My belly is huge. I’ve gained a measly 9lbs since the start of this pregnancy (20-25lbs is average for most pregnant women) yet what has developed in my belly is nothing short of gargantuan. Something about this baby’s positioning (right in front and lowish) makes me look like I have a large pumpkin under my shirt. Blue ribbon at the state fair kind of pumpkin. And I’ve got 5 weeks to go.
My size, waddle and the not-so-occasional grimace (LOTS of Braxton-Hicks this time) must make me quite a sight when walking down the street. This week there has been a noticeable shift in the way strangers approach me, with eyes now firmly affixed to my belly. Making eye contact is a struggle, like it’s almost painful to rip their eyes from the pumpkin below and look at my face. (Is this what having big boobs is like?) People on the street crane their necks to see around the stroller and stare from blocks away, often running into eachother and even the occasional building. One guy broke his nose, so powerful was the concentration on my stomach – OK, not really, but the staring is real and one woman really did stare from across the street and crane her neck around the stroller as she approached me, never looking away from my baby belly. “The watchers” all have looks of slight fear in their eyes, like I’m going to give birth right there and ask them to help. It’s kinda funny what one’s pregnancy can do to others.
…Then again, sometimes it’s not so funny. In addition to the staring, the reduction in boundaries has increased by leaps and bounds as well – for others, not for me so much. No longer do I get a “Hi. How are you?” when entering a store or meeting someone for the first time. Now it’s “Hi. Has your baby dropped yet?” From friends and fellow mamas OK, but from the lady taking my lunch order, really?!?
People also love to touch the pregnant belly. I understand the appeal, sort of, though I’ve never been one to do so myself. Just because it sticks out doesn’t mean it’s public property (if that’s the rule then…) and I would never go up to some stranger or even a friend or family member and presume they are fine with me touching them. I like my personal space and try to respect others’ as well. Plus, this is an intimate touch: I work hard every day to protect and nourish this baby growing within; I’m intimately connected to this life and growing belly. It’s not like my arm, there is something very special about this spot on my body and having someone come up and touch it without my permission or invitation feels like someone coming up and grabbing my boob. It’s invasive and creepy and triggers my mother-bear instincts in such a way that it is all I can do not to throw that person to the other side of the room. And it doesn’t really matter if I know the person or not. A hormone-driven overreaction? Perhaps. But it’s my body and my baby and I have a right and an obligation to protect them both. So to the belly touchers out there: Keep your hands to yourself please. If I want you to touch me I will invite you to do so.