The Dress

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We all have something, maybe for you it’s a pair of jeans, a bikini, or a favourite top.

It’s that clothing item purchased before pregnancy, back when our tummies were a little tighter, our busts were a little less full and our nights were a little more restful.

I have a dress.

Late September 2016, my mum, sister and I wandered down the streets of Onehunga looking for a bargain (My mother is a chronic op shopper who loves to hunt down anything Crown Lynn). We’d spent the day trawling through store after store, junk pile after junk pile, and bargain after bargain.

After an exhausting day, on our walk back to the car park, we came across one last store.

It was filled with books mainly, dusty and decrepit unwanted books. But surprisingly there was a rack of drab looking clothing as well. Then, at the back of the store was an upright mannequin wearing my dress.

Well, it wasn’t mine quite yet.

“Karen Walker” the shop assistant informed me through very broken English, “Came this morning. Three women have already tried it on. Was too tight on one and too loose on other. You should try.”

In dark blue, with a crunched satin like fabric, a fitted wire bodice and a full skirt - I couldn’t not give it a go.

I emerged from the fitting room with my eyes sparkling. It fit like a glove. It was $30. It was meant to be.

I intended to wear this dress every second of every day for the rest of my life. But it was a bit fancy and to be completely honest, fancy takes a lot of effort (and I don’t have a lot of effort to give). So I looked at my upcoming calendar and made plans to wear it at a close friend’s wedding.

After the ceremony I proudly informed everyone who complimented my dress that it was a $30 Op Shop steal. I’m not really sure if you’re supposed to do that while wearing designer, but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Perhaps I thought people would be more impressed with the price tag than the actual dress itself. I practically blurted out the price and on the inside I felt like a million bucks.

My husband and I had a great time at the reception. We had far too many wines, we ate way too much food and we danced the night away.

Three weeks later I found out I was pregnant.

I decided (rather stupidly) while fat and uncomfortable in my third trimester, that I would wear that dress again. We have friends getting married in February. That’s seven months post-partum. That’s plenty of time to bounce back, right?

Isn’t it ridiculous that after everything, after hosting a small child in our bellies, after stretching our vaginas or having our stomachs cut open to get that child out, after completely rearranging our lives to look after said child, we still place more physical conditions on ourselves and our bodies?

Holy crap, haven’t they been through enough?

I tried to hit the gym hard. I intended to loose every bit of the 15kg I’d put on as fast as possible.

And what did I get for my efforts?

Burnt out. And sore. And grumpy.

Sure, I’ve regained a smidgen of my fitness, I’ve toned up a little, I feel a bit better for being able to get out of the house for “me” time.

But even with all that, there’s no denying that my whole world has changed. All of a sudden this little squish ball who poops and vomits and yells in my ear is worth way more than any number of $30 Karen Walker dresses could ever amount to.

I had to cut myself some slack. The Rachel who cared about fitting into somebody else’s unwanted clothes just doesn’t exist anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I will lose all of my baby weight (5kgs to go, hollah!). But I sure as hell won’t do it for a dress, or a wedding, or for anybody else but myself.

I’ll love my baby and love my body in this season that I have been given, and maybe one day that dress will come out of its dark, cramped, musty hiding place (A.K.A my wardrobe).

Because let’s be honest, even if I lost 20kgs, my boobs are waaay to big now to fit into that boned bodice. As long as my son is happy, healthy and fed. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rachel Chen