Fashion and Motherhood

Since Littlest was born I’ve had conflicted feelings about dressing myself.

To be clear, especially since arriving in France, I’ve gone through phases of loving clothes shopping, like my year in Reims, when I even wore jewelry almost every day. I used to be fascinated with the way (fashionable) French women dressed. Shoes have become a burden for me because of my feet, but that’s another story. As for make-up, I subscribed to Birchbox for the past two years and enjoyed testing out and ordering new things, including curly hair products.

When Littlest was a newborn and I was on maternity leave, I made a point of taking a shower every day but I scaled lots of things way back. I only put on moisturizer and foundation. I often let my hair dry on its own. I was jealous of my husband and how it took him 30 seconds to get dressed after a shower. It seemed entirely unfair so I tried to reduce my routine to get as close to his as possible.

When I went back to work I did start putting on a little more make-up, but only for work days. Breastfeeding has limited my wardrobe a bit—no thigh-long tunics for example—and over the past years I’ve thrown out anything that has holes in it (a surprising amount of things). So overall I feel like my wardrobe choices have gotten pretty drab.

There’s also a financial element. Money has been tighter this year (a complicated issue with maternity leave and being taxed on last year’s much higher earnings) and so spending money on clothes means no savings for the month. I put my Birchbox subscription on hold several times this year and finally ended it (though they were also sending me too many things I couldn’t use on my sensitive skin).

I miss taking pleasure in dressing myself, I miss elegance and novelty, and yet I also still yearn for the simplicity of male fashion that my husband gets to enjoy. In men’s fashion, clothing and shoes are comfortable and long-lasting. Even dressy women’s shirts and skirts are made so that you’re tugging at them throughout the day and I have no patience for that now. I feel like my body did something amazing, and I’d like my natural beauty to dominate rather than poking, prodding, and spending time on it, and yet…

I guess I’m wondering, am I the only one who resents and still sort of misses dressing fashionably?

S’Epanouir

I know, I know, I know I write a ton about my baby these days. I know babies and children aren’t for everyone and that is cool, like in the strong sense of the term, not as in the I’m cool with it sense of the term. Unfortunately I can’t stop myself.

Littlest’s first eight-weeks were typical newborn-level HARD. Like I didn’t know how I’d manage hard, in spite of the immediate cuteness of things like J holding him above his head, or pictures like these with my dad:

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I mean come on

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Seriously?

I wondered where the joy was and if I was really cut out for this—feelings, I assume, every mom has at some point or other.

But ever since he settled at around 8 weeks old I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like surely motherhood can’t be this good. I didn’t know I would love it this much. Colleagues have asked me frequently how things are going with the baby at home, and all I can say each time is “génial, il est trop mignon” (and get annoyed when they ask if he’s sleeping through the night, as if that’s all that counts).

I’ll keep crossing my fingers that the joy will continue, but I think maybe I can just conclude now that I love being a mom to this little boy, that motherhood has brought out something in me that I didn’t know was there.

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Petit amour et moi

Change

I’ve written a couple times about what’s changed for us, for me, since Littlest was born. About tears that come easily when watching movies, about looking at other women and parents differently, about having to look at any baby in any stroller that wanders past (okay maybe I hadn’t gotten to that one yet—it’s an obsession).

It took me a long time to find a good song to dance to with my dad at our wedding—every song about love seemed to be about romantic love, or really cheesy mainstream country-style paternalistic crap. I knew when I heard Louis Armstrong singing “Sunrise, Sunset” that it was the right one.

Now when I listen to songs on the radio, I’m intrigued by the rare ones people write for their children. Christophe Maé (Marcel), the Dixie Chicks (Godspeed), Atmosphere (Little Man), Beyoncé (Blue), and, of course, Renaud (Morgane de toi). There are songs that I want to be about children but that don’t necessarily seem quite to fit.

And then there are the songs that I think I always heard wrong, and am only hearing right for the first time.

Mon enfant nue sur les galets
Le vent dans tes cheveux défaits
Comme un printemps sur mon trajet
Un diamant tombé d’un coffret
Seule la lumière pourrait
Défaire nos repères secrets
Ou mes doigts pris sur tes poignets
Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai
Et quoique tu fasses
L’amour est partout où tu regardes
Dans les moindres recoins de l’espace
Dans les moindres rêves où tu t’attardes
L’amour comme s’il en pleuvait
Nu sur les galets

Le ciel prétend qu’il te connaît
Il est si beau c’est sûrement vrai
Lui qui ne s’approche jamais
Je l’ai vu pris dans tes filets
Le monde a tellement de regrets
Tellement de choses qu’on promet
Une seule pour laquelle je suis fait
Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai
Et quoique tu fasses
L’amour est partout où tu regardes
Dans les moindres recoins de l’espace
Dans les moindres rêves où tu t’attardes
L’amour comme s’il en pleuvait
Nu sur les galets

On s’envolera du même quai
Les yeux dans les mêmes reflets
Pour cette vie et celle d’après
Tu seras mon unique projet
Je m’en irai poser tes portraits
À tous les plafonds de tous les palais
Sur tous les murs que je trouverai
Et juste en dessous, j’écrirai
Que seule la lumière pourrait…
Et mes doigts pris sur tes poignets
Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai

Universality

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My belly at 5 1/2 months pregnant

There’s one change in my life that has come about with the birth of Littlest that I haven’t yet written about. It’s taken a few months to be come clear in my mind.

It started when I became visibly pregnant—I started noticing other pregnant women, other women with young children, and thinking, “We’ve all done this in some way or other.” I felt a secret connection with all these women as I was waiting, regardless of their situation. The universality of bringing life into the world especially struck me as I spent a good three weeks in South Africa during my pregnancy.

These days as I cart Littlest around in his stroller—for example, today, as we went to the “popular” area of Poitiers to request his French passport—I feel it even more so. People love babies, be it in the supermarket, in a cafe, and, I’m hoping, on airplanes. Littlest is usually ready with a smile after a little bit of cajoling and I’m happy to share our joy with others. Recently I answered the door for a delivery with him in my arms, and the delivery man talked about his 9-month-old baby girl, and how important it was to enjoy this time because it goes by so fast. I love these moments. They crack the French façade of stand-offish-ness, which is something I’ve been trying to do more since I came back from Ireland where everyone is so nice to everyone. The feeling of connection reminds me of what we all have in common in the most essential parts of us.

Of course, there’s another side to it. I’m reminded many days of the luck that Littlest has been born into: white, male, middle-class, wanted, prepared for. He’ll have chances in life that lots of other little babies won’t have, and he’s no more deserving than them. I don’t know what to do about that except to tell him, even though he’s still too little to understand, that the most important thing is always to be kind to himself and others.