Victoria Jelinek


The Pregnancy Diaries – 19

I allow no one to touch me.’ Paul Cezanne

It’s the weirdest thing, but ever since I’ve looked obviously pregnant, people have been touching it, often without asking to first! This goes hand-in-hand with people of all kinds offering me unsolicited advice about my pregnancy and tales about their own.

I’ve always been a ‘touchy-feely’ American type – affectionate, demonstrative, and open– but I’ve never been one to touch someone that I don’t know, or even to touch someone that I don’t know well. Yet people are touching my pregnant mound as though it’s the most natural thing in the world to do, and I feel like a prude that it bothers me so much. I feel like asking them if they’d also like to feel my seins…or, perhaps, my newly rounded cul? But I fear that this may come across as rude. And it goes against all the non-confrontational qualities that I’ve learned after living over a decade in England. I realise that folks touching me have good intentions, are excited about pregnancy in general, and I realise that pregnancy has become a communal property sort-of-thing in recent decades (whereas prior to the 1970’s, women often stayed at home, were hidden while pregnant, or wore modest outfits to hide their pregnancy in public) prompting the touching and the advice, but what to do if it makes me uncomfortable? And it does.

I read one blog about it and the author states that she has directly asked people to stop touching her belly, at the risk of being a ‘kill joy,’ because it’s presumptuous and it ‘creeps’ her out. I can’t quite say this even as I’d like to. She also writes that she doesn’t want the unsolicited advice or the myriad of questions about her pregnancy and birth because she’s not interested in justifying every decision she makes on her pregnancy, birth, and parenting with a long explanation. Again, I completely empathise with the sentiment, and like the approach, but it’s not me…normally, anyway…perhaps with increased hormones and fatigue I can muster the couilles (so to speak) to ‘just say no.’ Then I read from Dr. Sears’ website about the unwanted touching of the belly. A Dr. Bennett writes that it’s important to try to emotionally guard yourself against advances, meaning that even if you feel your life is an open book because you’re pregnant, you can send off ‘vibes’ to folks that you do not invite intimacy in this way. She advises, however, to be on the safe side and put as much physical distance between yourself and others as is possible – remembering your head may be a good distance away from the next person on the train, but your belly isn’t.

Regarding the intimate questions and unsolicited advice, such as whether or not the conception was natural, or whether I plan to have a C-section, or to breastfeed, Dr. Bennett advises a pregnant woman to answer vaguely and to deflect with a question towards them. Dr. Bennett writes: ‘I think women in general, but pregnant women in particular, feel a certain sense of vulnerability that makes us think that just because someone asks us a question, no matter how inappropriate it is, we have an obligation to answer it. But in fact, this just isn’t true.’ So, when others share their horror stories about labour, I’ll simply muster up my courage and tell them that I’ll look forward to my own horror story, thank you very much.

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