A Note from the Trenches
Crimes of Fashion, Plus Gratuitous Belly Photos

Wednesday Advice Smackdown


Hot damn, this stupid advice thing is really popular all of a sudden. Why do you people think I know so much? Because I really don't know very much.

An example of things I don't know about: Today I need to send someone a fax. I hate sending faxes because I always do it wrong. There are about a dozen different fax machines in my office and they all work differently. I have yet to master ONE. Do I hit 9 first? Enter my long-distance code? Hit "pause" once and then enter my long-distance code? Or do I hit "pause" twice? Also, what is "pause?" There is no "pause" button on the fax machine. Do they mean the pound sign? Asterisk? What's a physical memory dump? And why is the machine taking a physical memory dump all over my fax? Stop dumping! Pause! Asterisk!

Anyway, you are clearly seeking advice from a moron, but let's have at it anyway.

Hi Amy - I'm a longtime reader, almost no-commenter...but I bet you have the cutest maternity clothes - want to share your sources?

I'm about to be outed at 9 weeks because nothing fits anymore, dammit (was seriously trying for 12 weeks [bad history, twice]).  I went to Target today, but apparently all the pregnant women that don't wear XL or XXL already bought everything.

Suggestions?  I waited and suffered to get to BE 9 weeks, I'm going to look good, dammit!


(I'm not sure I have any secret sources that people aren't already familiar with, but I can provide a rundown of my experiences with the major names in maternity clothes.)

(And my experience at Target was the same as yours, except that even after I found a size small in a shirt I sort-of liked, it was still so ginormously huge on me I swear it had to have been mismarked. Although Target is wonderful for bras, as you will go through several boob-related growth spurts and will hopefully not be stupid like me, as I went to Victoria's Secret at the first sign of B-cup boobs, only to outgrow my new expensive bras two weeks later.)

(And don't even talk to me about the pregnancy-slash-nursing bras they sell at maternity stores. Seriously. They frighten and confuse me.)


The first place I went (at a mere eight weeks along, in total desperation and in search of a pair of pants with a waistline that wouldn't dig four inches into my flesh when sitting down) was Old Navy Maternity. This stuff is cheap. Which is nice, but it's also cheeeeap. Quite a few things I purchased there fell apart after one or two washings. On the other hand, it's a great place for underwear and basics -- like t-shirts and tanks. (Just stick with white or black, as the colored dyes all bled in the wash and left bleach-like discolorations on everything.)

Then there's the Maternity Mall Trinity: Motherhood, Mimi and A Pea in the Pod. They're all the same. Same company, same suppliers...but different price points.

Motherhood is another decent place for basics like underwear and t-shirts. A t-shirt costs $9.99. The prices are ridiculously cheap and the sizes are generous -- I needed an extra-small in everything and am still swimming in a couple of "fitted" dresses I picked up for $19.99 each. The quality is a little better than Old Navy, but nothing great (I've had problems with fading and ripping), and much of the stuff is boring and tent-like and mostly polyester.

Although I bought a couple pairs of black stretch pants at Motherhood that I could not live without. And don't laugh, but black stretch pants are your FRIENDS. You will come to love the black stretch pants. On days you do not wear the black stretch pants you will daydream about getting home to the black stretch pants. The black stretch pants are slimming, deliciously comfortable and they go with everything.

Mimi is a step up from Motherhood, meaning a t-shirt there costs $19.99. The stuff is a little trendier and fit me a lot better. (Which is to say, clothes from Mimi will vaguely suggest that you are pregnant and that it is okay to look pregnant, while Motherhood clothes scream, "Conceal! Conceal!") I bought some really cute stuff for Aruba at Mimi, including this dress, which is currently Jason's absolute favorite outfit of mine, EVER.

At A Pea in the Pod, a t-shirt costs $75. If you gain weight like me (all in the belly), this stuff is really nice. It's closely fitted and will look most like your non-maternity wardrobe. They've got fun designer stuff and excellent tailored shirts for work that allow room for the belly without looking caftan-ish. But it's maddeningly and unjustifiably expensive -- especially since most of it is just a vaguely high-end take on the stuff at Mimi or Motherhood. My advice? Go to a Motherhood outlet store and dig around -- they get a lot of Mimi and Pea in the Pod stuff there too.

My favorite place, by far, is Gap Maternity. I love every single thing I've purchased here. The only drawback, at least in the D.C. area, is that no local stores actually stock the maternity line. So you have to buy everything online. This deterred me at first, and it was stupid, because I paid $70 at Mimi for a pair of way-too-baggy jeans instead of just buying the absolute perfect jeans that I eventually ordered from the Gap in the first place.  There's almost always a free shipping offer or sale going on and you can return maternity clothes to any local non-maternity store. And if you know your pre-pregnancy size at the regular Gap, you know your size at Gap Maternity. (And it is SO NICE to still be pulling on size 4 jeans and an XS top even as you watch yourself balloon up to Pillsbury Doughboy proportions.)

For my well-heeled local readers, I also recommend 9 Maternity in Rockville, MD. It's expensive (oh God, is it ever expensive), but the stuff is gorgeous. I bought my diaper bag there, along with the sundress in yesterday's picture and a super cute crinkled tank top. The cashier told me a number of dollars that could not possibly have been correct for three measly items, but I just kind of smiled and handed over the credit card like I spend that kind of money all the time, even though I was wearing maternity hand-me-downs at the time.

And oh! The hand-me-downs. Try to get some. Seriously. I lucked out, as one of my friends gave birth to her second baby last August, and she'd amassed QUITE a collection of clothing during her pregnancies, and most of it fit me. Ka-ching!

Also, don't completely give up on regular styles. I'm always on the lookout for non-maternity styles that I can still wear. Those little cropped cardigans and shrugs are great for wearing over maternity tanks and dresses. I also bought a Juicy Couture babydoll that works really well as a mini-dress or over jeans. 

And finally, for the love of God, invest in a Bella Band. I retired mine after building up a substantial maternity wardrobe, but then brought it out again this weekend when it hit like, 120 degrees outside and I was re-organizing attic crawlspaces and realized that I do not own any maternity shorts. (I figured capris and skirts would get me through the summer, and honestly, who wants to see a pregnant woman's thighs?) But GODDAMN, I was hot and uncomfortable, so out came the regular shorts and the Bella Band. And the world is just going to have to endure the sight of my pregnant thighs.


Dearest Amalah,

Greetings from another, whiny, achy pregnant woman. I am expecting a little boy in July. Recently while my husband and I were adding to our baby registry at the fabulous Target he explains to me how our son will not be allowed to have any dolls, ever. All I was doing was looking at Cabbage Patch Kids to see if they had boy ones and he flips out. Apparently my "But it's a boy doll!" argument wasn't good enough. It's not like I wanted to get the kid a Bob Mackie Barbie or something, just something soft to cuddle with. But he is convinced that if his son gets his hands on anything that resembles a little person that he will become a sissy. As another first time mom who is having a boy, have you thought about this issue or discussed it with your husband at all? Am I completely overreacting? I want my son to grow up and be whatever he wants and if he wants a pretty doll to play with I think that's fine. Any advice or arguments I could use on my husband would be helpful. Thank you.

And also, holy crap I can't believe that in 2 months I'm going to have to figure out how to take care of a baby and all his boy parts.


Let me get this straight: Your husband thinks giving a newborn baby a toy that vaguely resembles another newborn baby will automatically turn him into a "sissy," and you want to know if YOU are overreacting?

*smacks forehead*

Let's just cut to the chase and follow that logic a step further. Dolls = sissy boys = homosexuality. Which is stupid and more than a little insulting.

Ban Barbie and Cabbage Patch Kids! It's the only way to cure our children of the gay!

Squishy will have dolls. Squishy actually already has a doll. Jason's parents bought it for him, just like they bought baby dolls for Jason when he was wee. And Jason carried them around for comfort and cuddling until his full-blown non-sissy boy personality kicked in and the dolls were abandoned for monster trucks or whatever.

I grew up with four older brothers. I played with Transformers and He-Man and Matchbox cars. And baby dolls and Barbie and tea sets. And I refused to wear pants, ever, because I preferred this one pink flouncy party dress that had a jingle bell sewn into the layers of ruffles. I was also known to wear a tiara while beating the shit out of the little boy next door. Who also had dolls, which were used as "patients" when we played doctor's office, because I never agreed to be the patient again after he tried to examine me under my ruffly party dress, for which I beat the shit out of him.

(I recently heard that little boy actually is a doctor now, but oddly, not a gynecologist.)

Basically, kids are kids, and they are who they are, regardless of the toys we give them. But by denying a type of toy because it's "sissy" (translation: feminine), you could be doing your son a biiiig disservice.

Sorry to get all serious and harpy about this, but you need to talk to your husband about gender stereotyping. It's sexist. It's outdated. And it's BENEFICIAL for boys to play with dolls and girls to play with blocks and trucks. Studies show that, far from becoming sissies, little boys who play with dolls and other stereotypical "girl" toys are more imaginative, nurturing and develop better fine motor coordination. (Ever wonder why girls "traditionally" have better handwriting than boys?) Little girls who play with blocks and other "boy" activities gain confidence in their math and science abilities. (Remember Barbie's first words? "Math is hard! I love shopping!" GAH.)

A cursory Google search for plain-English arguments about gender stereotyping (and how to avoid it) turned up a few well-written articles. Click here, here, and here. Pass them on to your husband and let him know you're serious about this. He probably hasn't thought it all through or realized what he was doing...and maybe just thought he was being funny about the doll thing.

And your son may very well turn away from the doll someday or spend hours running it over with his dump trucks. But it'll be HIS CHOICE, and not because his parents unconsciously taught him that playing house and caring for a baby doll is "unacceptable," "sissy" behavior. Do you see the dangerous attitudes towards women that can easily go along with that line of thinking?

And on the other hand, IT'S JUST A FUCKING CABBAGE PATCH KID. It's like a teddy bear without fur. Seriously. A doll is not a one-way street to some drag queen revue in Miami, mm'kay?


Dear Amalah,

You and your husband appear to be a trendy young couple that enjoys going out for nice dinners and going on adventures. I think most women have an internal clock that drives them to want children, but what about men? How did your husband "know" he was ready to have children? Was he worried about not being able to go out for nice dinner and get-togethers with friends? Was he worried about your sex life going down the drain? Was he worried (or you for that matter) about your body not returning to its pre-pregnancy shape?

My husband and I have talked about children but I know he is mainly worried that we won't have fun anymore. What advice can you offer from your situation that might help me prepare my husband for fatherhood one day?

Alfred's mom (mom to dogs not humans)

My husband knew he was ready when I done tole him he was ready. Heh.

No, not really. But also yes. I wanted a baby well before Jason was ready. (And probably before I was really ready too.) And I probably didn't handle things very well. There was probably a good deal of whining.

But anyway. I'm a brat, and that's well established, and none of us know why Jason puts up with me. Moving on.

I sent Jason your question and asked for a few thoughts. Here's what he wrote back.

"First of all, you can't "prepare" someone for having a child. I didn't know for sure that I wanted to have a child and anyone who says that they are absolutely sure they want to have children and they're ready for the responsibility is kidding themselves or just plain loony.

I try not to worry too much about what we'll do once the baby is here and how much it will "restrict" us. I like to think that it won't mean that we'll never be able to go out again...and maybe I'm just lying to myself or haven't woken up to reality, but seriously, that's what babysitters and grandparents are for. It will be important to have time for us anyway. And we won't always have to get a babysitter. I mean, I'm looking forward to taking our baby boy out and showing him off to our friends.

Beside that, what most people tell me is that your perspective on life changes and the things that were once important to you, like going out and "partying", eating out, etc., suddenly aren't important anymore. Suddenly you have this little bundle of joy and he is all that matters. I know it is hard to picture, but I started feeling it as I saw the sonograms and especially the other day when I saw a bulge move across Amy's stomach.

As far as sex life goes, no comment.

Pre-pregnancy shape? Hell, we'll both have to get back into pre-pregnancy shape.

Hope this helps."


Got a question? Send it to advice@amalah.com, and if you're lucky, it might get answered by my much, much smarter husband.



Oh Siobhan! I'm afraid you're going to get lots and lots of snarky comments about your husband, but...

No dolls? For the baby? The cuteness? How sad! I know it's hard to talk to men who are a bit stubbor with their "my son will not be a sissy" bit, but you've got to try and work on him.


stubborn even


when My Kid turned 3, he wanted A KITCHEN for his birthday. We took him to toys-r-us and let him pick out the one he wanted. Big Daddy only asked me once, "You don't think this is weird, do you?" Hell, the one he wanted was tan and hunter green. It was practically MADE FOR A BOY.

I saved empty mac & cheese boxes and stuff like that to stock it. He loved it. Played in it for hours. Years even. Didn't hurt him one little bit. In fact, he's now 11 and one of his jobs is to empty the dishwasher of the clean dishes and would you believe that I can hardly MAKE him go into my REAL kitchen.


DUDE! I totally know what you're talking about with the faxing! I have never sent a fax in my life! This is the most seriously damaging hindrance to my climb up the corporate ladder.
"of course we'd love to meet with you for our fabulous new vice president of all the important things, just fax us on over your resume..." ack!

anyway. I hear you. good advice.


you are so fab...thank you! i just searched Pea In The Pod today and found some great bargains on their sale racks (SHORTS! marked down to 19.99! At Tysons II!) and a great dressy dress for work for $60, marked down from 1,000,000.

I will try the Maryland store too! Thanks thanks thanks!


Amalah, I know this is -your- advice smackdown, but I've got to advise Siobhan to give her hubby the video of "Free to Be You and Me" for Father's Day. It's not only an opportunity to see Michael Jackson with his original nose and skin color, it's also got the great story of "William Wants a Doll."


Gap has free shipping for orders over $100 at the moment - just type in FREE100 at checkout.


Amalah... I don't have a baby. I am not pregnant. I have no need, therefore, for maternity clothing or baby plaything-related advice. So, why is it that I feel like all your advice is directly relevant to me? You must be very clever I think. I also think that you and Jason will make fantabulous parents.


As a mom of 4 boys I feel I must comment on the doll issue. Tell your husband it will prepare your son to be a dad someday. And then go buy the damn doll. He will get use to it. Mine did.

Just wait until you have another baby and your son 'breastfeeds' his doll. Men love that. *cough, cough* Oh, and we also have a kitchen set. And my boys beat the crap out of each other and are not the least bit "sissy".

Free to Be

How many more generations will it be before the male gender gets this crazy stuff out of their head.

Kudos on the gender stereotyping post Amy. Whooo yaaaaa!


My wife bought some stuff at Motherhood Maternity both prior and after the birth of our little girl. She says she will never buy from there again. The underwear she bought, along with one shirt, fell apart after being washed about 4 times over the course of 2 weeks. The two nursing bras she bought split at the seams and one had the fastener where the cup clips to the brastrap come off. Also MM has a weird return policy and she got really frustrated talking to their customer service people.


Why is it that maternity clothes are so damn expensive? I've hard about that and I'm not really looking forward to that part of pregnancy (says the girl who has yet to actually GET pregnant).

Such a fantastic answer to the dolls for boys question. I know that's something that I'll be up against if we DO have a boy. Not so much from the husband but from the in-laws...Plus you know...I live in GEORGIA. Ew.


My son's favorite toy was a vacuum cleaner. We must have bought him five.

Lawn mower? No thanks. I wanna vacuum.

Oddly, he's outgrown that now, and seems to be allergic to vacuums. AND lawn mowers.


I was so excited to suggest the Free to Be You and Me album with the William's Doll song, and now I see that someone has beat me to it. Anyhow, Siobhan (and Amalah and all the mommies and daddies), it's a great CD and you should definitely get it for your son.


Is Jason just the cutest thing, or what? I guess all that 'doll cuddling' must have paid off, turning him into the sweet, sensible guy that he sure comes across as! Good luck to both of you, you both made me smile today!


Amalah, you are so adorably cute! And I don't mean that in a sexist way! I'm sure you're also good at math! And Jason is wise and sweet and we are all so glad that he puts up with you.


[quote]I was also known to wear a tiara while beating the shit out of the little boy next door.[/quote]

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Loved that mental image, dear. My boys play with their kitchen (how many chefs do you see that are men, eh?) and I've even painted my older sons' toenails once. Both of my boys are ALL BOY.

She needs to remind her hubby that GI Joe is a doll, too. So there.


Thank you so much for the advice. At the time I didn't know if my husband was only half-kidding and I haven't brought it up again but now I have some good ammunition to confront him about it. He says he feels this way because his brother has a 12 year old boy who happened to play with dolls and now has some girlish tendencies. Which I think has nothing to do with dolls, it's just how the kid is. And who cares? He's 12. He may change or he may not but that is who he's supposed to be. My son will definitely be playing with a kitchen set because I am a pastry chef and seeing him play at cooking will just be too cute. Not to mention the fact that the majority of professional chefs are men anyways and they make more money than their female counterparts, but that's another issue. I'm so glad to have some support on this. The way I feel about it now is I'm just going to go buy the damn cabbage patch kid and put it in the nursery and he can deal with it. I'm the one giving birth after all. Amalah, the doll your in-laws bought is so cute. I think I'm going to get one of those too. Oh and the Motherhood Outlet is the way to go. I went to one early on and got a ton of stuff for hella cheap and some of it was Mimi. Thanks again.


Must just say that I am Siobhan's older sister, and in his defence, Siobhan's husband has a seriously screwed up family. He's a really good guy, for the most part. And the above referenced 12-year-old is not a good example for him to be basing this decision on, but then you knew that, sis. Also, I may have to buy my wee little nephew-fetus a doll for the upcoming shower, just on principle. Heh.


I might just be lucky, but I've had really good luck with Motherhood items. They've been washed quite a few times and look brand new.

On another note, this boy will have his own little kitchen and I'm wondering if they make My Easy Bake Oven in colors other than pink! ;) His Dad and I are both avid cooks and hope to bring the little one into the fray as well.

It is odd how girls who play with cars are accepted (as I did) but boys who have dolls might be 'sissy boys' or something equally untrue.

Real Girl

God, the thought of a wee little boy without something soft and beloved to cuddle is just too sad.

Dolly will cost much less than therapy.


I love my black stretch pants.


I once wandered into a Pea in the Pod store without realizing, um, that it caters to those who are "with child." I was all "omigod this stuff is so cute!" Then the saleswoman patted my stomach and said, "Honey, you're not even showing yet!"

So. embarassing.

Oh, and I totally pretended to be a few weeks along just to save face infront of the staff.


Love the advise as I always do.

Where can I send Siobhan a baby-doll? ;)


I have a 3 year old who has a doll that he just adores. Lately he's not that into it, but it still sits on his bed at night before it's pushed to the floor when my son goes to bed. He also has a love for anything cooking and plays with his kitchen everyday (though his dad's a chef so that might have something to do with it!) As for the "life changes after baby" - you'd better believe it. I know that some people who were the party type before will continue to be so - but personally speaking (as a girl who'd be out every night) i would rather stay home with my son or go somewhere with him. Everything that was "fun" before - like drinking too much and going to clubs just feels really empty and not as fullfilling as it may have been before becoming a mom.


Amalah, I swear to you, when I clicked the link for the Juicy couture babydoll, I thought that was you in the picture modeling the dress. She could be your twin!


Oh wait, so you're a real, living, breathing, Q-tip using, non-flossing person? Well, shit. I, for one, am not reading your blog anymore. Ugh. What a freakin' disappointment!


Your belly is so cute. I'm 25 weeks along with my third and my belly is riddled with silvery stretch marks. It's still cute but I could do without the filigree-like pattern on my GUT. ha ha ha

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