The Motherhood Tracksuits

Photo: Antoine K (Flickr CC)

My days as a first-time mother were magical, largely due to friends. I was late to motherhood, so I watched their postpartum pitfalls and planned to avoid them accordingly.

I developed a theory that self-preservation, not perfection, was the post-delivery theme. Cornerstone would be avoiding zippers. Hence, four size-large tracksuits constituted my postpartum trousseau.

The brown velour worked for mommy-and-me classes. The slimming black fit most occasions. The gray jersey was for homebound days. My favorite had cropped pants. This unexpected flair made it winter-spring transitional.

Pre-baby I did not find tracksuits appropriate for anything except, well, track events. But post-delivery, I discarded fashion norms.

I discarded other norms, too. Following wedding etiquette, I allowed a year to acknowledge baby presents. Meals requiring more than two pots were out. I noticed friends who were “productive” during babies’ naps were not fun or rested. Hence, I patterned my sleep schedule exactly to my preemie’s; I’d never been so well rested. I was in bed so often I quit making it.

When I remember that time, I’m amazed I allowed it. Meddling around in life is a pastime for me. Yet during those days with baby, I somehow knew all would unfold well and safely. We could just be.

The tracksuits contributed to this, but trust did, too. I trusted I would be a great mom. I trusted my preemie would fatten up. I trusted I would lose my (substantial) pregnancy weight. I trusted my marriage would remain strong. I trusted my mother-in-law would respect my request that Baby skip sweetened iced tea before age four. I trusted I would revisit zippers.

So my preemie and I lounged in the unmade bed; she in her onesie, me in my twosie. She slept and snacked. I snacked and slept. Golden Girls’ reruns punctuated our naps.

Months passed until it was too hot for my tracksuits. My mother visited and suggested it was time for clothes without elastic. My husband’s patience with my program dwindled. My maternity leave ended.

I returned to life’s business. I found zippered clothes, albeit in sizes much larger than my pre-pregnancy ones. My natural neuroses replaced my simple trust. Life began to resemble what it looked like before baby, with one notable addition – baby.

Despite my rebound toward neuroses, my trust was mostly accurate. Some days I am a great mom. Most days I am adequate. A few I have repressed.

My preemie fattened up like the Buddha. I lost 40 of the 69 pounds. My husband and I are still married. Baby was 18-months before Grannie slipped her some tea.

Those postpartum months remain magical. I have glimpses of such wholehearted trust, but I’ve not again experienced an extended time of it. Still, that I had that time is powerfully comforting to me, as is the idea Baby has memories of it encoded somewhere in her 11-year-old self. Here’s hoping that kind of trusting contentment will visit us again, tracksuited or not.


Whitney Cain lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband and three children.

Photo: Antoine K


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