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When she announced the birth of her third child, TODAY's own Jenna Bush Hager posted pictures of her whole beautiful family meeting baby Henry Harold "Hal" Hager on Instagram. Daughters Mila and Poppy dressed up to meet their baby brother, whom they call "Hal pal," in classic sundresses, and Jenna glowed in jeans and blouses for the photos.
How does a woman who just gave birth wear jeans, you ask? (And many asked on social media.) Perhaps you are not acquainted with the miracle that is maternity jeans.
As a veteran (and lucky) mom of four pregnancies and births, I am the first to say that pregnancy and postpartum were not all butterflies and rainbows for me. My body loves to gain weight when I am pregnant — like, a LOT — no matter how much I suffered from what we call "morning sickness." My feet swelled, my heart raced, I could not sleep because no position felt comfortable. By the end of each pregnancy, I looked, as my now 17-year-old firstborn would say, as if someone tried to draw a portrait of me from memory with their eyes closed.
And those are just the indignities of pregnancy that are appropriate to talk about in polite company.
But one big blessing of my pregnancies — aside from, you know, the actual babies that resulted — was the moment when I could pull up a pair of gloriously elastic belly-paneled maternity jeans for the first time. In my first pregnancy, this moment came later. My body was not yet made of Silly Putty and still had some semblance of youthful elasticity, so I didn't gain a "bump," as they call it, until my second trimester. In subsequent pregnancies, I had the jeans laid out and ready to go as soon as I returned home from the first happy ultrasound.
I think I actually audibly sighed with happiness when I put them back on each pregnancy. I was free to swell and waddle in relatively less discomfort again.
Why maternity jeans are so great
What makes maternity jeans a woman's best friend? After decades of shoving our bodies into their more form-fitting and unforgiving versions, knowing we might sport angry red dents on our waists when we released them from their denim cages later, maternity jeans are a revelation. They provide the structured and supportive qualities jeans give to our legs and can make a good top look smart and put together, but instead of a button and zip fly, they are secured by a big old band of soft, stretchy goodness that extends over our tummies and gently sits under our bra lines.
You don't have to rock the expensive maternity jeans Meghan, Duchess of Sussex favored during her pregnancy to feel like royalty. My favorites for the ten years I was pregnant or had a newborn were from the Gap, Old Navy, and Target. Amazon sells maternity jeans in every price range, but one of their highest rated maternity jeans is a straight leg style from Motherhood Maternity that sells for under $30.
Really, once you know maternity jeans exist in the world, the question is why you would ever go back to the other kind?
In fact, many women don't. At least, not at first. I wore them for months and months after I gave birth — probably close to a year — along with my maternity bras. I was not alone. At playgroups and moms' nights out, my friends and I would surreptitiously lift the hems of our tops and reveal the tell-tale panel fabric to each other and giggle like we were getting away with something. We weren't dumb; we were going to wear those jeans until our postpartum bellies shrank down and threatened to make those jeans drop off our legs by themselves.
Even the former Kate Middleton stumped royals-watchers when she was photographed wearing maternity jeans on an outing with Prince George shortly after the birth of Princess Charlotte. "The confusion stemmed from Kate’s cleverly disguised waistband," explained People magazine. Moms, Kate is clearly One of Us.
So just how fantastic are maternity jeans, you ask? My youngest child is starting second grade in a few weeks. I still have a pair in my closet, just in case.
Here are 4 maternity jean favorites of TODAY editorial staffers:
"I’m OBSESSED with these Good American maternity jeans. I’m actually wearing them now!" - Jovanna Billington, Senior Producer, pregnant with her first.
"I loved any of these "secret panel" ones from Motherhood Maternity." - Terri Peters, TODAY Parents Contributor & TODAY Parenting Team Editor, mom of two.
"I [am] so glad to hear I can continue to wear these postpartum! As soon as I put them on, I was like, wait, why aren’t we all wearing these ALL THE TIME? These have been my favorite." - Gabrielle Frank, TODAY Health Editor, pregnant with her first.
"These were a lifesaver during pregnancy. They are totally worth the price tag, I wore them every day and felt like a somewhat normal human being!" - Dina Rayzman, TODAY Video Producer, new mom.