There is an urban legend about Hemmingway placing a bet with fellow writers that he could write the saddest short story. His story was six words long.
“For Sale, baby shoes, never worn.” Legend goes that he won that bet.
After the first vasectomy, I cried about no more babies and consigned all my maternity pants. When I become pregnant with Reece, I had only a handful of shirts. I am so blessed to have a sister who loaned me three boxes of maternity clothes. Doing so came to my rescue in so many ways. Financially and physically, since I didn’t have to buy new pants, the “new” clothes arrived just after she birthed her third baby and I was demanding elastic waists. Then again emotionally and physically, when the pregnancy came to a slam-stop and I had boxes and boxes of clothes that made me cry. I could load them up and send them back to her. I didn’t have to worry about pricing or condition or the ability to sell each piece. It was an emotional relief to just send them away.
I have kept a few pieces of course: the shirt dress I labored in (hope you don’t miss it, sis, it’s not coming back to you!), the coral dress I wore to Reece’s funeral (maybe worn twice prior to that day), and the shirts I bought with sassy sayings that only a mother with many children or a post-vasectomy conception can own like this.
Some of the pieces I will be able to wear again, like this maxi dress.
Perhaps some day the maternity shirts and some of my most loved baby clothes can be sewn into a quilt. Some day. But what do I do with the pieces like elastic belly pants and dresses made specifically for pregnant bodies?
Pieces that were bought special just to cover me and Reecer-man. My mother, early in the course of my pregnancy, wanted to take me shopping for FUN maternity clothes. The first two pregnancies I had worn many solid tops due to continuing work as an interpreter. My wardrobe was very drab but it was work appropriate. Now that I was not working, she wanted me to have prints and bright colors. I bought grey pants, that bright coral dress, a handful of maxi dresses that could pull double duty, and this little gem.
I loved this dress. I know, interpreter friends, I know. It’s a dark solid color (once a terp, always a terp?) but it was my “fancy dress.” I wore it here.
For Ryan and my 10 year anniversary dinner date. That was late July, so Reece was only a little bump then, about 20 and half weeks.
And here, at my dear cousin’s wedding in September. I was about 27 weeks pregnant. I added a band of sparkles at the waist to kick it up a notch.
A week ago, I pulled this beloved dress from the closet and stared at it longingly. I stroked its soft layers. I tried it on. It looked okay in all places except the chest. This dress was build for pregnancy breasts. I didn’t even have nursing breasts. I had retired breasts. It wasn’t a good fit, cherished as it was. So I let it go.
“Size Small Motherhood Maternity Dress in GUC. Navy blue, ties in back. $15 OBO.”
In three days, it was sold. The buyer was beautifully pregnant and the dress would surely be stunning on her. Goodbye, lovely dress.
It hurt to let go, more so than letting go of the baby toys and clothes. If we had bought Reece his own outfits, they would never have been sold. It’s difficult to sell any baby item under these circumstances, used or not. Hemmingway knew it to be so. But why was I struggling to let go of dresses and pants that didn’t fit my ever-shrinking body? What woman wants to keep a dress that makes her tiny chest appear tinier?? I reached out to other mamas who knew this ache and this is a summary of what they said.
“Maternity clothes represent for me the last time we were all together. I was happy in a way that will never be the same. All three of my children were with me, our baby kicking away.”
“These clothes covered my baby and me, when we were still together, and he was still alive. It’s my connection to him, in a way.”
They were able to so beautifully articulate the ache I couldn’t describe. Maternity clothes represented my innocence about pregnancy and a time when we were all still here together on Earth. I was happy in a way I will never be again. All alive and blissful and unaware that shit happens to healthy people for no reason. Letting the clothes go recognized a hard fact: growing our family is really done. The facts were real and cold.
This was a dress, a thing of fabric and thread. The physical thing represents a time in my life, like those “skinny jeans” in every woman’s closet. She holds on to the jeans, maybe for years, hoping that one day she will be thin enough to again wear those jeans. What I hope for isn’t coming back. The sweet memories made in it aren’t gone. But my innocence is. Keeping the dress in my closet doesn’t prevent me from knowing that, and it definitely doesn’t carry enough warm sentimental value to outweigh it.
Next month, my husband and I will be attending a military formal. I will be buying a new dress. And I have just the spot for it in my closet.