I spent my first year breastfeeding my son dressed like I just rolled out of bed.
Okay, that's an exaggeration. But the truth is, I just barely cared about how I looked and did not realise that I was slowly killing my self-esteem despite feeling good that I was able to provide the best nutrition I could for my child.
My normal dressing up ritual would be to grab whatever maternity attire I had in the closet that had easy access to my breasts, go bathe, get dressed and head out the door. Or if we were just going to stay home all day, I would grab one of my spaghetti-strapped house dresses* and settle down in the rocking chair with my infant son and spend most of the day there.
As fun as that possibly sounded, it was not the best of times for me. Even though I started out wearing the pretty dresses I got for myself late in my pregnancy, I eventually gave most of them up because they were hard to nurse in. I would pull out the dresses with gartered necklines, T-shirts, shorts, anything really that allowed me to easily and quickly produce my breast when my son demanded feeding. It didn't help either that I spent nearly half the year determinedly covering up each time we were about to feed, believing it was the norm.
Eventually, I encountered a group of mothers who dressed well and wore makeup. And they breastfed. And were their kids' primary caregivers. And none of them were celebrities in the regular local sense of the full regalia of fame and fortune.
They were different sorts, each of these women but the one thing I found the most amazing was that they all looked very put together regardless of how tired they were and how tiring their work was. And personalities aside, it was like this shining beacon for me: they all look fabulous and confident. I want that. I want to be one of those moms.
And so the changes began.
At first I was still hesitant to let go of my breastfeeding covers, mainly because by then, we'd entered the colder months and spending a lot of our time in air conditioned malls, I have to admit: having my breast out was not the most comfortable thing in the world. But I began looking for nicer clothes, dresses with deeper or stretchy necklines, tank tops I could layer, and blouses that were easily unbuttoned. I stopped limiting myself to the nursing and maternity section of the mall. There was only one simple rule after all: easy in and easy out.
I began wearing pretty skirts and dresses again, choosing pieces that were closer to my style prior to getting pregnant and having my son. I gave away my maternity clothes except for one that I particularly liked and wanted to keep as a kind of souvenir from my first pregnancy. I figured out slowly how to combine the style I liked with the utility I needed.
I wore makeup. I cannot emphasise how good that made me feel! Looking in the mirror and seeing myself dolled up did so much to boost my mood--it had been a tougher journey than even I had realised because I'd been so distracted by many things I deemed more important than myself.
Of course, this post comes with the usual caveat: I'm not saying that all mothers need to look a certain way to feel good. My mom, for one, felt best wearing jeans and a T-shirt or a blouse whenever we went out on weekends because she spent her weeks wearing suits at work. My best friends' mothers were roughly the same.
For myself, I enjoy mimicking the style of the 50s and take some inspiration from how my grandmother presented herself on a daily basis: wearing a dress and putting on at least powder and lipstick before considering herself ready to leave her bedroom. I am not particularly fond of her dress style, but I did follow one thing that has since added to the feel-good factor of my bid to breastfeed in style: putting on the full regalia of feminine undergarments before donning the dress, which means bra, panties, and a slip. Since we have dogs and cats that often rub against or climb my legs, I made the decision to by-pass the stockings and just use foot socks whenever necessary.
My mantra now with the coming of my second child is to welcome him/her to the world looking fabulous. I'll be running after a toddler while caring for a newborn after all. If I can't have me some "me time" just yet, the least I can do for myself is to look good while feeling I've been run over by a truck. ;)
*It's a thing locally, for those who might be reading this and wondering what I mean by a "house dress". Typically, Filipinos reserve their nice clothes, jeans, and whatnot for going out. At home, one would wear very loose attire, sometimes, very ratty, tatty attire.