02/04/2013 04:55 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2013

The Perils of Getting Dressed in the Morning: Maternity Edition

So here's the thing: I'm such a control freak, and generally so good at following directions, that when my doctor advised me to gain between 25 and 35 pounds over the course of my pregnancy I figured, no problem. I assumed -- erroneously, of course -- that when people packed on 60, it was simply because they had finally taken themselves off the calorie-control leash, and were maybe eating with just too much abandon. Well, I was wrong.

Here's the thing nobody tells you about pregnancy: You pick a card from a deck, and that's your fate. Thanks to a pesky little hormone called Relaxin -- which triggers your body to expand for le bebe -- your body is pretty much going to do what it wants, with little input from you. I don't think I've been eating much more than my pre-pregnancy fare (I'm not even particularly famished), and I still work out three to four times per week, but I've now reached and surpassed that 35-pound mile marker. With about 10 weeks to go. (My husband and I had the brilliant idea to invest in a Withings Digital Scale -- when he hops on now, it asks him to identify whether he's Rob or Elise.)

Emotionally, I hadn't prepared for how weird it would be to watch myself balloon. I can get behind my stomach -- I'm kind of into it now, particularly since I can watch our growing son maneuver himself around. But my burgeoning upper thighs (which have, ummm, begun to CHAFE!) and growing butt are less... appealing. I'm sure I'll get back to my normal size in time, but I won't be bouncing back. I wanted to bounce back. As sick as it sounds, it's more difficult than I would have thought to not be "perfect" at this pregnancy thing.

And dressing a foreign body -- bump aside -- is a whole 'nother adventure in imperfection, and subterfuge. One of my other pre-pregnancy preconceptions was that I might be able to get through this without buying much more than a pair or two of maternity jeans. False. (Actually, I had every intention of splurging on some items from Hatch, but everything was so back-ordered there ceased to be a point since I'd never work off those price-points through cost-per-wear.)

Maternity t-shirts of every variation (primarily from Shade Clothing and Gap) have been the saving grace of my wardrobe. You can do a lot with the blazers and cardigans that you already own, but my blouses aren't long enough anymore to look even remotely appropriate. (Hello crop top!) Plus, maternity-specific shirts are flattering thanks to well-placed, subtle ruching along the side. They tuck in under your boobs and then cover your bump, so it's clear that you've got a baby in there, rather than too many burritos. Know what's not flattering? Blouse-y tunic tops -- unless your legs look great in leggings (mine do not). In my experience, they're a fast track to looking large.

I've also surprised myself by buying maternity dresses. I have some maxi versions in my closet that work just fine (Rachel Pally's are tops, in my opinion), but prepare yourself for the fact that they're going to glance off your stomach and head straight down -- i.e., when I wear non-maternity maxi dresses I feel comfortable, but look incredibly deep from the side. Like I'm wearing a petticoat around my waist. You can mitigate this by layering on a fitted sweater or shirt, but ultimately it seemed worth it to get a couple of pregnancy-specific dresses (Shade Clothing, Asos), since they come with a built-in tummy pouch that is a bit more body-conscious and flattering. Another thing I've learned: Besides ever-crucial length, you want clothing that enlists as little fabric as possible so as to not add unnecessary bulk.

Another boon? Busting out some of my more fashion-forward accessories, because fashion-forward clothing just doesn't really fly when you're pregnant. Beatrice Valenzuela booties just make me feel cooler, even when I'm dressed like a dork, and a happy jumble of necklaces brings eyes up toward my face. Then there are a whole 'nother host of styling tricks that have helped tremendously: cuffed, pushed-up sleeves, popped blazer collars, artfully tied scarves, ring-laden fingers. They're all just reminders to myself throughout the day that I used to be pretty decent at getting dressed.

All moaning and groaning aside, there are some huge sartorial upsides to pregnancy -- namely, the hosts of eensy patterned onesies I am itching to buy. And surely, the poor joy of swaddling this little guy in stripes and dots is worth some bulky thighs.