Maternity pants, why do you suck so bad?  I hate you, and long for the days of the muu-muu.  When I first was pregnant, I made do with plenty of my looser fitting clothing.  As the weeks progressed, I compensated for my barely enlarged belly by leaving the top button of my pants open, or by zipping my skirts most of the way up.  All my shirts still fit.  I had to be creative, and certain garments were off-limits, but I was pretty comfortable.  Sometimes I’d notice that a skirt that I could zip in the morning was feeling a might pinchy by bedtime, but gravity plays cruel tricks on all of us.

I was able to get away with a few pairs of larger sized thrift-store shorts for the entirety of July.  The slightly larger waistband fit pretty well as long as I didn’t do something stupid, like hang my keys off a belt-loop while walking the dogs.  I made some dresses this summer, too, which freed me up from the boredom of rotating the 3 pairs of shorts that fit.  I started digging in the bag of maternity clothing my mother had dumped on me, searching for dresses to stave off the heat wave. 

As we prepared for our trip toIreland, and I had to start evaluating the function of my wardrobe as well.  It was going to be in the 60s, not the 90s, and I had to start thinking about pant-type garments.  As we packed, I finally broke into the hoard of proper maternity clothing from my mother, as I wasn’t sure I had 10 days worth of Ireland-appropriate clothing from my pre-pregnancy days. 

I also hit the thrift stores again, and found some maternity pants that would work for the fall, once I got back to work and had to dress more appropriately.  I still wasn’t big enough to fill out all the elastic in the waistbands.  To humor myself, I tried on one of every type of maternity pants.  I’m not talking jeans vs. khakis.  I’m talking about one of every type of compensatory waist-band-like support system.  And though while trying them on, I tried to imagine a larger belly filling them in, I still had to wonder at their incredible awfulness.  Behold.

1) The drawstring.  This type works best when tied below the bulge, and they rest on the womanly hips.  I have a pair of non-maternity pants with a drawstring waist in my rotation.  I hemmed them before we went to Ireland, and have spent every day that I choose to wear them constantly pulling them back up on my hips, and retying the drawstring.  They scoop below my belly, which puts pressure (again, gravity) pulling them down off my hips, which are the last vestige of decency. 

2) The wide, stretchy waistband.  This type is vaguely reminiscent of the fold-top gaucho or yoga pants.  The extra-wide waistband is designed so you can allegedly unfold it and pull it up your belly, or fold it over a la hipster.  They work pretty well when they are actually exercise clothing, i.e., when the waistband fabric is the same as the pant fabric.  And when the waistband has stretch, but also resiliency.  One pair I put on this weekend did not have enough oomph in the waistband, so it kept rolling over below my belly, cutting of circulation to whatever’s going on down there, and trying to pull itself off of my hips.  I have a pair with a combo elastic waistband and drawstring.  While comfortable at least, they don’t stay up, and I am constantly retying the waistband all day long. 

3) The plain elastic waistband.  These are your grandma’s pants.  If you’re lucky, the rise is so high you can’t sling them below the belly, and are forced to pull the massive amounts of crotch fabric up to the belly button (wherever that went; mine is kind of closing up and looks very sad), thus creating the tell-tale elastic mark around the widest part of the belly, just like a red, itchy equator.  I picked up a pair at a garage sale for $1, and while they seemed tolerable in the morning, I was exasperated by the pinching equator mark by 6pm. 

4) The pouch.  The pouch pants look innocently enough like a pair of jeans or khakis from the back, but have a huge round cut-out from the regular fabric, filled in with stretchy fabric.  They are meant to envelop part or all of the bump.  I have not yet been able to bring myself to purchase a pair of these yet.  They look too awful.  I did try on a pair at the thrift store, to humor myself and make sure I wasn’t missing anything (along with other hideous trends that are strangely comfortable, like sports bras, Uggs, and Snuggies).  It may be a generational thing, spawned by the Britney Spears influence of hip-huggers, but I cannot cannot cannot tolerate a waistband – pregnant or not – on my waist.  I’m sure they actually stay up; if you pull the waistband of your pants up to your armpits or right below your breasts, they’d damn well better stay up.  They have the entire bump to hold onto. 

5) Hybrids.  These may take the form of elastic waist with a pouch, or yoga pants with a few extra pleats.  They may have an elastic front and regular back, or a drawstring with elastic.  Like many hybrid creations, they compromise on integrity, and come up short in function. I have not found ones that are both comfortable and stay up. 

I have special disdain for the pair of jeans I have on today.  Yet I wore them anyway, because it’s a dark, dreary morning and it’s a dress-down day at work.  They have a super-wide elastic waist (which may flip up over the belly, causing some mild sensory discomfort, but at least no Equator effect).  When I wore them inIreland, my worst issue was that my hips couldn’t hold onto the denim part, and I kept hiking them up all day.  Now that my belly bulge is, um, huge, my hips have an even bigger task fighting against gravity.  Worse than the constant drooping, though, is the combination of denim and spandex knit, an unnatural union no fashion authority should rightly ever condone (see: jeggings).  Many of us women are familiar with the weird bulge regular jeans make when we sit down; it looks like a penis has materialized within the inflexible fabric of the fly.  These pants have a teeny fly, cut-off by the swaths of spandex waistband.  This teeny fly, instead of popping out when I sit down, inverts.  The stretch fabric allows it to sink into my skin, and the weight of my belly holds it firmly in place as it digs into my soft flesh.  By the end of the day, I have a stunning red mark from the fabric of the fly imprinted below my belly.  Every time I stand up, I yank on the top of the waistband, futilely trying to pull it out of my skin. 

I had told myself I would live in lovely dresses during my entire pregnancy.  In fact, dresses are the most comfortable thing to wear.  I can’t wait for the weather to cool ever so slightly, so the sweater dresses I’ve made out of plus-size sweaters will be appropriate.  Unfortunately, I don’t have enough dresses in any season to leave the annoying pants behind.  I have a few cute sundresses, and a few warm sweater dresses, but not enough of either.  Then there’s the issue of tights/leggings.  If I thought maternity pants fought a daily struggle against gravity, it’s nothing compared to what tights and leggings go through with a belly bulge.  The high-waisted “support” hose style do stay up, if I can maneuver enough to yank them all the way up.  And then they have the Equator effect.  Other leggings are more modest in their coverage, and they tend to roll below the belly, resulting in constant tugging and immodest readjustment.  While I could get away with bare legs with my summer dresses, I can’t see my poor naked legs being exposed all winter long.

Maternity pants, why do you fail in every way conceivable?  Why are you so inadequate and ill-suited to your only task in life?  Why do I hate you yet keep pulling you on anyway?  You’re like an abuser, and I’m drawn to your attractive promises, yet you keep letting me down and beating me up. 

I hate you.  I need you.  Validate me.

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