So the other day C and I went on our first babycentric shopping venture.
Or at least, preggerscentric.
I’m willing to now admit I’m pregnant but it’s a far larger leap of faith to say there will be a baby when my feet hit the ground. Other pregnant friends are filling their baby rooms with monitors and cots and dingly dangly things. C and I have bought nothing (yet) but we have received a load of hand me downs which have all been hastily stuck in the cupboard where we can’t see them.
Anyhoo, the time seemed right to shop for maternity bras.
I had actually attempted to do this a couple of months back when my bra size changed dramatically but I chickened out at the last minute and settled for a couple of non maternity bras that were a bit bigger than my normal size. These were now right at the end of their row of little hooks and uncomfortably tight.
I am not a well endowed woman, bras have generally only ever really been things to stop my nipples poking out of my teeshirt on cold days. Bra-shopping in the past was a quick and haphazard event based on Colour, Pattern and Is This One On Sale?
It was clear we needed the help of an expert. I had heard the rumour of the necessity for proper fittings and the dire warnings of back strain, wrenched shoulders and milk pudding boobs that would ensue if said Proper Fittings were not had.
C and I wandered into the ‘intimates’ section of a Large Department Store and lingered awkwardly around the maternity section. Row after row of wireless, double clipped, enormous cupped, wide strapped bras dangled from their racks, taunting us.
We looked at them, we took them off the rack, we fingered their odd little fastenings and marveled at their extra hooks and eyes. Then we put them back because those whopping big cups were scaring the bejesus out of us.
Diddly diddly dee went the musack.
A chill wind began to blow and a lone tumbleweed scuttled across the floor.
C and I clutched at each other’s clammy hands. One of us may even have whimpered.
Someone will come, we muttered to ourselves. Someone Who Knows About Pregnant Bosoms.
At one stage a sales assistant did flit past, replacing frilly delicate non-pregnancy things as she went.
Why look! Here is Someone Who Can Help, announced C in his best Actorly Projected Voice.
Yes, I smiled, relieved.
We took our eyes off her for only a second but when we turned back she was gone.
Fuck, we said.
Diddley diddly dee went the musack.
Finally we decided we could work it out together. Were we not grownups?
Had I not received hours of valuable Bionicle Assemblage tuition from the Naughty Nephews?
Had not C once built a house (in a previous relationship yes but the experience still counts) and had he not just spent days laying lovely wooden floors and doing fiddly carpentery bits in the Big House? Well then.
We selected a few bras based on what appeared to be my current size but also on Colour, Pattern and Is This One On Sale?
Then we located the fitting rooms.
Then we entered the fitting room.
Then the Shop Assistant who had done the neat disappearing act early on suddenly appeared in the doorway with a stern look on her face.
Then C was barred from the fitting room on account of him being a loathsome bosom-less man.
Then I bravely entered the fitting room alone.
Then I bared my boobs and attempted to attach the first bra to them.
Then it twisted itself round the wrong way and laughed at my ridiculous attempts to wind it round my body.
Then all the little clips in all the bras suddenly and maliciously sprung apart. An image reared up before me, of me, struggling to survive in my scanty brightly coloured pre-pregnancy bra, now faded and torn with use and held together with pins and bits of sticky tape. I was destined to be bowed down with strained back and wrenched shoulders, shackled to the cold hard earth by the weight of my ginormous Milk Pudding Boobs.
Then my face went red and tears of frustration crept into my eyes.
Then I swiftly redressed, did some deep breathing, and flung the bras down (but neatly) on Disappearing Shop Assistant’s plush padded seat thing as I stormed out the door.
I looked for my husband and wept bitterly because he had wandered off to the electronics section and also because lo the pregnancy hormones was surging through my body and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and odd looks from other customers.
Diddley diddly dee went the musack.
It was all too hideous.
C blew my nose and swiftly administered skim hot chocolate and small evil sweety thing to me and then we went into the Other Large Department Store.
Here we went straight up to the counter and asked for Someone Who Knows About Pregnant Bosoms.
And finally, finally the Someone appeared.
And Yes she knew Pregnant Bosoms and Yes she knew how to wrangle the nasty little clips.
C was once again banished from the fitting room but this time it was ok, I felt safe, I felt nurtured in the arms of wide experience, I was to be saved from back strain and wrenched shoulders (but alas probably not milk pudding boobs). I tried on bra after bra, was instructed on the mysteries of breast enlargement and shrinkage, advised on where my straps should sit, where my hooks should meet and where my nipples should point. She was very nice and very good and I felt much much better.
However after twenty minutes, I realised that I didn’t actually properly fit into any of the maternity bras she brought for me. If it fitted at the back then the cups were too big. If the cups were just right then we were right at the end of the hooks (and I had already been instructed that the bra should at this stage do up in the middle of the hooks).
(My friend Michelle later told me that I could buy a little extension thingy to increase the back of the bra for a few bucks and that would keep me going until I was ready for the next stage.)
Once upon a time, a long time ago, years ago, perhaps six, when C and I were in those first few months (stretching to the first year) of trying to conceive, C did buy something for baby.
It was a handmade patchwork quilt, just big enough to sit on a cot. Coloured frogs and rampant teddy bears were pieced together with boats sailing into clouds and wide eyed geometric cats. It was expensive, indulgent, impractical and beautiful. And perfectly fitting for C’s enthusiastic optimism for our impending offspring.
For years the quilt stayed folded up and hidden away. Once I unwrapped it, a year ago, when I was looking for blankets. It was a shocking reminder of our younger dreams. Instead of frogs and boats and teddies and cats I saw invasive tests and broken hearts and long empty years stitched together with self hatred and failure.
When we packed the flat and prepared to move to the Big House this year I found the quilt again. And the teddies were back and the quilt was beautiful once again.
C and I had decided to meet elsewhere in the department store and I sauntered towards him swinging my black and white shopping bag. C looked at it with interest.
No bra, I quickly told him.
It’s a long story, I told him, but basically they don’t fit yet. So I bought a pair of trousers instead. They’re not maternity trousers but they fit comfortably over my tummy.
Also I liked the colour. Also, they were on Sale.
C nodded. It all made perfect sense. We held hands as we wandered out the door.
Behind us, racks of maternity bras jangled their fiddly hooks, waiting patiently for our inevitable return.
And diddly diddly dee went the musack.
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