Touching the Pregnant Belly

Personal space. Yes, that sought after radius of safety and security, of personal comfort. Depending on where you're from and where you live, personal space usually means that you're granted an imaginary bubble of protection from intrusion by others. Edward T. Hall, author of the concept of personal space, must've considered the pregnant belly when determining what that radius should be. So what is it about a pregnant belly that makes people feel comfortable with touching, grabbing, patting, and yes, groping it? It is after all, part of your body, and one of the more intimate parts — not like a shoulder, a hand or an elbow. What is it about a pregnant belly that makes people — complete strangers — feel a strange sense of ownership over it, and throw all culturally accepted notions of personal space out the window?

Who owns the belly?

Without hesitation, the pregnant woman answers, it's mine! My pregnant belly is harboring this baby, and after all, it's just an extension of my original, albeit much flatter and much more toned, belly. Would someone pat your un-pregnant belly as a greeting or conversation starter? Most likely not. The state of pregnancy somehow invites all people into a sense of community, and thus, a communal state of ownership. It takes a village, after all, so why shouldn't we have access to the smallest, newest member of the village, even if he still is en utero? A pregnant belly is strangely appealing to people who would most likely never give you a second look without one. Pregnant women will attest that in public, their pregnant belly will draw strangers, both men and women, like moths to a flame.

In-laws in particular may feel a certain sense of ownership over the pregnant belly. And why wouldn't they — half of their DNA is gestating in there. What once was a normal mother and father in law, morph into what is now an overbearing woman and a touchy-feely man when presented with your pregnant belly.

Is it wrong to touch a pregnant belly?

The answer is yes and no. When it comes to the pregnant belly, there is such a thing as good-touch/bad-touch. Some examples:

Good touch: Your grandma
Bad Touch: Your mailman
Good touch: A light, gentle pat
Bad Touch: A lingering pat which turns into a lingering rub. By your mailman.

Who Cares, Really?

Some women love sharing in the joy of pregnancy, and if they can make someone happy, one rub at a time, they'd set up a stand and give out free belly rubs all day. For many others, they'd rather keep the joy to themselves — it is, after all, their joy that they've endured morning sickness, hemorrhoids, varicose veins and stretch marks for. So how do you politely avoid those friendly impositions?

  • Say it loud and clear: Buy a t-shirt that unequivocally states that your belly is off limits.
  • If your belly-rub radar goes off, keep your hands clasped in front of your stomach — body language is everything.
  • If you see a potential belly-rubber going in for a rub, take a step back and politely decline it.
  • In exchange for your belly rub, give them a nice pat on theirs.
  • For those stubborn belly-rubbers, put a sturdy piece of furniture between you and them.

For those women who abhor the random, casual belly rub from strangers, take heart — your pregnancy will soon be over and the allure of the pregnant belly, gone. And for those shameless belly-rubbers, hopefully they'll find solace in your new baby's chubby cheeks.

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