruched-sided t-shirts and maternity skinny jeans from the dresser drawers, folding and placing them all in a large paper bag.
I spot the gray yoga pants and pause. Dutifully, I begin to fold them, but something in me can’t quite bring myself to put them in the bag. The stretchy panel has finally become a little overstretched anyway.
Instead, I decide to stick them into the drawer containing all my comfort clothes: hooded sweatshirts, t-shirts from college, pajamas, fuzzy socks. That’s what they are now—comfort.
The sisterhood will continue on without these pants
Guest post written by Catherine Gordon. Cat is a born & raised Michigan gal trying to make sense of an unexpected life in So Cal (she does miss the snow, but not the cold). Her husband helps her maintain her sanity while her three kids try to pick away at it on the daily. If she loves anyone well, it's because of Jesus. You can find her occasionally blogging at The Cathartic Blend and on Instagram or Facebook.