Maternal instincts

As a relatively young, married male, you know you’re in trouble when you walk into a store with your wife and the first thing that really catches her eye is something in the maternity section.

“Uh, ya, I’ll be in electronics when you’re done.”

Beware. The sudden interest in maternity clothes could be a trap – a way for your significant other to gauge your reaction to the idea of all things pregnancy and babies.

But, at least in the instance I’m thinking of, my wife wasn’t pregnant at the time, and the fact that she was drawn to that section says something.

The idea, and dare I say – style of maternity clothes, at least as I see it, has changed a lot over the last decade. Most men, if they get past the stereotypical red-flag scenario of panic-induced-by-pregnancy, also think of maternity clothes as just loose-fitting shirts and dresses designed for comfort.

Don’t get me wrong, those still exist and for good reason, but there is also a huge (no pun intended) market of designer maternity wear. A quick Google search on the subject lists out, just to name a few: “Maternity clothes for the modern mother,” “The four pregnancy body types and how to dress them,” and, my personal favorite, “21 cool ways to own maternity style when you’re pregnant.”

One of the recurring themes here is that being pregnant doesn’t mean women have to give up their personal style. And why should they, especially as pregnant women are more active than ever before, and seem to no longer shy away from flaunting their baby bumps.

So when my family used the miraculous timing of scheduling one of those embarrassing everybody-wear-the-same-color family photo shoots when my wife was eight months pregnant, a quick trip to Target was the elixer.

My mother-in-law told me that when she was pregnant in the early 80s, the place to go for maternity clothes was department stores at the mall, which all had their own sections. But, she said, the big difference was clothes were designed to hide or minimize being pregnant.  

Now, obviously some circumstances outside of being pregnant play into fashion choices too, such as career and social life. Most women wouldn’t wear their Sunday sweatpants, sans elastic waistband, to the office, but they may also go a little overboard when trying to “own” their style out with friends. That nightclub scene from “Knocked Up” comes to mind.

One of the Google results was also for Jessica Simpson’s maternity clothing line, just so you know.

My question is, though, what do women really want to wear? Whatever you pick, you look better than you think you do. Every baby-daddy knows (or should know) that it’s their No. 1 job to compliment the pregnant woman no matter what, but I also know women overthink fashion a good amount of the time, pregnant or not. And most of the time, men aren’t just saying what you want to hear.

Men, for the most part, aren’t just talking the talk. They know what that pregnant woman will be going through soon enough, and they’ll look beautiful doing it.

Andrew Rice of Portland, a staff writer for Current Publishing, is a new father. Andrew brings a man’s perspective to issues posed by women in his feature “Man of his Word.” Write him at

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