How Did My Belly Become Community Property

By Viv Schaffel

Shared by Janeta
As a pregnant woman in the modern world, your sheer proximity to hundreds of other humans each day sparks many a conversation—and not just with the folks you'd talk to anyway.

Perfect strangers ask when you are due and what you're having, as if they're at all invested in the outcome. They'll dispense all kinds of unsolicited advice about all aspects of parenting. If you feel compelled to engage with a response other than a polite nod, you might open yourself up to an argument for their position. (It's ironic: the kid hasn't even shown up yet and you're already being judged for your parenting decisions!)

Like the sleep deprivation your bladder bestows during pregnancy, this social rite-of-passage preps you for the zillion times you'll be broached with certain hot topics in parenthood. You may be the one carrying your baby, but it can feel like he or she is already becoming a member of world, or at least, the community-at-large. Crazy, right?

Some folks even feel compelled to reach out and touch your baby belly without permission. Perfect strangers, mind you. Many preggos feel this is a total invasion of space and privacy. We don't let random people just walk up and touch our stomachs when we aren’t pregnant, right?

Each time this happened to me, I'd veer between discomfort, acceptance and polite indifference. But my dear friend Marlo, who just had her third baby, sees the act of belly touching as a sweet gesture.

“I never feel like it's an invasion of my personal space. It seems very natural,” Marlo says. “Especially when the old ladies want to touch your pregnant belly. Their nostalgia for parenting is touching. They can give great advice, too! In a weird way, whenever someone wants to touch my belly, it feels like they're passing on good, caring vibes to the baby. How could that possibly be a bad thing?”

She’s got a heck of a valid point. Who doesn't love a baby? Like weddings, they bring out the best and the worst in people – but most often the best. They represent purity, love, hope, good will, fresh starts, and renewed faith in humanity. So, if you really think about it, wanting to be a part of that through casual conversation—or even a delicate, polite touch—isn't really a bad thing.

But if you do feel compelled to make and wear a t-shirt that states, “Look but don’t touch,” I don’t blame you.

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Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.