"Text me before you get here so I can be sure I'm awake...and have a shirt on," is a sentence I've actually uttered to friends and relatives over the past three months. Yep, I've been on maternity leave, a bliss-soaked 12 weeks of getting to know my new baby, my new body, and my new truth: I do not know what day it is, I have not slept, and clothing myself is a needless roadblock to the eight-to-12(?!) daily feedings my daughter demands. Plus, I'm tired as fuck. Returning to work and its attendant clothes-wearing will be a challenge, but it has to be possible.
Maternity dressing is a $2 billion industry, with everything from leggings to swimwear tweaked to accommodate a singular physical change — that bump. But the truth is, that part is pretty easy. Throw on a tight tee or belly-hugging maxi and you're set, ready to revel in your own wobbly largesse. Postpartum dressing is the real challenge. You need clothes that are comfortable on a frame that's still redefining itself, and all those bump-lovers from your third trimester expect suddenly to see no evidence of you ever having been with child.
Other requirements are that the outfits take as close to zero thought to put together as possible, are somewhat forgiving of weight fluctuations, very forgiving of stains, and facilitate at-work pumping, should you choose to breast-feed — which is already a big enough pain without a three-arms-required hook-and-eye-closing top to take off and put back on between meetings. Also, after several months of all things stretchy, you want to wear something that fits, with an aesthetic that says you're still a human woman and an able part of the clothes-wearing public.
But (and here's the real wrench in this whole project): Life insurance and college savings and an honest-to-god contingency budget are way more important uses of your hard-earned cash than a whole new wardrobe. You want to look good and feel refreshed without spending like a Trump to do so — or cutting back on your near-daily Amazon Prime orders of random baby accoutrements. It's like an Escher drawing of fashion challenges, and where clothing stores should be allocating their cleverest design staff. But since they don't, I'm attempting to check all these boxes and get ready for a drop-dead re-entry all by my damn self, with the items ahead — and if I can do it, so can you.