I’m at a point in pregnancy when the waddle is unavoidable, the backaches are constant and if I’m not fed, I’m likely to commit a crime. But there’s one agony that effortlessly outweighs the rest so far in this journey to motherhood — finding and shopping for maternity clothes.

Initially, I wasn’t majorly concerned about clothes for my pregnancy because it took me awhile to fully embrace the fact that I am having a kid. In July 2023, I had a miscarriage, and when I got pregnant again I didn’t want to jinx anything.

Well, here I am now, growing faster than I can blink, and I continue to fail at finding maternity clothes that fit and still allow me to express myself.

There are many factors to consider while navigating the industry of maternity and nursing clothes: affordability, quality, accessibility, style and the timeliness of it all. More often than not, I’ve found that fulfilling one of these categories means jeopardizing the others.

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I haven’t completely struck out. As an avid thrift store shopper, I’ve found some affordable and comfortable maternity pants to wear around the house, but I still have to work in a professional setting and attend outings and events. I’m also having a summer baby and want to make the most of the vitamin D-giving sun as much as I can. I want to be able to wear sundresses and things that aren’t too hot. Fall wasn’t so bad because I could wear a lot of my oversized thrifted sweaters.

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I’ve been to a couple of big-box stores and almost immediately wanted to walk out. Not only were the aisles complete chaos, but the pants options, for example, reminded me of something sitting in the closet of SpongeBob SquarePants. They were shapeless and basic. And these stores had only a small section of maternity wear.

I know I’m not alone in the confusion and overwhelm. There were nearly 3.6 million births in the United States in 2023, according to a provisional statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All I want to know is where did they all shop before then? I took to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to see how other people managed pulling their outfits together throughout this pivotal time when life — when everything, including my hormones and body — are changing rapidly.

Not only did I get validation for wanting to cry throughout this ordeal, but I also received sound advice. As expected, several people said to ditch pants altogether. There was a big consensus that sundresses, maxi dresses and of course, leggings, are a safe go-to and not too hard to find and accessorize. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel confident and cute while growing a human inside one’s body.

Since stores selling maternity clothes are few and far-between, women also shared their online hacks. Alex Silverman, who’s expecting a baby in June, doesn’t like to waste, so she’s used ThredUp, an online consignment and thrift store, where she found “a lot of brands in good condition.”

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Rent the Runway, a clothing rental subscription service, also made the top of the list for people needing maternity outfits for special occasions. I thought this was genius, because what fits one month may not fit the next, so why not rent it for when you need it?

I wish I knew about that service before I opted to skip a gala because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to find something to wear.

In general, I’ve managed with some of my prepregnancy clothes, but jeans have become very uncomfortable even with a maternity band, which helps with keeping them unzipped. I’ve also found success sizing up at certain stores like Rainbow if I see a cute top with stretchy enough material. Luckily, some family members have chipped in, too, when they see something they think I’ll like on Amazon or SHEIN.

Online shopping, though, comes with the pain of having to return something that doesn’t fit and waiting to get the right size. And who has time to wait?

Molly McKee-Seabrook’s daughters are now 4 and 6 years old, but she remembers having to settle for fast fashion options at places like Target and Old Navy.

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“A lot of what they offer is very basic because they have to appeal to as many people as possible and can make thousands of one item and can keep prices lower,” McKee-Seabrook said.

Another problem she faced was returning to work, having to dress professionally and pump her breast milk throughout the day. The landscape for professional nursing attire was scarce and it “made pumping so much more uncomfortable,” she said.

She launched a clothing line of professional dresses for pumping mothers last year called Katie Jane Co. The dresses include magnets and zippers on each side of the bust, which make it easy to remove fabric to conveniently pump. With her side business, she’s starting to understand the industry from the seller’s perspective. To keep the fabric eco-friendly, work with ethical manufacturers, and to pay women fairly, “you can’t make $30 dresses,” and it’s difficult to figure out the middle ground, she said.

Molly McKee-Seabrook (left) and model Ivery Warren (right) participate in a photoshoot for the Katie Lane Co, which sells professional pumping dresses for breastfeeding.
Molly McKee-Seabrook (left) and model Ivery Warren (right) participate in a photo shoot for the Katie Jane Co., which sells professional pumping dresses for breastfeeding moms. (Courtesy: Molly McKee-Seabrook)

Buying clothes isn’t the only option. There are communities of pregnant people who recycle, donate or swap clothes with others.

Amy Leo, a mother of a 2-year-old and 4-year-old, didn’t know where to find used clothing stuff during the pandemic. Her two pregnancies landed in different seasons, so she needed new clothes for her second baby. Leo wanted to do something for other women facing the same dilemma.

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She asked friends and neighbors in Takoma Park to donate their maternity clothes and stored them in a shed her family was no longer using. The “little free library for maternity clothes and nursing” is known as Local Maternity Thread, and has been going strong for 18 months, Leo said. She sees people in and out of the shed, which is located in her driveway, throughout the week, and an ad hoc group of volunteers keeps it stocked and tidy.

Just like there’s not a single way to be a good parent, there are ample hacks and avenues for dressing during pregnancy and nursing. I can already feel the community rooting for me as I find my own.

Jasmine Vaughn-Hall is a neighborhood and community reporter at the Baltimore Banner, covering the people, challenges, and solutions within West Baltimore. Have a tip about something happening in your community? Taco recommendations? Call or text Jasmine at 443-608-8983.

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