I'd like to briefly discuss the topic of touch. Especially the topic of touching pregnant women. Every pregnant woman has more than likely experienced that dreaded strange hand coming at them in public. Nowhere is safe. Strangers at the salon, the grocery store, the gym, restaurants, and on the street will eventually get that glazed over look and walk towards you, mouth gaping like a zombie with arms outstretched, and germy hands ready to molest your protruding belly. Prepare yourself!
I feel very lucky to have already been fat when I got pregnant because people don't seem to really notice, or aren't sure if they would be offensive by asking about if I'm pregnant. I've become secretive about my body in public and am more than happy to be able to hide under my bulky winter coat. I try to never rub my tummy or let it slip out of hiding in public places just to avoid the stranger danger that is sure to come my way should anyone catch on. My personal bubble has become increasingly smaller with each passing week of my pregnancy and my ability to be polite about being touched is minimal, even with friends and family. I'm already a protective mother lioness and you are taking your life in your hands when you reach for the belly that contains my unborn child.
The hardest part is that it isn't always strangers. Sometimes friends are the worst offenders. They are excited for you and are often really curious and just can't help themselves. In these cases, I try to be patient and simply remind people that a flat palm with no pressure is really the only acceptable way to do i,t and often by invite only. Mommy doesn't always want to be touched and really, there isn't much point in your trying if the baby is being still. No movement means nothing to feel, and nothing to feel means you're just some annoying weirdo with your hand under my boobs. I'm guilty of this myself. I can think back to plenty of my own offenses on pregnant friends and family members. Poking fingers and belly jiggling to see if I could stir the creature awake are now mortifying in hindsight. I'm lucky to have had friends and family that were as patient as I try to be now.
I have figured out some ground rules when it comes to being the eager friend or the unknowing stranger around a pregnant woman:
1. Always greet mommy first. Do not act like her belly is the only important thing about her.
2. Unless you are a kindly old woman who cannot resist the urge to touch a pregnant belly, keep your fucking hands to yourself.
3. Unless the pregnant stranger, acquaintance, or friend has already shared the news or their water has just broken in front of you DO NOT ASK pregnancy questions. Trust me, you don't want to be that asshole that asks a plump person when they are due only to ruin their day because they aren't pregnant at all.
4. Learn to read the room. If the pregnant person seems at all moody, do not touch. You may not get that hand back.
5. Only after asking if the baby is moving and gaining permission should you touch that belly.
6. A flat, gentle palm is acceptable. Poking, jostling, shaking, flicking, tapping, squeezing or prodding will likely get you well deserved tongue lashing and maybe a black eye.
7. Be aware that sometimes lingering hands are just as bad as unwanted hands. If you don't feel anything and mom isn't directing you toward a spot that may yield a kick, take your hand back or you may lose it.
8. It is never too late to abort the mission! If you forget yourself and realize mid reach that you have forgotten your manners, simply stop yourself and ask mommy if baby is active and if it's alright to touch.
9. Do not begin your encounter by telling a pregnant woman she is huge, as big as a house, must be having twins, or by asking if she swallowed a basketball. It's not funny and she is probably not feeling super thin and gorgeous. This will definitely get you slapped or cried on if it's followed up with a belly molestation.
10. Be respectful and don't take it personally if you get snapped at or she turns her body away from your reach. It's her right as a human being, as well as a soon to be mother to decide if she is going to allow you to touch her or not. Getting upset because you're embarrassed at the outcome of your actions is only going to make things worse. Just say you didn't mean any harm, wish her a lovely day and move on. Trust me, with the heightened emotions a pregnant woman is housing, you may be the one getting an apologetic phone call later.
Just some thoughts. Really, just try putting yourself in her shoes. As you are right this second, would you want people, strangers or not, to lay hands on your body every time they see you? I didn't think so. Now add to this equation a living human being developing inside your body that you are already in charge of keeping safe and happy. Does this make the idea of hands on your stomach any more appealing? I thought not. Just be aware of personal space, heightened emotions and the safety of your appendages.
One of my favorite visual examples of this is Miss Riki Lake in her role as Pepper Walker in the classic Jon Waters flick, Crybaby. In the opening scenes of the movie, which is set in the 50's in Baltimore surrounding two social groups of high school students, everyone is lining up for flu shots that are being administered by nurses and doctors in the classic white uniforms. A nurse approaches the very pregnant looking Pepper Walker who is standing in line knitting a baby garment. Smiling ear to ear, the nurse reaches out and puts her hand on Pepper's belly. Unwise even for a medical professional. Her gesture is promptly cut off by having her arm twisted behind her back and being marched up to the doctor. Way to go, Pepper! Just sayin', it doesn't matter who you are or where you are, if you invade the personal space of an expectant mother, you get what you deserve. Unless your Johnny Depp. If you're Johnny Depp you can touch all you want.