Secrets of a Bride (Feb, 1937)
Secrets of a Bride
by Carol Cameron
A YEAR ago I observed with much interest the trousseau of a bride whose father is a millionaire and whose future husband is the junior member of a successful law firm. Among her costly and extravagantly beautiful things was a night-robe of satin and lace with a tiny nosegay of orange blossoms at the belt and another in the foamy ruffles at the hem. To wear with this was a satin negligee with a ruffled collar of lace and small slippers with sprays of orange blossoms on the toes. I learned later that the ensemble cost several hundreds of dollars and was a gift from the bride’s aunt in Paris, who had been married and divorced three times and still grew misty-eyed at the sight of a girl bride in a cloud of tulle standing at the altar and promising “to love and to cherish until death do us part.”
The other day I met this same young woman returned from a year’s sojourn abroad and while I sat and visited with her in her beautiful hotel suite the maid unpacked her Paris finery and her lovely lingerie and with fascinated eyes I surveyed the frothy, fragrant piles of underthings and felt what a pity it was that the slim and dainty bride of a year ago no longer seemed in keeping with their delicate bloom and daintiness and girlish appeal.
She had grown flabby in her appearance. The graceful lines of her figure were gone; her hair had lost its brilliancy; her face wore an expression of discontent. She smoked nervously and incessantly. “The worst thing that ever happened to me was getting this baby,” she announced peevishly. “I never bargained for that sort of thing when I got married. My figure is a sight. I feel wretched. Not one of my trousseau things even fits me any more.”
It developed in our later conversation that to get even with her husband for what I might term allying himself with the stork against her, Mildred had deliberately allowed herself to go to pieces in her appearance. She felt uncomfortable a large amount of the time because she adhered to a schedule of late rising, naps, nibbling, cocktails and protracted periods of self-pity. She took no exercise. She looked ten years older than she was and twenty years older than the dewy-eyed young creature who wore the white satin and lace symphony on her bridal night and prayed in her heart that her dreams of love might go on forever. As I watched Mildred’s sullen face and untidy grooming, I wondered where the fault lay that the eager and lovely bride of a year ago should have been metamorphosed into this lazy and unhappy woman.
It is easy to say that by one means or another she should have avoided the coming of the most important bird until she had achieved a frame of mind wherein the role of maternity could be faced with equanimity, but knowing Mildred—and there are thousands of Mildreds in this era of woman’s emancipation—I feel safe in saying that she would never have viewed the coming of a child with any degree of delight.
As it happened, Mildred’s husband was desirous of having an heir. What he had not taken into consideration was the change, mental as well as physical, that would take place in his erstwhile slim and light-hearted bride. It annoyed him that Mildred should be so untidy, so lazy, so constantly critical of himself and those about her. He could not feel that he had done her a particularly grave injury in exposing her to the risk of motherhood. He remembered several friends who had waited for small sons and daughters with no outward indications of invalidism, no letting down of their bright spirits. He could not understand why Mildred should have accepted a perfectly normal situation so ungallantly. Nor can I.
There is not a day but that one hears of a young couple whose marital bonds are severed within a few years after marriage. There is almost always a youngster or two whose custody is given over to the mother. I often wonder whether the glamour eventually so ruthlessly destroyed did not begin to lose its fine luster with the coming of those little ones. In other words, maternity is apt to be a high test of one’s real eagerness to keep her husband’s interest and affection. No bride with a strong love for her marital partner will willingly permit herself to become a frump or a whining invalid at a time when romance and bread and butter responsibility are having their first tilt.
Many girls have said to me that the role of a future mother is much more endurable when there are sufficient means to enable one to dress appropriately, to loaf comfortably, to eat what and when one pleases with no distasteful household chores to be attended to and no financial anxiety about the future to cloud one’s mental horizon.
I grant you that there is a degree of truth in the above statement. Most of us yearn for a jewel-case setting even when we are well and quite naturally comforts and small luxuries appear twice as desirable at a time when we desire nothing in the world so much as to be pampered and cherished. But let me assure you that the road to motherhood can be an easy or difficult one according to what you individually make of it, how gallantly you accept it, how winsomely you dress for it, how light-heartedly you tread it, and last but not least how much honest-to-goodness charm and character you possess as a woman.
I’m not setting down in this article any do’s and don’ts of maternity from the angle of science or hygiene. If you take your job seriously you are well informed on the things you should do for the sake of your own good as well as that of the little one whose coming you are awaiting. Your diet, your habits of rest and exercise are things which must be taken into consideration. Nice babies no longer just happen. Most of them are perfectly custom built by the right kind of care and material months before they are born. I’m concerned in this article with keeping you charming and pretty and as graceful as possible at a time when it is so easy to be just the opposite.
Too many women fall into two categories in the approach of motherhood, those who have a general grouch toward the world for the uncomfortable situation in which they find themselves trapped and those others equally intolerable who manifest an annoyingly smugness about their condition. Don’t be either. The prettiest bride I have ever known had a baby the first year of her marriage. No one for months even suspected that she was pregnant. Her husband was never made uncomfortably conscious of her loathing for certain items of food, her changing figure. I asked her how she managed everything so blithely and so efficiently that her hospitality was never diminished and her appearance as a hostess was prettier than I had ever seen it before. What she told me I’m passing on to you in practically her own words.
“When I knew that Jimmy Junior was on the way, I had a recollection of a cousin of mine whose babies always involved the household in an atmosphere of hushed voices and darkened rooms and tears and general discomfort during all the months preceding their arrival. I made up my mind that Jim and I should have no unpleasant memories of the time we were waiting for Junior and as a matter of fact my husband often refers to that period as the nicest time of our married life. It wasn’t always easy, however,” she explained. “The man or woman who said that there is no royal road to motherhood sized up the situation perfectly. I felt wretched at times and it was a real effort to look pretty and act cordially to my family and my guests but I don’t think that Jim ever suspected.”
“Would you mind telling me some of the things you did to manage?” I asked her. “Did you buy special maternity clothes? Did you have a diet?”
“One thing at a time, please,” my friend answered amusedly. “I’ll talk about looks first, since that seems to be mostly on your mind at present. I didn’t have to buy a lot of special clothes because I kept my figure about as it normally was until the last two months. I walked a great deal. I did my own housework and worked in my garden. I kept away from sweets and starches. I saw to it that my internal machinery eliminated properly. All of that accomplished two things. My baby didn’t have an opportunity to be fat and I didn’t either. I went through my regular daily exercises every morning, not strenuously but comfortably, and that kept my body supple and light.
I BATHED twice a day, not in hot water for that would have been weakening, but in warm water with plenty of bath crystals to make me feel pampered and luxurious. I took a cool rather than a cold shower and let the «water patter strongly on my breasts because a Viennese actress once told me that that would keep them firm and rounded. While I planned to nurse my baby I resolved not to ruin their nice appearance by not giving them proper care at the time they needed it. So I wore soft yet supporting brassieres that didn’t permit them to sag a particle yet in no way crowded their natural development.
“Though my skin is normally clear and fresh looking there were times when it developed a decidedly unbecoming pallor and I had to resort to make-up to appear as pink and glowing as I’m accustomed to. Jim hates rouge so I had to be particularly clever in not making any use of it too obvious. I finally compromised by putting just a dab on my ear tips, because pale ears are unattractive, and wearing a brighter shade of powder.
“There were times when my hair looked dull and faded and then I used a brightening rinse and put lots of brilliantine or vaseline hair tonic on the hair ends. I brushed it regularly every night and rubbed a wee bit of oil occasionally into my scalp to insure its well-being for the time ahead when its natural lime store would be depleted. Your hair and finger-nails and teeth are all robbed during pregnancy of their lime content in order to supply the baby’s needs. That’s why diet and local care are so essential for the preservation of their health which incidentally means their good looks. I used warm olive oil on my finger-nails once or twice a week and always rubbed in a cuticle cream at night. I went to my dentist early in my pregnancy and had my teeth carefully looked over. Then I rinsed my mouth the last thing every night with milk of magnesia to kill any lurking mouth acidity. As a result my teeth are all with me,” she added, her eyes twinkling.
“Now, for the glamour side of my condition, which I’ll have to admit wasn’t always easy to put across. First of all I determined that the worst that could happen to me would be occasional discomfort. I battled morning sickness with one or two salt crackers before I even sat up in bed. Jim never saw me in the mornings in anything but washable little cotton frocks as cute and attractive as I could buy. My hair was prettily arranged. There was always a clean, sweet fragrance about me, like lavender or lilac, never a strong, musky one. I was more careful than ever before about deodorants and depilatories and things like that.
ONLY in the evening when we were by ourselves did I permit my condition to bring out what I might term the Camille in me. Then I lay on our davenport wearing one of my several trousseau negligees and tried to appear as fragile and orchidaceous as possible. There’s no point, you know, in being too briskly efficient as a wife, but it’s all in knowing just when to wear the dear little frail woman role. My negligees were chiffon and laundered perfectly. The evenings that we had guests I wore my prettiest frocks and when I felt a bit squeamish as a result of their tobacco smoke, I dashed to the bedroom window and took a dozen breaths of clear, cold, refreshing night air. That always set me right again.
“The last two months I wore a very good maternity corset because it gave my figure comfortable support and certainly added to its trim appearance. I found several dainty maternity dresses, not nearly as expensive as one elegant one, and I wore a long cape over them when we went out. When hot weather arrived I had two swagger coats of white sharkskin and a white silk beret that was a joy because it could be popped in the wash basin.
“I found flat-heeled slippers much more comfortable than the spiked heel kind I had been wearing. The modern low-heeled sandal is a blessing to the prospective mother because it gives her heavy body scientific support and makes her carriage more graceful. For vanity’s sake I tinted my toe-nails,” she announced laughingly, “and when I could afford it I had a pedicure because nothing in the world is so soothing as a foot massage. I wanted my baby to have a pretty mother, you see, and besides I owed it to Jim not to deprive him of a good-looking wife even for such a worthy cause as carrying on the torch of civilization. So I did a number of things that might be interpreted as extravagant, but I happen to be foolishly in love with my husband and I intended to keep his feeling for me as eager as it was in the beginning.”