Pregnant belly touching is kind of a no-no. Many mamas-to-be find it annoying, tactless or invasive. I get that, and I know I should keep my hands to myself at all costs. But sometimes, I do it anyway. It’s completely unintentional, I promise. But pregnant mamas, I’m sorry—I’m a bit of a belly toucher.
I know that having your belly rubbed is something a lot of pregnant women could likely do without, in part, because practically the moment you become pregnant, all of the sudden everyone thinks you are their own personal property. They want to give you their thoughts, opinions, and of course, unlimited belly rubs. It’s almost as if they believe a genie will come out and grant them three wishes, rather than a baby covered in mucous who screams all night.
I’ve been pregnant twice, which means I’ve had my belly rubbed no less than 78,000 times, and I usually did not embrace it, especially when it came from perfect strangers. Hell, I’ve spotted a curious looking belly toucher from across the grocery store and waddled myself in the other direction on more than one occasion. I clearly remember how sometimes it just came out of nowhere, hands all up on you and you felt just a tiny bit violated. It is your body, after all. Just because you’re carrying a 3-pound fetus does not mean that you want a stranger’s hands on your stomach. No. No. No.
So, I try to limit my belly touching to friends, or at the very least, acquaintances, but now I understand the instinct to touch bellies a little more than I used to. Having gone through two very difficult pregnancies and given birth twice, I strongly feel that pregnancy and new motherhood are times for compassion. Motherhood has changed my life in more ways than I can imagine—mostly for the good, but it has not been without its hurdles. So when women I know are about to become mothers, I generally feel a connection to that, and sometimes my excitement or support translates into all-hands-on-belly! It might be annoying; I should know this by now, but sometimes I can’t help myself, and I can only hope she doesn’t mind or would let me know if she did.
While I want every woman to feel that her body belongs to her, that she is not simply on display like some kind of touch-‘n’-feel exhibit at the aquarium, I also can’t help that I feel a special kinship with the mama-to-be. I was that mama-to-be not so long ago, and it was scary and lonely and hella intimidating. I want that future mother to know, I will help her in any way I can. And I already kind of love your baby. Sometimes my enthusiasm rushes out of me before I can stop it, but I promise, it comes from a good place.
Here’s the thing: Motherhood connects us if we let it. I know we are all supposed to sit around nodding in agreement, not talk about infant sleep or birth, and certainly not give advice or rub each other’s bellies anymore. I know that a lot of people are not comfortable with any of that and would rather we all keep our thoughts and hands to ourselves. I get that. I actually used to feel that way a lot, until I realized how much I needed a community of parents to help me through this crazy, overwhelming, fleeting journey. But now, as a mother of two, I feel connected to other mothers in a way I can’t quite explain. We share a common experience, and now, I understand the instinct to rub bellies much more now than I did when I was pregnant.
Listen, I don’t believe it should be a 100-percent acceptable practice for people to be groping women they don’t know and have no relationship with. And I’m certainly not saying that women who feel uncomfortable about someone touching them should just “get over it” or “lighten up.” Absolutely not! In fact, I think that women, as a group, should get more comfortable with unapologetically saying, “No, I don’t like that,” when something feels off.
But I can also say, as a mother who’s watched many mothers become mothers after me, it never stops being special and makes me want to offer my affection to the mom-to-be in the form of a belly rub. While I’ll probably stick to avoiding strangers bellies and simply give them a smile and a cheerful “congratulations,” my friends and acquaintances are another story.
As a general population, we seem to find it easier to push people away more than welcome their usually well-meaning intrusions. Because while fellow mothers, who may not always have the right words, might rub your pregnant belly, they are also desperately wanting to welcome you into a community that you probably don’t yet know you will need. And that community is indispensable—even if it occasionally comes with a belly rub.