by Cheryl Price
The period of time between discovering that you are pregnant and having that bundle of joy placed in your anxious arms consists of a whirlwind of events. You must plan and prepare a nursery, purchase baby clothes and supplies, perhaps register for those all-important baby necessities, and start budgeting for the new family member. While there is much to do, the most important task of all is to take good care of yourself throughout the pregnancy. Proper nutrition, getting plenty of rest and following doctor’s orders are paramount. As you move along in your pregnancy and begin taking care of these tasks and yourself, you notice that your body is changing. Before you know it, your belly is growing…a lot! You know what this means: it’s time to start maternity shopping!
For many, shopping for maternity clothes can be a pleasant experience. Even though nobody enjoys gaining weight, the thought of a baby growing inside tends to mitigate the frustration. And nowadays, maternity clothes are quite trendy, with a variety of styles and options from which to choose. As long as comfort is the goal, the maternity clothes shopper cannot go wrong.
Shopping for maternity clothes is as important for expectant mothers who use wheelchairs as it is for able-bodied mommies-to-be. The methods of shopping may be different, however. For example, if you use a wheelchair, you may opt to buy the clothes and try them on at home, rather than deal with the maternity shop’s dressing room; otherwise, you can shop online, which is oh so easy! With shopping via the Internet, you have every store at your fingertips, whether the shop is down the street or across the country!
When it comes to maternity clothes shopping, all pregnant women have the same goals in mind: to find clothes that are comfortable, stylish, versatile and help you to feel confident about your appearance. Jenny Feldman is a mobile woman with a T-10 incomplete spinal cord injury who found great strength in finding the right clothes during her pregnancy. The mother of 15-month-old Carline Grace explains, “I think that pregnant women need to take care of themselves, not just physically but emotionally as well, and feeling like you look like yourself and are ‘put together’ helps you to stay upbeat during those long months before and after the baby comes.”
How can expectant mothers make the right clothing choices in order to feel confident in their appearance and maintain their desired level of comfort? The first step is to find the right maternity undergarments. For maternity panties, many women may choose to simply buy a larger size, if that becomes necessary. When it comes to bras, a bigger size is always needed, as breasts begin to enlarge early on in the pregnancy. Some women grow two cup sizes throughout the pregnancy; but remember, everyone is different. To accommodate for your growth, try purchasing a bra that can stretch in the cup and has multiple hook closures. If you find that you don’t need a new bra and only need to add length around your front and back, look in maternity stores and lingerie boutiques for Bra Extenders, which add extra hooks to your existing bras; however, if you need a new bra entirely, have no fear. Maternity shops carry an array of maternity and nursing bras for every size. Lingerie stores such as Bare Necessities also carry many lines. Two especially comfortable brands are Leading Lady and Anita Maternity. For those women used to underwire bras, keep in mind that the wires may become uncomfortable during pregnancy. Even if you cannot feel the discomfort, the wires may cause stress and result in red marks on your skin and the top of your belly. Many maternity bras offer supportive options without the underwire, even for sizes double-D and beyond. Be patient and look at all the options.
Once you have your undergarments figured out, it’s time to deal with the exterior clothing. Let’s start from the top. You’ll need something for over that maternity bra, after all.
Maternity tops are cute and can be fun to buy. You can either emphasize or hide your expanding belly. The choice is yours! But, beware, maternity tops tend to be long, and for women in wheelchairs, the length might be a problem.
Tina Perkins is a mobile woman with a C-5/6 spinal cord injury. Now the proud mother of a three-year-old boy, Tina noticed this problem with maternity tops when she began shopping in her hometown of Mississippi. “If I could improve maternity clothing for women in wheelchairs, I would make the shirts shorter,” explains Tina. Since she had difficulty finding shirts that worked for her body, Tina says, “I preferred to wear big T-shirts unless I was going somewhere.”
Maryland resident Jenny Feldman had the same difficulty with the long tops. She suggests, “It would be great if more lines offered a petite option in sizing, since women like me who are in wheelchairs just don’t need that added length as much as our walking counterparts.” Instead of buying those long maternity tops, Feldman found luck at J. Crew. “Although it’s not a maternity store, I shopped here a good deal for shirts, since so many of their styles, especially their tissue tees, were on the longer side, which is really trendy right now. They covered my belly all the way through my whole pregnancy and were really comfortable.”
The best part about maternity pants, shorts and skirts can be summed up in one word -- elastic. Once you have tried elastic band waists, it is difficult to go back to the button and zipper. If you are in that transitional phase when you can no longer fasten your old pants, but find maternity pants too big, try Bella Band, which Jenny Feldman found during her pregnancy. “The Bella Band is a stretchy band of fabric that you can put around the waistband of your pants so that you can leave them unbuttoned.”
Once you are ready for maternity pants that have the elastic waists, you will learn that taking off and putting on bottoms that have elastic takes much less time for those in wheelchairs than do bottoms with a button and zipper—whether you are pregnant or not! And while you may resist making the switch to elastic, once your belly starts expanding and it becomes difficult or impossible to button your once-favorite pair of jeans, you will have to give in to the elastic band waists. Do not keep trying to fasten those buttons, even if you don’t have sensation in that area of your body. You may not feel the discomfort, but your body will most certainly let you know, creating red marks on your body. Another reason to “go elastic” is that these bottoms provide you with the necessary room to grow and remain comfortable. With elastic band bottoms, you have the choice of a thinner or thicker band, for two different comfort options and styles to fit your body type. In addition, you can choose a band that sits in the middle of the belly or just under your belly. In the cute maternity bottoms, nobody will see your elastic waist if you do not want them to, so have no fear about looking as if you are wearing maternity clothes. Besides, you are pregnant; enjoy it!
Pennsylvania-native Holly Sundin, who has a C-5 spinal cord injury, gave birth to her baby nearly a year and a half ago. Holly chose to do her maternity shopping at Old Navy, Burlington, Motherhood Maternity and JCPenny. What did she purchase to fit her pregnancy needs? Holly reveals, “I bought some maternity clothes, and I also bought regular clothing. I just bought a size bigger, as long as it had an elastic or drawstring waist. Some tops made now already look like maternity tops, so I only needed a size bigger in those, as well.”
When it comes to where you decide to shop for your maternity undergarments, tops and bottoms, there are many choices. Remember, stores that carry solely maternity items tend to be more expensive than mainstream stores that include a maternity line. Shop wisely, according to your budget and financial priorities. Holly Sundin notes, “Some stores can be really expensive, and it seemed kind of wasteful to spend a lot of money on clothes I'd only be wearing for a few months. I preferred spending my money on things for the baby.”
Indeed, shopping for maternity clothes can be pricey. The boutiques that carry only maternity clothes do offer adorable pieces, and while the price tags may be alarming to you, keep an eye out for their sales. You just may find a deal too great to pass up. Mother to a 21-month-old boy, Cyndi Kovacs is a mobile woman with a C-5 injury, and she was able to find some deals at Mimi Maternity: “I still wear my maternity jeans and pants. They are so easy to wear and very comfortable!”
Here is a listing of a few maternity clothing boutiques that sell their clothes online. Be sure to check out their “Sale” sections:
Mimi Maternity: www.mimimaternity.com
A Pea in the Pod: www.apeainthepod.com
Motherhood Maternity: www.motherhood.com
Bella Blu Maternity: www.bellablumaternity.com
Due Maternity: www.duematernity.com
Belly Dance Maternity: www.bellydancematernity.com
Japanese Weekend Maternity: www.japaneseweekend.com
9 Months to Grow Maternity Fashions: www.9monthstogrow.com
Pickles & Ice Cream Maternity Apparel: www.picklesandicecream.com
Other than the boutique shops, an increasing number of mainstream stores are branching out to include maternity lines. Below are some stores which feature maternity clothing both online and in their stores:
Target: www.target.com - Click on “Women” and “Maternity by Liz Lange”
Walmart: www.walmart.com - Click on “Apparel” and “Maternity Wear”
Gap: www.gap.com - Click on “GapMaternity”
JCPenney: www.jcpenney.com – Click on “Women” and “Maternity”
Ann Taylor LOFT: www.AnnTaylorLoft.com – Click on “Maternity”
Old Navy: www.OldNavy.com – Click on “Maternity”
Burlington Coat Factory: www.burlingtoncoatfactory.com – Click on “Maternity”
Bloomingdale’s: www.bloomingdales.com – Click on “Women” and “Maternity”
Kohl’s: www.kohls.com – Click on “Women’s” and “Maternity”
Whether you choose to shop at your local department store, find a must-have item in an online boutique or have success in a mainstream store at the mall, you are bound to find clothing to fit your needs during these exciting nine months. Comfort is the key. You also want to maximize your time by purchasing clothes that allow you to get dressed without sacrificing too many hours in the day. Of course, no matter what you wear, factor in some extra time to get ready. Holly says, “When you are pregnant, getting dressed takes a little longer, as does everything.”
With a variety of maternity clothing options at your fingertips, and the option of buying regular clothing in a larger size, you can quickly and effortlessly cross “maternity shopping” off your list of things to do during your pregnancy. Once your maternity wardrobe is complete, you will have time to focus on resting, eating healthily and getting your home ready for your new pride and joy. Then let the real fun begin!
Note: Remember to consult your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your body reacting to tight clothing. Circulation is something to pay close attention to when you use a wheelchair and are pregnant.