And so it begins. We just made it over the 12-week mark with pregnancy number two, and I tell people this. People say they are happy for me. Then, they gleefully describe those telltale pregnancy signs that they noticed in the last few weeks: my belly protruding, my face “filling out,” my frequent donning of stretch pants.

They are right, of course.

I found it especially hard with this second one to hide the signs. It seems, upon having been pregnant once already, the general sentiment of my abs is, “We’re out! See you in two years. Maybe.”

With everything being okay, health-wise so far, it’s easy for me to laugh at the comments. No big deal if people suspected. It’s my second, so I know that to some degree, someday, the baby will live on the outside, will sleep through the night, and will be giving me my body and personality back. I’m much less sensitive this go-round. I’m proud of the “filled out” various body parts that will be discussed with me on a daily basis for the next few months.

Whereas last time, I was shy and secretive for as long as I could be, this time I show off the rib-high elastic waistband currently holding up my jeans. One co-worker even says she’s jealous of the ingenious contraption.

All of that said, it is still a challenge to dress during that stage of “Is she or isn’t she?” Even now, when I’m no longer trying to hide the fact that I’m carrying a little one, I’m not totally looking the part. My jeans don’t button up, but my maternity jeans are still saggy. My stretch pants are working overtime, and each day brings a new blouse that won’t button up.

In an attempt to feel happy, and not frustrated about my wardrobe (because really, there are so many other things to be frustrated about, i.e. not eating cold cuts), I’ve compiled a list of my 5 best tips to help anyone getting dressed during this awkward in-between time.

Anchor It with Shoes

This is a good time to enjoy your shoes before your feet get too swollen or sore! Start planning with your shoes as the anchor and work your way up. Choosing shoes you love first takes the mental pressure off deciding what to wear, and makes it less stressful to find something that works up top. I’ve been pairing my knee-high black riding boots with black tights, and then any flowy asset-covering top that’s clean. Easy and polished!

Pair Opposite Categories

If you’re most comfortable in flowy, flowery tops, pair them with structured blazers. Feeling like a close-fitting T? Put your softest long cardigan or open kimono on top. This creates harmony and balance, a welcome sentiment, no matter how your hormones are acting.

Play with Style & Color

Comb your closet for overlooked items that will fit. Having a rapidly changing bod is a good mental excuse to try out some more daring looks. I tend to favor urban neutrals, but last night I found a preppy cobalt blue Lands End polo that I bought on sale and never wore. It’s loose-fitting so it still works. Today I buttoned the collar all the way up, added a statement necklace, paired it with black maternity jeans and white sneakers, and got a ton of compliments. The color brightens up my skin tone, and the preppier style is something I plan to do more of, even after pregnancy.

Accessories are Not Optional

I tend to take everything too seriously. Even accessories. They are supposed to be fun! I like to use this time when some of my t-shirts pull in a funky way, or I’m forced to choose items from my husband’s drawer until we locate the old “maternity” box, to take a good hard look at my scarf collection. A bright satin scarf, tied loosely in the back, and draping the front, works wonders over anything. Why don’t I do this more in my “normal” life?

Dress How You Want to Feel

I always think comfort should come first, pregnant or not, but when it comes to the early days of nausea, mood swings, and that oh-so-disgusting metallic taste in your mouth, it’s easy to want to hide in whatever shapeless, dark thing you can find. Instead, opt for clothes that have a mood-lifting effect, either from softness, comfort, color, or even memories. When I’m pregnant I tend to reach for t-shirts that my husband or I bought on vacations. My favorite is a gray T with a bear print and the word “Yosemite.” It looks equally good with pajama pants or jeans a blazer, and it always reminds me of the amazing trip we took.