Jane Birkin and babies(Sarah Ann Noel is a good friend and an exceptional writer and mother. Our conversations about motherhood, style, and life, often take me to another world. Sarah is one of those rare gems of equal parts smarts, beauty, compassion, and depth. I'm glad to call her a friend, and I'm super excited she agreed to share a bit on here too. Sarah is also working on her first book!! Thanks for contributing lady!)
In week three of motherhood, between nursing battles and a sore body, sleepless nights and drowsy days, plus the constant consumption of an unbelievable calorie count, I can tell you without shame that it would have taken the jaws of life to peel my yoga pants from my body. The bra, pants, and hair I went to bed with were the bra, pants, and hair I went through the next day with; and on went the cycle until some kind person stopped by and offered to hold my daughter while whispering (with a hint in their voice, maybe?), “No, I’ll hold her. You, well, you go take a shower or something.”
Of course, these are the dreamy days of early motherhood, when there’s no real line between sleep and awake, and there doesn’t have to be so long as that little baby is tucked into your arm, safe and happy and warm. Sartorial presentation is the last thing on a new mommy’s mind and, in fact, you’re lucky to have a shirt on, so why worry if it’s clean and pressed?
But as my first days of motherhood turned into my first weeks of motherhood, and then as those passed into my first months of motherhood; while I wondered what parts of my body would actually fit snuggly back into place and which were forever condemned to the forces of gravity; while we found our way into a schedule and I battled my hormones for my soul back, I started to understand that temptation of the mom jean culture. (And I get that mom jeans are, like, cool now; so “mom jeans” is referring to that 80s mom-butt mentality more than the denim itself.) Once your days are consumed by a little person, you start to realize that some things have to go. Maybe it’s eating, maybe it’s showering, maybe it’s exercising. Maybe it’s your work or your friends or the cleaning. But I think probably, for a lot of mothers, the thing that is the hardest to recover is style.
read more from Sarah after the break.
Who has time for style? Certainly me, mother of a one-month-old didn’t. And guess what: Now I’m a mother of two daughters, ages four and two. Two blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauties serve as my personal alarm clock each morning, apparently themselves wakened by their ravenous hunger. I half-remember sliding into sweatpants every day and padding into the nursery to change a diaper and then out to the kitchen to boil some water for oatmeal and—heaven help me—coffee! Somewhere between the first meal of the day and the first snack of the day (that’s not actually a lot of time that elapses in there, just so you know), I become coherent enough to wash my face, brush my teeth, and pull on clothes. For a long, long time, the ensemble was the same jeans (the only ones that fit), a gray sweatshirt, my wedding rings, and a ponytail. This was what I had the time and grace to pull together, and I resolved myself to the dreaded momiform in the name of my current vocation: stay-at-home mom.
And then one day, I was looking at myself in the mirror, and I didn’t feel like the reflection was me. I didn’t feel like I looked my happiest, healthiest self. Behind the bags under my eyes and the scraggly hair somehow still recuperating from my last pregnancy, it was like the light in my face wasn’t the same. Something was unrecognizable beyond the signs of being a tired mommy of young kids. I wasn’t me. For awhile, I comforted myself with thoughts of self-sacrifice and serving my family, because I certainly feel called to do that. But I wondered what I might be sacrificing to be doing that as someone who wasn’t me. If I wasn’t me, was I giving them my best?
I can conjure up images of my mother in a second—flashes of who she was when I was a child. I remember the sweaters she used to wear and how she always had fancy earrings to match even a casual outfit. I remember her collection of suede coats, and how she was always drawn to rustic touches like fringe and sheepskin. I remember the way her neck smelled when I hugged her and how her pretty antiqued wedding rings never left her finger and always turned a little bit to the side. My mom would tell you that she isn’t a fancy lady; butI can see that she certainly possess a style that is inherently her. She carries herself in a distinct way. She expresses her tastes decidedly and confidently. How, I wondered, was I creating this image for my daughters? Would they so easily recall the smell of my perfume or the sound of boots on the sidewalk or colors from their upbringing that to them screamed, “Mom!” Certainly not if I wasn’t allowing that part of myself to shine through.
I’m not so shallow that I hope the messages I send my daughters are only ones of external beauty and fashion sense. I want to daily teach them grace and kindness and bravery, and the way to do that is to live it. But what I was searching for was an illustration of that, something that they may not even piece together until they were older. Like how I chose to live comfortably in my new somewhat-differently shaped body by finding sihoulettes that suited me and became part of me. Or how I wanted to make a difference in the world and tried to purchase pieces from makers who fairly created beautiful clothing. Or that I was always up for an adventure and so I dressed simply and comfortably and in a way that felt ready for anything.
When we are mothers, we do sacrifice ourselves to our families. Some of that comes in service to them and in the things we do. But a lot of it lies simply in who we are, and we agree to be open and honest and whole before these little people who are watching us to learn how to live. It’s still a blur making the transition from sweatpants to real clothes every morning. Some days there’s only time for hair or makeup, not both. But I’ve learned that coming back to myself is a real gift to my girls, and to cultivate my style is a presentation of identity to them. I make the time to be me so that I live the fullest depiction of who I am, hoping that it is a legacy for them and the means by which they learn to be fully themselves as well.