MIND ON THE RUN
Motherhood’s Haute Couture*
By Bonnie Kovatch Martin with commentary by
Bonnie Kovatch Martin is a health and physical education teacher in Leesburg, VA. She is the mother of 4-year-old Miles and 2-year-old Mary Martin, and is a card-carrying member of the Bad Ass Breastfeeding “Guild.”
*Haute Couture: High-end, trend-setting fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high-quality, expensive fabric with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most capable sewers, often using time-consuming techniques.
Please excuse all the French, but it is the “language of love,” and this is about the love and sacrifices of mothers everywhere!
(Musical accompaniment: Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy, French composer (1871-1922) who wrote some of the most memorable and evocative music in the English language — rather, in the French language — rather, music is its own language. In this story, the music says as much, or more, than the words.)
“Even though our lives wander, our memories remain in one place.”
— French author Marcel Proust in “Remembrance of Things Past”
Stairway to Lost Time
Marcel Proust and Claude Debussy were innovators in evoking subconscious memories of the past. The experiences of new motherhood are buried deeply in the psyche due to absence of regenerative sleep, anticipatory anxiety, “baby blues,” and, frequently, frank postpartum depression. The moon may be a mother’s only companion during the obligatory nighttime feedings of an infant, and the clothing of pregnancy and of breast or bottle feeding may be her only contact with the world’s artistic beauty.
Bonnie Kovatch Martin recently shared a mundane experience which evoked profound memories of lost time which at first seemed “long ago and far away”:
Can we talk about clothes for a minute?
This weekend I got a bin of nursing clothes down from the attic to give to a friend who just had a baby. Nursing tanks, sweatshirts, dresses, bras, and whatever other merchandise is now marketable to make breastfeeding easy and convenient — 🙄. As I emptied the bin I realized that I could now refill it with all of the postpartum clothes that I no longer needed… you know, the mini wardrobe you need after having a baby until your “real” clothes fit again.
These clothes were certainly not purchased at a boutique on the Champs-Elysees in Paris — more likely at the local Target; they were selected with breastfeeding in mind and practicality only. I will attest that there were no overriding themes or hidden agendas in the design. Very simple — no high fashion, no haute couture.
In my case, it’s always been my wardrobe for an entire year postpartum. I feel like I’m always buying clothes, yet still can’t find anything to wear, and then it kind of hit me. In the past 5 years I’ve cycled through ”real “ clothes, to maternity clothes, to nursing clothes, to postpartum clothes, and back to real clothes again. Twice. It was a good excuse to finally go through my closet and clean out what I haven’t worn in a while.
And while I was filling the bin with postpartum clothes that I no longer needed, the emotions came flowing. I could remember different occasions where I’d worn each article of clothing, also remembering how sleep deprived I’d been on that occasion — my puffy eyes, headache, and hopeless feeling that this stage of life would never be over. In those moments the season felt like an E-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y. Miles will be 4 at the end of the month, and I cannot believe that this season has literally been only 5 years of my life. That’s nothing! And it’s a pretty harsh reminder that this season of toddlerhood will also pass quickly, followed by more fleeting seasons.
Was it the sight of the clothes or the feel — or was it the baby scent from the clothes that released the profusion of apparently submerged memories? Scientific evidence verifies that women, in particular pregnant and new mothers, have a keener sense of smell than the rest of us — which can deeply affect the emotions. I suspect this compensates for the blunting of sight, hearing, and touch produced by overuse of these senses in the months after delivery (“postpartum brain fog”).
So back up to the attic these clothes will go most likely to never be seen again, but I will not be the same person as before I wore them. And should God ever decide to show his sense of humor (even though I will not be laughing), they will be there waiting — 💜.
These years of “rapid cycling” represent the “Bon Epoch” or golden age of a mother’s lifetime. Someday, years from now, it will be gratifying and helpful (in the grand scheme of things) to behold the clothes again and rekindle the same memories — memories that by nature’s cruel hand cannot be shared directly with the beloved infants who created them. Immutable memories only shared at that time with the moon!
“Memory nourishes the heart, and grief abates.”
— Remembrance of Things Past