Touching Baby Bumps Without Permission Is Never Okay, Even When You’re Friends

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woman-holding-pregnant-bellyIf you’ve been pregnant, chances are you’ve also been groped by strangers without your permission. People love to put their hands on pregnant women, usually while offering unsolicited comments about their size, shape, weight gain, belly angle, how many babies are inside, and what parts those babies probably have. It’s obnoxious and a total violation when strangers do it, but it can be equally unnerving when done by family members and friends.

I was lucky enough to make it through the majority of my pregnant days without too much unwanted belly rubbing, but family gatherings were a whole other animal. Whenever I was in the company of people who knew me well, I was practically a magic lamp. Come one, come all. Rub my belly and tell me your greatest wish. My friends and family were excited for me, and on the whole I didn’t mind so much them wanting to share that excitement with me, but it was still kind of uncomfortable being pawed at all the time.

Where a stranger putting their hands on you out of the blue seems brash and absurd, there’s a level of familiarity with family and friends that makes unwanted touching seem somehow okay to people. You see it all the time once you actually have the baby and you have to shield them from being overwhelmed by the number of people trying to hold them. Family and friends mean well, but that doesn’t mean they instinctively know when you’re feeling vulnerable or uncomfortable, or that you stop having those feelings just because you’re around people you love.

When it comes to pregnant bellies, I think the general rule should always be ask before you touch, even if you’re the mother-in-law, the favorite coworker, or the best friend. You’re acting out of love, but the normal rules about personal space still apply. It’s an unfortunate reality that women have some of their autonomy taken from them once they become pregnant, and it’s exhausting to always feel like public property. Asking before you touch is a way of showing respect and whether they give you the go-ahead or not, they’ll appreciate that you took the time to do it.

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