Contest #139 shortlist ⭐️

31 comments

Fiction Contemporary Sad

It started with the shoes; years of high quality, leather, fashionable footwear. Some bought in Europe, some as far off as Venezuela. For this fashionista, a careful collection she felt was irreplaceable. A hundred or so pairs. A ridiculous collection for a new mom. 

Western societies don’t prepare women for life after childbirth. We have loads of magazines, cultural references, tv shows, and movies glorifying beauty, sexiness and what a woman looks like. They’ve done a thorough job mapping out loads of scenarios of what attracting a mate should look like… and then we drop the ball.

You’ve landed your mate, you've been praised, honored and glorified through the acts of bridal showers, weddings, and baby showers. "You’re glowing, you’re so pretty, congratulations, I’m so happy for you…” Nine months later you’re so large you can’t see your feet. Someone else has to help you and your cankles into cheap shoes a few sizes up and oozing in comfort. We tell you your body will bounce back. Just go to the gym, take the baby for walks in the stroller, watch what you eat, sleep when the baby sleeps, you should be back to yourself within the year.

Very little is said about the dark pink, zebra stripes you end up with all over your belly after birth. Or that your belly is still full as if you’re pregnant for weeks after delivery. There is little discussion on the change of silhouette your motherly body now has. 

She couldn’t sit to eat, to ride in the car, to nurse her baby, for two months postpartum. No one talks about that misery. A family friend reminded her of her less than svelte appearance - “looks like your legs and feet are still really swollen”. “No shit” she thinks, “it’s the middle of August, humid as fuck and I’ve just had the most painful, horrid experience of my life.” 

Nearly a year later, when she realizes this is probably all the ‘bouncing back’ her geriatric, postpartum body will do, it’s time to face the hoard, the carefully collected, fashionable wardrobe she is secretly quite proud of. 

Pants were easy enough -  they fit or they didn't. Too well loved to sell, bag them up to donate. Skirts: this mom bod does not agree with skirts, keep the one especially stellar skirt from Spain. It won’t ever fit again but maybe her daughter will like it when she’s older?

Shoes…”why must I give up this collection?” she asks herself, “I love pairing the perfect shoe with the perfect outfit.” But reality check: “do I even go out anymore? I’m not even working in an office, plus, most no longer fit.”

Her swollen feet, heavier body, age, burden of motherhood, have left her feet a good size or two longer and even a bit wider. “Fuck. Maybe I can sell some of the higher end brands…” Hah, the slim, petite bodied young woman she used to be only wore a 6.5…not many takers in that size. 

Any time friends came over for the next several months, she’d bring out the bag of shoes she couldn't bear to donate, hoping Cinderella would waltz in, they’d fit and she’d give them a second life, in a good fashion forward home. No dice. The baby's nearly two now. “Do I really have to donate these? Fuck. Yes.” She went through the twenty or so pairs one last time, pulled two higher end pairs, for future sentimental self torture, and boxed up the rest to haul to Value Village.

Grateful for the crop tops and high waisted shorts to tuck her belly flap into, she finds herself pregnant again. It was a painful, high risk, geriatric pregnancy that had her in and out of bed several times a day. No chance to stay on top of fitness this time. Between the chaos of keeping an active toddler alive and pain drenched, constant fatigue, it was pretty hopeless. 

Another year later, after the second baby, dark pink stretch marks criss-crossing older, white ones, creating an ugly reminder of the changes women suffer. She’s naked in front of the mirror, assessing her flaws. Weighing herself daily and realizing she isn’t going to get much smaller anytime soon. It’s time to stop the daily self-torture: a wardrobe full of fabulous clothes that are either outrageously small or just not flattering on her almost middle aged, mom bod. 

Several months of sorting, grieving and facing reality, she gifted what she could to friends, sold a couple of key gems, and was forced to donate good quality, carefully collected clothing she treasured and adored. Travel souvenirs, vintage treasure hunting scores, etsy handmade numbers. She sobbed. It hurt. 

Many trash bags and boxes later, she boiled down her wardrobe to only clothes that fit her body today. Her full, round abdomen, that makes her look six months pregnant all the time due to diastasis recti, (a painful, gaping hole, where her toned abs used to be), abdominal muscle separation. Every time her kids put pressure on this gap in her muscles, it feels like she’s been punched, that all of her internal organs are being smashed under a ton of bricks. She got a hernia in her stomach one winter while moving houses. Every day, she wakes up with a back ache. At night she tosses and turns trying to find a position to give some relief to this painful reality of motherhood. 

Lots of fitness and physio experts offer strategies and exercises to heal, correct, fix diastasis recti. She's tried them. She’s trying them. She tries to remember to try them, between trying to remember Kegels to fix and tone other damaged muscle tissue, to trying to remember to brush her teeth and wash her hair regularly.

Thank goodness for pajamas. Warm, comfortable, cozy, they fit. She still grieves her lost wardrobe. She tries to feel good in her oversized, draping replacements. Most from thrift shops as her kids soil them somehow nearly daily, within the first hour of dressing. Maybe when they’re older she’ll have time to exercise, remember her body repairing moves, and buy a fabulous, middle aged wardrobe. “Spain, I’m looking at you. Dublin, you’re next. New York, save me a seat” she daydreams. 

March 26, 2022 23:16

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31 comments

J.C. Lovero
02:47 Apr 10, 2022

Hi Virginia, Such an honest piece. Something that so many people have to deal with. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on the shortlist!

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Virginia Berry
18:31 Apr 10, 2022

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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Kevin Broccoli
16:59 Apr 09, 2022

So many of your descriptions are jolting to me in the best possible way. Anytime I read something I know described in a way that I've never heard before, a little bell goes off in my head and I feel like I'm reading something special. Well done.

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Virginia Berry
18:22 Apr 09, 2022

Thank you, that's awesome!

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Jay Mc Kenzie
09:42 Apr 09, 2022

Congrats Virginia! Having given birth 9 months ago, I can totally relate! When my baby was five months old, a man in a restaurant told my partner he was going to have his work cut out "when that next one arrives! Having two close together is tough. " Needless to say, I was not impressed. And yes, I try on my clothes every couple of months to find out that they still don't fit! Anyway, I enjoyed this read and look forward to reading more from you.

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Virginia Berry
18:25 Apr 09, 2022

People are so insensitive. I'm nearly 40 with a 2 year old and 5 year old, and am often mistaken for their grandmother. Thanks for reading.

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Jay Mc Kenzie
01:27 Apr 10, 2022

I'm 43 and get the same! Xxx

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Sharon Hancock
02:02 Apr 09, 2022

😂 oh the comments from people while you’re pregnant and after…I still have ptsd from that time and my youngest is 17. And yes pajamas are my favorites. I don’t even know why other clothes exist. Love the story! Totally resonated with my experience. Congratulations on the shortlist!

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Virginia Berry
18:27 Apr 09, 2022

Thank you! Glad it resonated with you.

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Philip Ebuluofor
22:21 Apr 08, 2022

Two submissions. One mentioned. Fine work. The last paragraph is expertly done. Keep them coming.

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Virginia Berry
18:29 Apr 09, 2022

Thank you. I don't really know what I'm doing. The last writing I did was academic almost 20 years ago. I've occasionally journaled and am finding that's the voice coming through a bit.

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Philip Ebuluofor
09:22 Apr 12, 2022

Pleasure.

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Philip Ebuluofor
09:08 Apr 17, 2022

My pleasure.

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Felice Noelle
14:57 Apr 08, 2022

Virginia: Hey, girl! Way to go! You just got shortlisted and that's fantastic, a real honor. Congratulations! Maureen

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Virginia Berry
15:38 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you! I'm really excited.

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Felice Noelle
18:50 Apr 07, 2022

Virginia: OMG, can most of us women relate to this! You made this terribly mundane event in our lives authentic with a wry bit of humor. If you are concerned about the grammar and verb tenses, maybe just download a free app Grammarly. It's helped me a lot. I really enjoyed reading this and especially liked the second to last paragraph. So true! job and keep writing. Reedsy is a fun, friendly, though toughly professional platform. Maureen

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Virginia Berry
11:32 Apr 08, 2022

Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you found it relatable. I've just started putting more energy into creative writing. Could you point out the verb tense/grammar issues that caught your eye? Looking to improve. Thank you!

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Felice Noelle
14:34 Apr 08, 2022

Virginia: Believe me, I am no expert, so a grandson turned me on to Grammarly and an app that will read your writing back to you. They were both free and are extremely helpful so you have some idea what your story sounds like to anyone reading it. It's made me very conscious of my habit of loving long, involved sentences....that others probably find boring. Also, I tend to like to write lists, which is also off-putting for many readers. It's all a steep learning curve, but I believe the writers on Reedsy are extremely helpful...just rea...

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Virginia Berry
15:42 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you for this. I appreciate you pointing out some of the areas needing attention. Per your suggestion, I've downloaded Grammarly.

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Felice Noelle
16:19 Apr 08, 2022

Virginia: Have you tried it out yet? I love it, because I have a lot of trouble remembering certain rules....because of the meningitis and other bad grammar habits, I guess. Did you find the app that reads aloud for you? It will even read these stories to you. I will look it up,if you're interested. Maureen

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Virginia Berry
20:36 Apr 08, 2022

Yes, I ran this story through and caught some typos etc. Sounds like a good app., I'm not sure I would use it as often, but Grammarly seems interesting.

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T.M. Kehoe
21:13 Apr 06, 2022

Your perspective surprised me, and I like being surprised by stories. The only suggestion I could add is to edit and clean it up a little bit, fix the grammar, match the tenses. Nicely done!

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Virginia Berry
11:34 Apr 08, 2022

Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad to have surprised you. Could you point out some of the grammar issues you saw? I'm trying to improve as I've only started creative writing this year. Thank you.

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T.M. Kehoe
19:58 Apr 08, 2022

First paragraph “It started with…” — past tense. Second paragraph, “Western societies don’t prepare…” — present tense. Throughout, you slip between past and present tense, which is confusing to the reader. You refer to the narrator as “you,” then “she”. Again, it's confusing, changing voice by slipping in and out of third person. I ran your text through ProWritingAid, and you score pretty well overall. It dinged you for grammar and spelling because it didn’t recognize words like Kegel or Etsy. It had some style suggestions, and suggested red...

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Virginia Berry
18:32 Apr 09, 2022

Thanks for this list. I am going to try to pay more attention to this.

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L.M. Lydon
22:30 Apr 04, 2022

Thank you for your candid, thoughtful points about postpartum reality. I particularly liked "Any time friends came over for the next several months, she’d bring out the bag of shoes she couldn't bear to donate, hoping Cinderella would waltz in, they’d fit and she’d give them a second life, in a good fashion forward home."

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Virginia Berry
11:36 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you for reading. It's a strange relationship we have with clothing and identity. I'm glad you liked that notion.

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Michał Przywara
20:13 Apr 03, 2022

Good story. The stress on the body -- and all the stresses *that* brings to other parts of life -- is well described, and you're right, it doesn't typically get featured anywhere. It's a sad story, but it also seems like there's a bit of a dark line of humour too, with her "trying to remember to try." Very much a coming to terms with her new life, and it looks like it ends on a hopeful note. I also liked the line "Too well loved to sell." I thought that's a great description.

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Virginia Berry
21:25 Apr 03, 2022

Thank you for reading. This is really good feedback. Yes, there is a dark humor in there, I'm glad it came through and hopefully gave you a chuckle or snort.

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Tricia Shulist
16:00 Apr 02, 2022

Interesting concept. I’d never considered the grief of a life changed due to parenthood. Good job of using the wardrobe as the focus of the life-altering changes having children entail. Thanks for this.

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Virginia Berry
19:01 Apr 03, 2022

Thank you for reading and for the nice feedback. Writing is a new venture for me. I'm glad my story was relatable.

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