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The Public Domain Pregnant Belly

By Amalah

Hello Amy,

I have a question of my own for you.

How do you recommend dealing with people who want to touch your pregnant belly? I certainly don’t mind when my husband does it, but I’ve had friends who try to do it, and assume it is ok. Amy – it’s not ok. I’m certain they wouldn’t touch me if I wasn’t pregnant, so why now? Why, just because I am pregnant, do they feel it is ok to rub or touch or try to kiss (yes, this happened) my stomach? I bet they wouldn’t be too happy if I touched their stomachs, so I’m not sure why they want to touch mine. I have tried to tell people that I am just not into being touched and would prefer they do not, but these people get offended, and say I’m just being grouchy. These are extended family members, and some friends. I’m just not ok with this and I need a polite way to tell them to back off!

Honestly? Screw polite.

If a straightforward “I’d really rather you didn’t touch me, thanks for your understanding.” gets ignored, or hurts people’s wittle feeeeeeelings, you don’t owe them any further consideration. It’s a perfectly reasonable request to ask that people respect your personal space. I don’t know why so many people suddenly feel entitled to get all up in a pregnant woman’s life — be it via unwanted touching, unsolicited advice, judgement over her choices — but THEY’RE the assholes in this situation, not you. You say whatever you damn well please.

I personally didn’t mind people touching my belly…albeit with permission, once the baby was moving/kicking so there was POINT to the touching. I was lucky, I suppose, because most of my friends would wait for permission, or at least ask if it was okay.

Strangers in the grocery store? Older relatives? Perhaps it’s a generational thing? Because seriously, what the hell are you doing? I would usually try to cross my arms, back away, say some nonsense about sensitive skin or the baby “sleeping.” If friends and family members did get too handsy, I would usually just be honest and say that I was feeling super uncomfortable that day and needed my space.

(Although with my first pregnancy, it happened just days before my due date and I was just too stunned/baffled while this little old lady murmured some blessing in a foreign language while laying both hands on my giant belly [OR MAYBE IT WAS A CURSE]. I just sort of stood there with my hands up, glancing around at other shoppers like, “Is this happening? This is really happening.” At least, in that case, I got a pretty funny story out of it because it SO FREAKING WEIRD.)

(Less funny story: The number of total strangers who tried to touch my belly at my FATHER’S FUNERAL.)

Most people understood when I backed away or expressed my discomfort. People that don’t understand…well, they’re really not your problem. It’s important to understand that. You don’t need to be some nice perfect pregnant lady on their behalf.

“I’d really rather you didn’t touch me, thanks for your understanding.”

“Aw, you’re just being grouchy.”

“Yeah, well, you’d be grouchy too if you felt the way I do right now. [Proceed to list all your symptoms in gross, excruciating detail until they walk away]”

If they get offended, still not your problem. No one is entitled to touch your body without your permission, preshus miracle of gestation going on or otherwise. Tell ’em some no-name Internet advice columnist said so and also that they should back off.

I’ve read other articles on this topic and actually HAVE seen the suggestion to just reach over and start touching the offender’s stomach, which sounds DELICIOUS (especially since it’s a body part that 99% of the population feels self-conscious about), but I doubt I’d ever have the guts to try it. If you do, GODSPEED and you will definitely owe us an update on how THAT went over.

 

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Caroline

    I had it a fair bit through my 3 pregnancies and was inclined to beam and say ”why yes, yes I am” if any accusations of being grouchy got bandied about.
    But my all-out favourite was a tradesman arriving to quote on a job A/ without arranging it first and at a very inconvenient time, with no hint of apology ”I was in the area” etcetera and then AND THEN B/ after getting what he needed putting his hands – both of them – on my stomach and announcing he was going to be praying for me and going off into a long, deeply personal prayer. I was stunned, horrified and silenced (not easy!). The sheer, mind-boggling presumptuous effrontery blew several fuses. Molest much?? It doesn’t help that I am a fairly strident atheist! Just speak up in a polite, clear voice and beam manically at anyone who argues.

  • MR

    With friends, or family, it can be helpful to just remove their hand and say coolly, “I prefer people ask me before touching my stomach!” And then if they ask, say, “Not right now.” and repeat. But seriously, someone accusing you of being grouchy is just trying to deflect because they know they have overstepped. If someone touched my stomach without asking and then tried to tell me I was being grouchy, I’d reply with “Da– right I’m grouchy! You would be too if people tried to rub your stomach without asking first too!” and walk away.

  • Kimberly

    Male co-worker went in for a belly rub, and I rubbed his belly right back. He got the message loud and clear, and when I was pregnant again a few years later, he knew to steer clear. Why anyone thinks it’s OK to go in for a belly rub without an express invitation is beyond me, but they do. Probably the same people who ignore RSVPs. Stand your ground, mama.

  • Katie

    Someone put their hands on the belly of my very pregnant friend so she put her hands on their belly. When they looked horrified she just smiled sweetly and said, “Awkward, isn’t it?”

  • Sassy

    Enlist the help of friends! I hate to be touched really any time. I was at a wedding once and an acquaintance came behind me and reached around and started rubbing my belly. I just froze and sat there trying not to make a scene but there were six other people at the table and every single one of them spoke up for me and told the guy that I’m not a touchy person. Go friends! If it’s family that’s the biggest issue enlist your husband.

    The same thing happened with my second pregnancy only the people were different and we were at a women’s retreat.

  • Tiffany

    I did the touch back a couple times, at best they got the point and the joke, at worst they were uncomfortable, annoyed and offended, because “It’s not the same thing! You’re pregnant!”
    Ummm, still my body, still have the right to say hands off. Can you imagine if, under any other circumstances, someone thought they had the right to touch any part of your body without your permission and then argued with you when you told them no? Might even be a chargeable offence in some areas!

  • Lindsay

    Stand your ground and don’t worry about being polite. On what planet is it polite to touch someone without their permission anyway? Think of it as practice for when creepy strangers want to touch your baby one she/he is born (which happens to me more often than the stomach touch ever did). You’re just honing your mama bear instincts. 😉 Now that my kid is here, I’ve put myself between her and strangers numerous times. When being subtle doesn’t work (clear body language), you tell people to back the hell off. You’ve got this!

  • Allison

    I had my sister make me a shirt that said “no touchy”. It worked well. 🙂

  • Autumn

    I’m 35 weeks pregnant, and I’ve found cross body purses can be helpful, cause strangers don’t want to seem to be reaching towards your purse.  

    I personally haven’t had issues with friends/family aside from my daughter crawling all over me to feel the baby, but that’s a different issue

  • MrsjaneDoe

    So…I get this. Usually, I’m a big people person. I’m friendly, not much bothers me, yada yada yada. Until pregnancy. I didn’t like being touched either, and felt awkward trying to “explain why” to people.
    Then I snapped. One morning (6 AM with NO COFFEE) at eight months along, in the elevator to work, I had a man that I’d never seen before in my life reach over and excitedly place his hand on my belly and then ask,” Wow! When are you due?!”
    So I reached right back over, placed my hands on the same spot on his belly, and said, “I’m due in March! When are you due?!”
    He got off on the next floor. It wasn’t nice, and I’m not advocating that approach, but it sure made me feel better.

  • Elf

    I feel your pain – I didn’t get this much with the pregnant belly (I think it might be because I was only visibly pregnant in the dead of winter and always covered with a giant coat), but I have crazy long hair, and have had random strangers walk up behind me and touch it.  At least with a pregnant belly you can see them coming!

    I strongly second the “touch them back” approach.  I resolved to use it after the last such incident, though the occasion has not yet come up to put it into action.  Just remember, we are really strongly socialized as women not to make a scene, and it’s VERY hard to overcome that.  These jerks are taking advantage of that.  It’s the same thing creepy guys take advantage of to sexually harass women.  Tell yourself, every time you feel uncomfortable about it, that it is a deliberate effort to make the world a better place for your potential daughter.

  • Melanie

    Try saying “haha you’re totally touching my uterus!” I did this once to a friend to be funny, not to be all “no touchy. He was totally wigged out. Hilarious!

  • kimm

    I live next to Mexico- I was told by many people that its a cultural thing-seriously like every lady,girl, abuela I saw at the grocery store was reaching for my big belly all the time. I kind of got used to it. There is a reverence for pregnancy and children here that is something new for me.

  • S

    Woah, people are WAY too friendly about this. Maybe it’s a twin pregnancy thing, but people touching me anytime after 12 weeks sent me into painful contractions and when I yelled “STOP! IT HURTS!” they’d still do it! Or they would be offended. WTF??!!!!??!!!!!!!!! Anyway, it’s not just rude, you guys. It’s painful and awful and just ridiculously presumptuous for anyone anyone thinks it’s ok. Daggers to all belly touchers.

  • S

    Oh yeah and also the Mexico thing, kimm! Yeesh. So true and also it gets worse once they’re born with strangers trying to touch newborn hands.

  • Kim

    My mother in law very emphatically touched my belly with both kids, and when I told her to stop doing that, it’s weird, she said “well they’re my grandbabies, I want to feel them kick” I said that she could touch them just as soon as they exited my body, but it was my body she had her hands on.  Then she called me a b word and left me alone.  Still worth it.  Nobody in my family ever offered to do that, and I was rather instinctual about slapping strangers/coworkers hands.  

  • VG

    I wasn’t too comfortable with others touching/rubbing my belly when I was pregnant with my 1st, probably because it was all new to me and just felt weird about others touching me. I’m not pregnant with my 2nd child, almost 16 wks, and i’m more comfortable with certain friends/family touching my belly. Strangers or people I don’t know well, not so much. I tell them not to touch me, I pull or smack their hands away, I don’t care. You’re not touching the baby, you’re touching ME. My own husband doesn’t touch my belly unless I tell him to or I put his hand on my belly. I think it’s all a preference thing for everyone, and everyone’s preference is going to be different. Just ask first, that’s all.

  • SLG

    I don’t understand needing to be polite about this. If someone put hands on my body, without asking, I’m loudly and bluntly saying DON’T TOUCH ME. I don’t care if I’m pregnant or not, family, friends or strangers. 

  • CM

    Wow. I guess I’m in the minority of being pregnant and not minding friends and family wanting to touch my belly. I love sharing this preciousness with those I care about and like to include them in my own giddiness of feeling the baby bouncing in my tummy. Maybe it’s a cultural thing; even though I’m 5th generation latino, there’s always lots of hugging and cheek kissing going around with friends and family, so I guess I consider this another form of showing affection. In regards to non-family and close friends, at work not one person has tried touching my belly (it’s a very corporate environment) but two have put it out there that they love and miss feeling their own kicking babies and would welcome an invite anytime (said in a very warm and funny way). I think most don’t mean any harm by it and are just drawn to a pregnant woman’s growing belly because there’s this little baby right there. I’m just soaking it all in because so many people are being really nice and sweet and helpful towards me…but in a month all of that will end and it’ll be all about my little one. As it should be…and it’s almost here…exciting times!!

  • Jilly bean

    I honestly would rather put up with two second of someone touching my belly then make someone feel stupid about it.  I just don’t see what the big freakin deal is lol 

  • Ashley

    “Oh excuse me, that’s my stomach!” *Steps away*

    I think assuming the best in people, that if they’re touching your belly without permission it’s an accident, is a good approach.