Mother Muse: Maternity Underpants and a Little Self-reflection

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I have a confession to make.

As I sit in my favorite cozy coffee shop writing this column, nearly eight-months postpartum, underneath my black t-shirt and green capris I am wearing -- are you ready for this? -- maternity underpants.

This is not due to the fact that I missed laundry day and don't have others to choose from. I do. In fact, the top drawer of the dresser that my husband, Jake, and I share is full of clean undies. Pink, black, red. Victoria Secret, Motherhood Maternity, Fruit of the Loom. The maternity and non-maternity are stowed together, mingling with each other like old friends.

But this morning as I was dressing I realized with a sigh that my maternity underpants are indeed the most comfortable, the most breathable. They don't leave the red lines indented on my skin that the others do. I feel like I can move in them. Granted I do, by now, have to roll down the extra fabric meant to stretch up over the pregnant belly, but I still like the way they fit. They are my first choice; the ones that get worn first out of the dryer. I can't help myself. My baby is sitting up, crawling, eating sweet potatoes with a vengeance, and I am wearing maternity underpants.

I tell you this not to try to shock you or make you blush or even gross you out by mentioning my unmentionables, but to let you in on some self-examination. Here's how I see it: with pregnancy and childbirth, everything changes. My sleep schedule has changed (I now consider 7 a.m. to be sleeping in), my perspective has changed (I find myself much more cautious these days as others now rely more on me), and my choice of clothing has changed (give me comfort over cute any day). Given this sudden shift in perspective and preference, I can't help but wonder, when will I begin to recognize myself again?

It's no secret that life changes when you have a child. Parenthood reaches into depths that most people do not imagine they have. A friend shared a quote by Elizabeth Stone just after my first was born. "Making the decision to have a child -- it's momentous. It is forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." Over and over during the past three years I have watched my heart beat and break and pitter and flutter right in front of my very eyes. It's light when I see my children giggle, heavy when I see them hurt. It absolutely aches for child victims that are too often on the news. Good grief, it sinks at the sight of a lost puppy sign hanging on a utility pole!

And then there are the physical manifestations of becoming a parent that you can actually see. It sometimes takes the form of a more practical approach to style and beauty. Sometimes it's the dark circles present under the eyes. Sometimes it's already apparent during the preparation -- that luminous pregnant glow, the thick, manageable hair, clear skin, swollen fingers and ankles. My feet have actually lengthened a size and a half during my two pregnancies. I am left with soft, shiny marks stretching over my stomach. Oliver asks me every time I don a skirt what the "cool blue lines" hovering around the back of my knees are. Parenting leaves its mark all over the place. But, of course, within all of this emotional and physical change is you, the one who graciously decided to contribute to the next generation of humankind.

My days are different now. They are much messier. It is true that when I look in the mirror these days I typically find wavy hair rather than the straightened locks that I used to maintain. There is most likely a bit of spit up resting on my shoulder. But, my clothes usually still match, I still wear mascara, and I am usually having fun. Often I'm practicing funny faces with my three-year-old or holding my baby and watching him marvel at his own perfect reflection. Since the birth of my boys, I have indeed changed. And even though it means that I'm still slightly more comfortable with underpants meant for pregnant women clinging to my not-pregnant body, I have to believe I'm better off because of it.

About the author: Leslie Klipsch is a mother, writer, and educator. She enjoys the new lens through which she has looked at the world since becoming a mother. In the last half-dozen years, she has moved from a small town in Iowa to Chicago, married her husband, Jake, studied hard and received a master's degree in writing, taught English at an all-boys high school, read a lot of poetry, become a part-time stay-at-home mom/part-time freelance writer, and given birth to two boys, Oliver (3) and Elihu (8 months). She finds motherhood to be an incredible muse and hopes you enjoy reading her tiny insights on parenting and life.