Oh, Oh… do you now have to act your maternity fashion act?
By Dr Rumy Agarwal
Thank goodness I became a mom before (much before, in fact) Kareena Kapoor Khan did! I’ll tell you why. Because, thankfully, I did not have to make any style statement about my baby bump! I mean, pregnancy following, as it did, almost as a natural corollary to marriage, evoked sundry reactions ranging from “Oh, in the family way already? Good, good. Congratulations”, “When is the due date?”, “Make sure that you drink lots of coconut milk to get a fair-complexioned child” (aargh!), and the “mother” (sick pun !) of all comments…“Make sure it’s a boy, to carry the family name forward.” If you could weather these wisecracks, you didn’t have much else to deal with from female in-laws / relatives a.k.a. aunts of various hues / neighbours etc. As for what to wear at that phase of life, it wasn’t a big deal at all.
Expectant mothers looked like butterballs or blimps on legs and were okay with it. We instinctively felt somewhat diffident and tried to make sure that our “bump” was decently covered (I mean, after a time, it did show, but it wasn’t as if we had to take selfies (thank goodness that was unheard-of at the time) of our profiles or anything. Neither did we have to wriggle into price-savvy pret-a-porta or flaunt haute couture maternity clothes. Because…well, a baby bump was a baby bump and that was that. Any pregnant woman was bound to have a protruding tummy, wasn’t it? So what was the big deal? Obviously none. But that was then and this is now.
Cut to the second decade of the 21st century and we have a whole lot of people (media, fashion designers, socialites, magazine editors etc) shrieking and yelling, urging us to believe that a baby bump is something to be shown off. Brandished. Paraded. (As if a baby bump is a coveted trophy !) What the hell…But that IS the current norm, like it or lump it. And the hype has captured the zeitgeist of most women…In fact, they really can’t help it much, what with innumerable reports and photos (to make it even worse and give the “ordinary” mother-to-be a mega-complex) of celebrities and public figures vaunting their bloated tum-tums, looking “hot” (?!?) in their designer maternity wear and “awesome” pregnancy glow, blah blah blah. Phew! Apparently, women have to deal with yet another standard of beauty (and the fear of falling short, naturally !)—looking like a diva mother-to-be! Because we are human and we cannot remain unaffected by all the ooh-aahing the press indulges in over the ‘pregnancy fashion sense’ of yummy-mummies-to-be. So willy-nilly we try to measure up and – well – let us say that success favours just a few, and the rest end up feeling somewhat inadequate.
Tell me, is the scenario justified? I’d say, yes and no. Mostly no, mind you. Let me make myself clearer. Yes, because the media blitzkrieg, which has become the hallmark of our times, does enlighten us, keeps us abreast of the goings-on in every sphere of life, entertains us. It even motivates us (provided the “motivation” is in proper perspective) to look our best at “all” times, pregnancy included. That is the good part. The problem starts when women start feeling pressurised to “measure up” to the glamorous moms-to-be brigade—the latter being celebrity women who have oodles of moolah to squander away on beauticians, personal trainers and groomers and, of course, clothes with perfectly matching accessories, and no household chores to do around the house 24×7. So how can ordinary women compete on these parameters?
Besides, the whole idea of “showing off” the baby bump somehow reeks of yet another form of objectification of the female body, doesn’t it ? As it is, women have to constantly stave off the pressure of having to look beautiful / cool / stylish / trendy etc at all times (woe betide the social media and those goddammed “likes” that we are always craving for!) and now this—the pressure of having (and showing) a “glamorous” baby bump! Oh gawd, where do we go from here? For all you know, showrooms may install “pregnant” mannequins now in their glass showcases, instead of the hourglass figurines which looked accusingly at us till now ! After all, marketing makes the money roll in!
Ah, now look, I don’t want you thinking that I feel women should just “let themselves go” when they are expecting, not care about how they look etc. I am not implying that at all. Women should try and look their best. Always. Period. But in true perspective and in keeping with their situation in its entirety—looking good does NOT justify spending hard-earned money recklessly on designer clothes or neglecting home and hearth to pamper oneself at beauty parlours. Go and buy things that you can afford, both in terms of time and money. At any phase of her life, a woman’s worth is NOT based solely on her appearance.
Anyway, instead of rambling on and on, suffice it to say that pregnancy is in itself a beautiful thing, something to be enjoyed and be grateful for; and even its physical manifestation—THE baby bump—is in its own way quite awesome, but the whole thing is something natural, that requires neither paranoid hiding nor obsessive flaunting. Women simply need to be graceful about it – that’s all.