A splash birthday party for my three-year-old cousin ended up turning into an all-ages family affair as my relatives gathered together in a D.C. suburb one humid Saturday evening. My newly announced pregnancy hadn’t made its way through my extended family quite yet, as I waited the long, fatigued, and somewhat depressing first trimester to share the news — but at that party, my growing bump did the announcing for me. That’s because I stepped out, toddler in tow, in a bikini that put my fairly large four-month stomach, dark vertical line, and protruding belly button on full display.
During my first pregnancy three years ago, I would have never been as comfortable sharing my bare baby bump as I was that brave Saturday evening. I partially chose to show all because I had a toddler who was eager to get in the pool and a one-piece swimsuit that didn’t quite fit. The surge of Black motherhood in the media this spring also helped — Beyoncé and Serena Williams had both recently been photographed, stunningly pregnant in all their glory, for mass, mainstream media consumption.
It’s because of the beautiful images of pregnant Black women in media that I know that pregnancy can be done badass. A cultural evolution has brought more focus on promoting positive representation of Black and brown women and girls, mainstream and niche, with phrases like Black Girl Magic and organizations like Black Girls Rock. As crucial as it is to be sure girls and young women have compelling images of others like them, with natural beads, braids, and curls, I now know it’s equally important to have images that resonate with Black mothers.
Given the timing of my largely winter pregnancy with my first child, I spent most of the time in tights, and black, and lampshading in Free People sweaters and leggings. I was 26, living a champagne life on a beer budget, so I had to save for all the itinerant necessities an impending baby would mean. I shopped modestly for maternity clothes, anything on sale, neglecting to invest in pieces that made me feel confident, beautiful, and on-trend. I hid behind frumpy, floral patterns, and dresses in poor-quality fabric, save for the occasional splurge on a statement piece, if I had a wedding or other special event to attend. It was hard enough to find myself in those off-base styles, adjusting for the first time to my burgeoning body, without anyone who looked like me showing me how it's done. And without, like many expectant parents, a ton of money to throw at the problem.
The financial implication of a maternity wardrobe is no small challenge: You need new stuff to wear, and anything you buy barely even has a half-year shelf life. That's why I found myself in not-quite-right pieces with kid number one. Even Kerry Washington, despite being a mega-earning actress with untold access to unbelievable fashion, discussed sharing maternity clothes with her friend and fellow actress Jessica Alba. Similarly, I’ve heard mom friends talk about passing their used maternity pieces on to pregnant pals to help cut the cost of creating a new wardrobe from scratch. Spending less (whether you've got more or not), makes a lot of sense. The hard part is doing it in a way that honors and expresses your personal style.
With this pregnancy, I know that prioritizing self-care is a necessity for my physical and mental well being, and that means feeling good about my bump that's somehow larger than life at six months. It means accepting compliments from strangers, and wearing clothes that I actually like. To do that, I monitor Pea in the Pod and Topshop for good sales, and check out Target's recently announced collaboration with maternity label Ingrid & Isabel (for all the off-the-shoulder dresses and ripped denim I'd want, without the $100-plus prices). Other times, it means splurging on something full-price and fancy, when I want to own the room at a work conference, or channel my inner MILF, poolside.
Today, many mom bloggers earn a living by sharing their family's style and survival tips, and there are many magazines and sites devoted to every facet of parenthood. Media has made a business out of motherhood, throwing some much-deserved shine on the evolving role of being a mom. Women of color should be included in all this. Black women have the amazing opportunity to tap into our unique sense of style, and to show (and share) what motherhood means to us. Increasingly, thanks to a few omnipresent celebrities, we are.
This year, two of the greats showed us how it’s done. Beyoncé brought her twins into the world and continues to demonstrate what it looks like to embrace your pregnant and post-pregnancy form in a way only she can (living her best life on Instagram). Serena just keeps on dominating her dual passions of tennis and fashion, while her body grows around her child. And now, I’m doing my part, too: I busted out that bikini in June, letting my family know that I was fully embracing the beauty of being able to create life. And when my second child comes, I will seek clothes that are functional for my child, yes (the necessary evil of snap-on nursing bras and tanks), but also ones that feel like me — like a bold, beautiful Black mom who deserves to be seen; ones that allow me to embrace the changing style that reflects the confident woman I am evolving into.
Do I owe all of that to Beyoncé? Of course not. But I'm grateful as hell for her, Serena, Kerry, and the others who came before, for my bikini, and so much more.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids right now or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.