Belly psychosis

As my pregnancy progresses, my belly grows larger.

As my belly grows larger, more people start to notice that I am pregnant.

The more people know that I'm pregnant the more people touch me.

And it's driving me crazy.

It seems to me that most pregnant women have the same problem with unwelcome touching. For whatever reason, the pregnant belly attracts people. Strangers feel comfortable giving your tummy a little pat. Hands of friends and acquaintances just automatically reach out when they see that life-giving bulge. People go so far as to bend over and kiss your stomach, talk to it, even get frisky with both hands.

I admit right here and now that I have been guilty of reaching out and touching a friend's pregnant belly without asking first if it would be all right (but I have never done this to a stranger. Nor have I gone farther than a little belly pat). I understand that there is something magical about witnessing a pregnant woman for many people, especially if you have never experienced it for yourself. It really is an awe-inspiring thing to know that there is a little person living and growing underneath someone's skin. It puts me in awe every day when I look down and see my own baby's progress through the size of my stomach.

When I was pregnant with Sydney it didn't bother me all that much if people patted my belly. I was never accosted by a stranger or by anyone in an inappropriate way. Mostly just people at church or children or students on my track team felt ok touching my belly for a few moments and that was ok. I never flinched when my husband rested his hands on my stomach or placed his ear right on it.

This time around is different for me. It's probably because of the nature of this pregnancy and how in the beginning, from week-to-week, I was never sure how long I would stay pregnant or if this baby would make it. It's probably because I've had multiple miscarriages. For whatever reason, I physically recoil when anyone tries to touch me (except my husband, but even then if he concentrates too long on my abdominal area if I'm not ready for it I get a bit uncomfortable). I notice a lot more when people are looking at my stomach and if I see someone coming toward me with their hands out I instinctively back away and cover myself. I get very upset – and even though it makes me feel tremendously guilty – if someone does manage to touch me and then senses that it bothered me and actually says something, I tell them that I prefer not to be touched. And then? I usually have to go cry somewhere.

It's awful. I even feel like I'm being mean for writing any of this in a public forum.

And yet? I think that people need to be more considerate of a pregnant woman in this way. You don't know what her pregnancy has been like. You don't know if she has psychological issues attached to her baby bump (as I do). You don't know if she's had miscarriages, if it would embarrass her if you point out that you can see her belly button sticking out through her shirt, or if she's just a private person and would rather not be touched in such an intimate way without permission.

I'm not trying to turn this into a PSA, but honestly? It hurts my feelings when someone tells me how "big" I look for 22 weeks and that I look like I'm carrying twins and then just goes "la-ti-dah" and skips on with their day. It frightens me when someone reaches out to grab my stomach without warning or permission. Even though it totally goes against my normally very "open" and "willing-to-share" personality. It has taken me off guard.

Maybe someone else feels the same way?

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13 thoughts on “Belly psychosis

  1. Amy --- Just A Titch says:

    I’ve never been pregnant, but seriously? I always ask, gesture, look for confirmation that it’s okay, etc. before I would ever touch someone’s belly. I think it’s so weird and rude to do that. Also, I feel the same about the weird-ass questions people ask pregnant women. But that’s another story.

    Still, I can’t lie: I bet you’re adorable preggo and I’d want to pet your cute little belly!

  2. J. says:

    I’m not a belly-toucher (except when there was a kid in my own belly I would touch my own belly), and don’t look friendly enough in public that strangers wanted to touch when I was pregnant.

    But someone said this once: if someone reaches out and touches your belly, just reach back and touch theirs. Odd and inappropriate? Perhaps, but maybe they’ll get the message.

  3. Ritzy says:

    I have a steadfast rule: I see a pregnant person and always say, “you look great!” And I never touch.

  4. Ashley says:

    People are incredibly thoughtless when it comes to pregnant women. I never really minded people touching my belly (but I never really had strangers do it, either), but the comments you get are ridiculous! You would never tell a non-pregnant woman that she looks fat, so why is it okay to say it to a hormonal pregnant one? I showed early and got HUGE with both pregnancies, so I got all kinds of “Are you sure it’s not twins?” and “You’ll never make it to your due date!” comments and it got OLD.

    Anyway, my point is THEY are the asshats, not you. You have every right to keep your belly to yourself and be offended by offensive comments from insensitive people. Hang in there!

  5. Manda says:

    My best friend had a baby last year. She is the most private person I know, so it was really hard for me (not that it’s about me) because I didn’t know how to act around her. And then, that spiraled into me questioning it way too much. I’ve never had a baby so there’s always the “you don’t know what it’s like,” looming in the back of my head when I’m dealing with pregnant people.

    I vividly remember bending down one time to talk to my best friend’s belly. “She can hear you from up here,” she snapped. My heart broke and I was really embarrassed. But she was right, it wasn’t my body being made a show out of. And so, I learned my lesson the hard way.

    I do not think you’re alone.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Only one person has tried to touch my stomach so far this pregnancy, (the host of Turf Wars!) and I just said “Oh no no no no no NO!” so maybe I have more of an unfriendly back off face than you do, but trust me sister, you are SO NOT alone. I would NEVER walk up to anyone and invade their person space and TOUCH THEIR STOMACH, it’s so inappropriate! Why does it become ok once you’re pregnant? It’s SO NOT OK! And you should NOT feel bad that you don’t want people to do it.

    I also cannot believe that ANYONE thinks that it’s ok to comment on any woman’s size EVER, much less while pregnant. I have been SO offended over some things people have said to me while pregnant this time and everyone just laughs and wants me to blow it off but it’s hurtful, especially because I would NEVER comment on someone’s size, pregnant or no. Why is it ok because I’m pregnant?

    Totally get you on this one, Manda.

  7. Dr. Maureen says:

    I have two kids, and only one stranger ever touched my belly. I was so stunned I didn’t do anything. It is so, so inappropriate. And I have to admit to commenting on pregnant ladies’ sizes in the past. It was always to say, “You’re so tiny!” or something similar, thinking that I was paying them a compliment. But with my second pregnancy, people would not stop telling me how small I looked and I got sick and tired of it. I now understand that you should never comment on the size or shape of another person’s body ever. EVER. In fact, I STILL don’t like it when people comment on my size NOW, even though they are saying how skinny I am. The worst post-pregnancy comment was when an older colleague I do not see often talked at length about how I lost all the baby weight. It was gross.

    This is what you say to pregnant ladies: “You look great!” And then you stop talking.

    You look great, Manda!

  8. Shelby says:

    I haven’t had to experience this yet (I think I probably still look more plump than bump), but I’m not sure how I’ll handle it. It already bugs me how social norms are apparently out the window when you’re pregnant – I’ve been asked twice, “how much weight have you gained?”. No one would ever ask that of a woman who wasn’t pregnant! Why would it be okay to ask it of someone who is? Not to mention the touching/invading personal space, which I’m sure is coming. Anyway, I’m so sorry you’re having these experiences.

  9. Sara says:

    I’ve never been pregnant, but have always thought that was a really rude things to do. I never even felt Pie’s birthmother bump. I wanted to desperately, but it just seemed to intimate.

  10. Heather Ben says:

    totally agree with you. doesn’t matter the reason for it either. no one should have the right to touch you if you don’t welcome it.

    hang in there!

  11. Julie says:

    I think it would be totally acceptable to reply to any hurtful comment about “how big you look” with, “Wow, that wasn’t very nice.” That would shut someone up very quickly, and also let them know that there is no reason that good manners should go away when talking to a pregnant woman.

  12. Sheila says:

    No stranger ever touched my belly… thank God, because I probably would have punched them in the face. It didn’t help that I was ridiculously depressed and angry during my pregnancy.

  13. Dana says:

    It drove my crazy when people wanted to touch my belly…and I’m a physical person. I would tell myself that it’s normal when yo’re pregnant, but I was still never comfortable with it. There were the exceptions (sister, etc.) and people usually asked first, but it still bothered me. I did have a woman at church who touched mt belly without asking. I asked her not to and SHE KEPT TRYING TO and then made jokes about me not wanting to be touched. FRUSTRATING!! I seriously almost smacked her and said some un-Christian things (good thing we were with other people).

    Funny thing — other than my Kara, I don’t think my family ever touched my belly.

    You have every right to feel the way you do and know that there are plenty of pregnant women who LOVE your blog post and totally agree. šŸ™‚

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