Scenario: You are standing in line at the grocery store. Okay, more like slumping in line in all your pregnant glory wishing for the line to move faster because it’s been 15 minutes since you last peed and you aren’t sure you can hold it much longer… The person behind you notices you are pregnant. Conversation goes something like “Oh, wow, when are you due?” “Insert date here” “You’re sooo big. Do you know what you are having?” “Insert sex here” “Is it your first?” “Insert answer” “Insert stranger story about either their own children or someone they know”… at this point they think they have gotten to know you. This is when it happens. The worst. As a new mom you won’t even know it at first, but you learn to recognize it. The stranger gets “the look” – the I-love-babies-and-have-no-respect-for-personal-boundaries look- Then they touch you. They place their hand on your belly and try to feel your baby kicking.
This situation happens a lot. I would venture to guess at least once to every pregnant women out there. I know it sounds really nice that this stranger wants to talk to you about your pending arrival, and it really is great when strangers can chat rather than just ignoring each other, but there are a couple issues I have with this kind of scenario.
First, you don’t know me well enough to know that when you comment about how “big” I am that it will be well-received. Many of my girlfriends who were pregnant over the years felt fat, ugly, uncomfortable, and generally had a bad body image. Telling them how “big” they look doesn’t go over well, and although I never saw any of them cry about it, I have a good self-image when I am pregnant and I even have days when telling me how large I am hits a nerve in my eye and this strange liquid seeps out. So don’t go telling random people how “big” they are. We know how big we are. Trust me. We can’t see our toes, we can’t fit behind the steering wheel very well, and we hardly fit our husbands giant t-shirts.. we are well aware that we are huge and it is probably best to leave the size commentary to people who know us…
Second, why the hell is my pregnant body public property? In fact, newborns often have strangers trying to touch them as well. I don’t know about your personal habits, obviously, you are a stranger. However, I am willing to guess you don’t go up to random non-pregnant women and touch their bellies, or to random 6 year olds and tickle their cheeks… so what makes you think it is okay to touch my pregnant belly or my newborn? This doesn’t apply to close friends and family of course. I have a history with you, probably hugged you, cried on your shoulder, maybe even vomited on you at some point… we have a level of intimacy that no longer requires permission to feel my pregnant belly. But you, stranger, you haven’t put in the time or energy to have that kind of access. My belly, my baby, my personal space. Stay out of it!
If you are interested in touching my belly, ask permission. If I say no, don’t get offended. It isn’t that I don’t like you… probably… but I don’t want everyone’s hands all over me. If I was cool with random strangers rubbing their hands on me I would be in a much more provocative line of work making significantly better money than I do now. Talk to me about the baby. Tell me how good I look, and not how good I look for my size, just that I look healthy and well. That is what pregnant people want to hear.
And we really want you to know that a big, round, wiggly, pregnant belly is not an open sign.