The Four Trimesters: Tips from One Fair Trade, Feminist Fashionista’s Experience
Posted on July 07 2017
We're delighted to welcome guest writer Rebecca Ballard of Maven Women to share her personal journey through pregnancy and motherhood as an ethical fashionista.
At this moment my two month old son Nathan is playing with my brother in the next room on Nathan’s activity mat. The joyful sounds I hear make me so happy! Having a baby is filled with many moments like these, however for many women (and certainly for me!) the pregnancy and post-partum journey is incredibly tough. The physical and emotional challenges can be completely overwhelming at times, and our world still does not do nearly enough to care for women in this season. Physically speaking, the body I had been used to for decades was changing so quickly that I felt that I was living in a body that was no longer my own. I found a few “benefits”, like lustrous hair, but most of the changes were frustrating or downright painful. I tried to love my body as it changed and I can’t say that I always excelled, in part because my emotions were all over the place. Even though I am a naturally upbeat person I also felt very “down” and anxious at times during my pregnancy and post-partum, which is more normal than you may realize.
I write this piece today sharing some thoughts primarily related to ethical clothing, but also a few others that helped me feel empowered during this season. I also want to note that I am a mid-30s, straight, married new mom who had a biological child; I write from that perspective and I fully support women who make other choices and those who are in different circumstances than mine. Take whatever is helpful and discard the rest, as pregnancy is an extremely personal journey. What is most important is that you make choices that honor you and your unique journey in the most authentic way.
- Boobs: Mine were very painful early on, to the point of hurting in the shower! I found this a good time to invest in some larger bras. I suggest those with a bit of room to grow, as you may go up more than one cup size during pregnancy and even one or more post-partum. Now that I am breastfeeding I like bras with a foam-type liner that can soaks up breast milk and also can allow for any pads you may use when breasts are leaking to not show through. I love my Boob sports bra and wish I’d gotten it sooner, as I had trouble working out in my first trimester with swollen breasts.
- Enjoy your non-pregnancy items in full: It may be awhile before you can wear your non-bump friendly clothing. If you have pieces that you love that fit into this category fully enjoy them right now!
- Momma mentors: This is the perfect time to ask friends for hand me downs. One cool thing about pregnancy was that I found pregnant bodies are more similar than the usual diversity of builds, so you may be able to borrow from a wider range of friends. Make sure you know if they want them back so can appropriately remember who gives you what and organize accordingly.
- When (and when not) to share you are pregnant: Decide how you want to let people know you are pregnant and when that is. There’s no right or wrong answer, just what’s best for you and your partner.
- Physical activity: This is a great time to enjoy all physical activity that doesn’t risk falling, and you don’t need to taper back unless your body or doctor tells you otherwise (my bladder cut me off from running at the end of this trimester!).
- Pregnancy and birth support: Start thinking about a doula to support you during this journey. I ended up having an emergency C-section for a high-risk scenario (we all ended up just fine, but it was scary!) and a third of women have C-sections, so even if you are hoping for an unmedicated vaginal birth I suggest finding a doula who can support you should things not go as planned.
- Closet sorting: This is a great time for storing away anything that is tight or very fitted. I found that my chest and upper stomach/rib cage area started growing far earlier on than I expected in addition to my hips and bottom, of course. You may find that many of your pre-pregnancy items no longer work. One of mine that did is my Amour Vert Francoise top, which Blake Lively also sported during her pregnancy.
- Dresses, not pants: I didn’t find pants comfortable during my pregnancy, as they put too much pressure on my bladder. I liked purchasing Boob Design dresses with dual functionality and looser skirts, with my favorites being the Juno, Audrey, and Tilda. My one pet peeve with the Boob dresses is that the armholes are cut a bit high and I found myself sweaty and overheated throughout much of my pregnancy and post-partum, particularly while breastfeeding. I’m also designing the Courtney dress to honor “the four trimesters” and I’d love your feedback (and your votes to move it forward, which takes just 10 seconds!).
- Leggings: Unless it’s in the heat of the summer you may want leggings to pair with your dresses. I wore some from PACT Apparel in the early days and found that leggings with a low rise are best, and then I switched to those made by Boob later on when I got more of a bump.
- Enjoy your high heels (if you like them) throughout this trimester: All the fuss about Amal Clooney’s heels, my goodness! I loved wearing heels in this season, especially since you may not be able to wear them in the third trimester and immediately post-partum.
- Get a few sexy dresses: This is a great time to show some cleavage and show off your bump if you feel comfortable doing so. I felt so uncomfortable throughout my pregnancy as I had nausea almost the entire time, along with other normal but challenging symptoms, and getting a few sexy things was very empowering. I loved Bead & Reel’s Infinity dress, which also made a great top with skinny jeans in the third trimester, and their Rib Ruched Tank Dress had plenty of room for a bump.
- Big hair, big accessories: My locks were extra lustrous and I found that I could pull off even bigger jewelry than usual! I also loved wearing my Bead & Reel Arc Cuff (and got so many compliments on it!) as a signature pregnancy piece.
- Time for some planning: Start talking with your partner and support network about leave options and post-partum support, not just for the baby but for you both. You will want to make sure you have strong emotional and physical support for at least eight weeks minimum, and many women have physical and/or emotional needs that last far longer. I also started working with a physical therapist for an easier labor and post-partum recovery, which I believe this helped tremendously with my C-section abdominal recovery.
- Underwear: It was a bitter pill for me to swallow when I had to size up for my more sizeable rump, but it’s so important to wear well-fitting underwear to get full support. I loved my PACT Apparel cotton undies.
- Baby hand me downs from momma mentors: This is a great time to ask for clothing and baby toys from the other moms in your life. Make sure to let them know if you don’t want them to be gendered, plastic, and/or have any other considerations to keep in mind.
- Your birthing preferences: Start thinking about your birth “preferences” while realizing that a lot of things may happen. I suggest that you talk with your doula and your partner about what these are as well as your fears. Make sure to reach out to other mom friends and/or a therapist if you are finding that you need extra support around your pregnancy, have concerns about labor and/or delivery, and/or are worried about the transition into becoming a mother.
- Temporary wedding/engagement ring(s)- Around month eight my hands and feet started swelling like crazy! If you like wearing a ring consider an interim ring for this season.
- Maternity/cradle belt- The baby weight can add quite a bit of pressure on your back, and I found a hand me down cradle belt from a friend that really helped.
- Birthing gown and recovery gown- Think Kate Middleton! I loved mine from Della B, which were made at Maven Women’s fair trade partner Mehera Shaw.
- Sneakers---and wedges and sandals —and compression socks: I was unpleasantly surprised to see quite a bit of swelling in my legs, ankles, and feet. I was able to fit into only a few sneakers, wedges, and sandals during this season, and compression socks really helped. I suggest getting compression socks from friends as a hand me down.
- Bathing suit: Take to the water! The feeling of weightlessness was wonderful, and swimming is a fantastic third trimester exercise with your loose joints for core strength and relaxation. I love this Boob Design tankini which I’ve also worn post-partum-I breastfed my baby on the beach in it!
- Ratchet up your sense of humor: During this season I started to get quite a few unsolicited and unwelcome comments and questions, from “Are you pregnant with twins?” to “How much weight have you gained?” I also had people weigh in about what my birthing experience should be. Make sure you have good support for some of the unsolicited comments/feedback about your body and parenthood.
- Underwear: Those granny panties---and organic cotton maxi pads and even diapers—will really come in handy during the month or more that you have lochia.
- Washable clothing: Although I knew about spit up and diaper accidents I was unprepared how much my breast milk would leak and squirt everywhere! This isn’t the time for special care fabrics, but for those that are easy to throw in the wash.
- Mamachic: My friend Angela started this company and my husband and I each have one! It makes for a great stroller cover, breastfeeding cover, scarf, and so much more!
- Breastfeeding camis: A friend got me the Majamas organic cotton top and I love it! I find that I don’t need to wear a bra with it and I still get plenty of support. I also love this Majamas dress.
- Etsy teething necklaces: Very quickly your baby will start to grab things! Even before then I didn’t want to hurt my son’s face with sharp jewelry. I grabbed a few fun pieces on Etsy, including those I designed myself.
- Important priorities: A happy mom makes for a happy baby! First take care of your basic needs, then those of your partner, then your baby. Babies are remarkably resilient and the best thing you can do for your baby is care for you and your core relationships. Your child can wait that extra minute for you to go to the restroom or scarf down some food!
- Claim your journey: The world will try and tell you how to feel and weigh in on your decisions, from when you or your partner should go back to work to how long to breastfeed. Claim your pregnancy and birth journey using a narrative true to you. Choose what is authentic to you and be proud of yourself-becoming a mother is an amazing emotional and physical feat!
Rebecca Ballard is the founder of Maven Women, an ethical clothing line creating fair trade, eco-conscious, and elegant day-to-evening clothing. She encourages you to check out their styles and vote on your favorites, especially her pregnancy and post-partum Courtney dress. The Courtney named after two amazing momma mentors in Rebecca’s life and based on her experiences during pregnancy and breastfeeding and those of other women. In fact, Rebecca’s water broke during one of the dress fittings!
 Post-partum depression, which is more serious than the “baby blues” most women experience, is experienced by one in seven women. I am so glad that a number of celebrities like Adele are speaking out and I encourage you to learn more about PPD and seek help if you or any of your friends experience symptoms.