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Is this really what maternity wear looks like?

Saffron Howden
Published: November 29, 2012 - 7:52AM

There are some major evolutionary flaws in the pregnancy process.

That whole miracle-of-life thing may kick in (albeit briefly) after the adrenaline rush and exhaustion of expelling the bub in the maternity ward.

But in the mean time, you will want to run as far away from every mirror possible.

Because in them you will see this: a woman you have never met before, who appears overweight, double-chinned, puffy-faced, top heavy and really, really cranky.

And so, after weeks of avoiding the bleeding obvious and finally admitting you can no longer fit into your jeans, you will - with some resistance at first - type the words "maternity clothing" into an online search engine.

Which is just about when you will graduate from cranky to uncontrollable weeping.

Because when a wrinkle-free girl with skinny arms, legs and waist - who looks about 16 years old - is modelling a breastfeeding dress, that image in your mirror goes from depressing to horrific.

Oh, and look . This is one of my personal favourites: maternity briefs for women (children - let's face it) with stomachs so flat you could use them as a spirit level. I mean, let's not even stick a cushion in the photo to pretend we're trying to give the model a "with child" look.

In the same vein, thank you Bonds and One on the Way online for this little morale-lifting image. And again here I particularly like how the undies flush against that taut tummy are singled out for their "unique v-shaped waist that sits perfectly under your bump".

Of course, not all maternity wear websites are cruel enough to advertise their wares with size 6 teens without a pregnancy hormone within cooee of their uterus.

Some appear to hire genuinely pregnant models looking healthy and carrying enough flesh on their bones to be safely diverting some to the growing life form inside. These women - shock, horror - have the added bonus of demonstrating how the advertised clothes might actually look on the average pregnant lady.

Because it is no longer 1930 and, these days, women are more likely to have their first child in their early 30s than their early 20s or teens. The median age for Australian women giving birth in 2011 was 30.6 

In that context, these serial offenders, Mamaway, seem somewhat out of touch.

They try to sell "Disney Princess" maternity T-shirts using a model who could, at a stretch, pass as my teenage daughter. Thanks for that.

And this in a Westfield catalogue. Lovely looking girl, but really? Are we meant to be emulating the sweet 16 look as we approach motherhood?

But Mother and Child is surely the worst offender I came across. One dominating homepage image of a stick-thin young'un poised uncomfortably in high heels on concrete steps with the tag "Breastfeeding Never Looked So Good!" has to take the cake.

There is no baby in sight, so at least they're not encouraging teenage pregnancies. Small mercies.

A little further into the website, another patently not pregnant model  reminds you just how revolting you truly are for eating a healthy dinner.

The experts tell us it is normal to gain between 10 and 13kg during pregnancy and that I should be eating some kind of feast 10 times a day to feed the hungry foetus. Mother and Child has some reading to do.

I get the sad and unfortunate truth of the fashion industry; it will mostly peddle a world devoid of cellulite and varicose veins. But do you reckon they could cut us ladies some slack just for those months we spend bent over the toilet bowl while simultaneously craving every carbohydrate under the sun?

Saffron Howden is a news reporter for Fairfax Media.

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