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Feeling the Pinch: Time to (Sigh) Start Exploring Maternity Clothes

It's early in the second trimester, and things are calm. Actually, it feels like the lull before the storm -- the nausea and extreme fatigue are gone, but I'm not showing or feeling anything yet. I know I should be relaxing and enjoying the quiet, but I can't help feeling restless. Shouldn't something be happening? Of course I know plenty is going on in there, but from the outside it feels like a whole lot of nothing.

With no major aches or pains to worry about, and now that I finally have enough energy to function like a semi-normal person, I've shifted my attention to a more pressing problem: my wardrobe. My regular clothes still fit (pretty much) and my jeans still button, but nothing looks cute as it did a few months ago. I'm beginning to get those icky red creases on my stomach when I sit down for too long, and the first thing I do after E goes to bed is change into yoga pants or anything with a drawstring. My bras, which fit perfectly just a week ago, now mysteriously start shrinking around 4 in the afternoon. Last time, I made it to 25 weeks before I made the switch, but this time it's looking like my days are numbered. Is it time to make the dreaded leap to maternity wear?

Even though mom-to-be fashion has come a long way, I still shudder at the thought of having to shop in maternity stores. Some of that stuff is downright condescending. Shouldn't it be possible in this day and age to construct a maternity dress with no bows, no empire waist, and that doesn't make you look like a bloated version of Sponge Bob? Buying clothing designed specifically for pregnant women can also get expensive -- those maternity designers know they've got you between a rock and a hard place, and their price tags prove it.

Luckily, fashion is on my side this time around, since the tunic-and-legging craze seems to still be happening. Some outfits in my closet can stick around a while longer. I'm a jeans girl, though -- jeans, cute tops and flats are my uniform. I've never been one to wear tent dresses or sweatpants "just because they're comfortable." I'm a firm believer in looking good to feel good, and pregnancy is no excuse to ditch that rule. Some mascara, a little lip gloss, and a great pair of jeans go a long way, even on days when you're feeling anything but fabulous. And let's face it: being pregnant means there are going to be a lot of those days.

So I guess I'll need to invest in a pair of maternity jeans pretty soon. But what else should I be incorporating into my pregnant wardrobe? Those cute, flirty dresses I wore the first time around aren't going to cut it when I'm climbing equipment on the playground, rolling around in the grass at the park, or playing with blocks on the floor during playdates.

I need a fun, functional and inexpensive collection of maternity essentials. I'm determined to look anywhere but maternity stores (until it becomes absolutely necessary, of course.) What are the early pregnancy staples you couldn't live without? Comfort is a priority -- I don't want to squeeze or pinch poor little #2 unnecessarily, and I spend most of my time moving around. But style is important too, and while I'm never fully comfortable with what I see in the mirror while I'm pregnant, I'm hoping to find something that's a little bit flattering. Tell me what your go-to favorites are!

Visit Jenny's personal blog Karma, Continued.