Two months postpartum and I was having a dilemma. Beyond the daily conundrums of “Is my baby eating enough?”, “Is that rash normal?”, or “What does that cry mean?”, I was having a problem of the existential kind. My sweet baby was old enough where I was feeling more comfortable going out with him, and this meant that I would have to abandon my series of oversized t-shirts with patently unfunny sayings and pajama pants that I’d been living in for weeks. Effectively my second skin while I recovered from a 20+ hour labor, eventual c-section, and week-long hospital stay due to infection, these clothes were not easily jettisoned, but I knew that in order to start feeling like myself again it needed to happen. My “self” had fundamentally changed though in the last few weeks and I found I kept thinking, “How do new mommies dress?”. More than the superficiality of “What do I wear?”, I was trying to uncover who my new “self” was as a first-time mom; wearing a new skin and new identity, which perhaps I wasn’t yet comfortable in.
I’m new to Austin. I moved here when I was 32 weeks pregnant from New York City. Back in my pre-baby life, I worked in philanthropy at a prominent NYC museum. I knew how to dress as a professional New Yorker, but rightly, the pencil skirts, fit-and-flare dresses, and heels wouldn’t work here. I loved dressing up for work though, and to be honest, I missed it. But I was a MOM now—capital M-O-M. “Moms roll around in yoga pants with seemingly never-empty Starbucks cups in hand,” I thought to myself. I had this image in my head of what moms looked like and that just wasn’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the yoga pant—perhaps the greatest invention of the 21st century, after the iPhone—but I felt pressure to fit a certain mold and, at the same time, I felt a surge to rebel against this typecasting.
Since joining mommy-dom, I have observed overwhelmingly that as new moms we are forced to draw lines in the sand as to what type of mom we will be, as dictated by societal expectations. Terms like “crunchy mom” and “silky mom” make me cringe. Why do we have to choose? Who we are as moms reflects what we give every day to meet the needs of our child or children. Full Stop. Every mom is an individual and brings a unique set of experiences and philosophies to the table. This was a powerful revelation for me and one that directly correlated to my clothing dilemma.
I realized that I should stop worrying about the image that I thought I should project as a new mom. Yes, I was wholly a different person, but “me” was still in there somewhere, and just because I now had a child didn’t mean I had to strap on some mommy uniform or assume a new persona. If I wanted to wear that crazy tie-dye band t-shirt that I bought for 5 bucks in Williamsburg or if I wanted to get an edgy haircut (let’s be honest, mostly to hide the post-partum hair loss), expectations be damned.