At one point, there were 17 dresses in the fitting room. I tried the ruffle thing, experimented with something ruched and silently sobbed over at least a dozen other tricks and tips I picked up while watching "What Not To Wear."
The nerve of my husband's cousin for planning his wedding five weeks after I give birth. Don't you think my body image should have been a factor when they picked the date for this big affair?
But whether I like it or not, the big day is Friday and I doubt the bride will be pleased if I show up in sweatpants. (Seriously, does anyone have any tips for dressing them up?)
So I journeyed in the snow to Woodbridge Mall on Saturday, hitting up every department store in search of whatever style would make me appear least pregnant. Can you imagine the horror if some distant in-law approaches with the question of "so when's this baby due?"
My daughter Erin was delighted by the idea of shopping with Mom. "Fashion show!" she bellowed before I even slipped into dress number one. But the pain, disappointment and utter horror that followed was something that no one saw coming.
"But I'm a size six, really," I told my husband, who was lovingly fetching bigger sizes and styles for me each time I tossed something over the door - all while juggling and feeding baby Gorman in the obligatory men's waiting room.
And there it was: the tell-tale sign of all of that ice cream I ate in month seven - a size 14 silk-satin number that was literally my last shot.
"That's the biggest one," Pat said, as kindly as he could.
The tears immediately started streaming. Before I could even slip this horrible sized-all-wrong frock over one boob, my arm fat was flying, the after-baby pouch was clearly visible and the zipper didn't make it over my back cleavage. Believe me, my three-year-old tried.
"How could women's clothing be sized so unevenly?" I protested, blaming the baby fat on anyone else but myself.
"Jess, you just had a baby," Pat countered. "Who cares about a dress, look at the miracle you just brought into this world."
How could he be so insensitive? Doesn't he know there's only so much control-top pantyhose can do for my self-esteem?
So I basically gave up.
"I'll stay home," I said, literally giving in to all of those stupid ready-to-wear designers who obviously have never had children. Or never had to go to a wedding one month after having a C-section. Ever.
But on the way out of the store, Erin gravitated toward a rack full of purple chiffon.
"Don't touch," I scolded, eyeing the BCBG hangtags and remembering her chocolate-cookie fingers. "Those are really expensive dresses."
And then I felt it as I tugged it out of her hand: Beautiful, soft, silky satin - for 50 percent off.
"Get this one," Erin said, spinning through the rack, arms wide open, her chubby fingers touching every magical thread. Back to the fitting room, maybe this could actually work.
And it did. Somewhere, in the otherwise skinny world of fashion, someone actually designed a somewhat fashionable dress - with sleeves! It was flowy, forgiving and even a little Kardashian-esque. (Super chic, but still big enough for girls with junk in their trunks.)
Finally, I felt confident enough to give Erin her fashion show. I ducked out of the dressing room, gave a little twirl and her face lit up.
"Mommy, you're beeeeautiful!" she shouted.
Now the tears really started flowing, but it was only because I felt so good. I'm the one who wipes her butt, so she has to love me, but she looked at me the same way she looked at Cinderella when we took her to Disney World last year.
"Purple makes you pretty," she said.
And I sobbed even harder as I changed back into my frumpy sweats. It simply amazed me how a toddler could see beyond my flabby exterior and make me feel so genuinely gorgeous.
If only Lord & Taylor had an Erin in every department, the fashion world would be a much happier place.