Get Your Hands Off My Baby Bump
By Glynis Ratcliffe
Photo © seanoriordan/Getty Images
Mar 14, 2018
During my first pregnancy, I was a beacon of light, emanating the glow of pregnancy everywhere I went. I walked around Toronto giving beneficent smiles to onlookers, feeling like Gaia personified. No one that I can remember touched my belly without asking, but I wouldn’t have minded. I was just so thrilled to be pregnant.
Fast forward nearly three years, and I was pregnant again. This time, however, I was experiencing perinatal depression and I wanted to curl into myself and pretend I didn’t even exist. This desire not to be noticed inevitably led to, you guessed it, far more people reaching out to touch my belly as it swelled. I wish I understood that inverse relationship – you know, the less you want something, the more likely it is to happen.
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Part of this was because I worked in a retail job during that time and took public transit to and from work. For some reason, customers think they know you after speaking to you about their needs for 15 minutes, and this can result in an assumed sense of intimacy that isn’t there (at least, not on the side of the retail employee). And everyone knows how “friendly” the people who ride public transit are.
Being the good girl that I was, I refrained from flinching when this happened. I plastered a smile on my face and shrugged my shoulders, as people conveniently asked if it was all right to touch my bump after the fact. I wanted to throttle every person who did it, though, stranger or friend.
Why is the pregnant belly so tempting for people to touch?
I believe most people don’t even realize how violated some expecting mothers may feel when someone touches their belly without permission.
The issue of consent has made its way into our collective consciousness in recent years, as we in western society redefine what women, men, non-binary people and children are required to tolerate. More and more, there is talk of children’s wishes being respected when they say they don’t want to hug a family member. The #metoo movement has been utterly groundbreaking in the way it has shifted the narrative in cases of sexual assault and harassment.
It’s time now to add pregnant women to this paradigm shift. I believe most people don’t even realize how violated some expecting mothers may feel when someone touches their belly without permission. It’s as though people aren’t even seeing the flesh housing that unborn child — they feel as though they’re touching the baby itself.
Imagine your sister-in-law reaching out to put her hand on your stomach while you weren’t pregnant. Would you feel good about that?
Ultimately, every woman is different, and some, like me, are different from pregnancy to pregnancy. Some women may be completely comfortable with people touching their growing bellies, and that’s great. Making sure that the woman whose belly you want to touch is completely comfortable with you doing so, however, is just basic respect.
Do that expecting mother a solid, and ask before you try to feel her baby’s hiccups for yourself. She will likely appreciate it more than you know.