Short Version: a post about publicly touching your own, pregnant belly.

"There's nothing wrong with touching myself. If I want to rub myself in public, why shouldn't I? Besides, it relieves my discomfort." Are these the words of a pregnant woman, or a sexual miscreant?

The other day, after yoga, I walked to the station with one of my classmates. She kept her hand on her belly the whole way. After a short while, I could feel my face contorting into this expression of helpless apology to the population around us. Twelve and a half percent, people - someone along the way was infertile, for sure. But given she's visibly pregnant and can't hide that fact, what harm does the belly-rubbing do? And, more importantly, should she really have to stop?

The plain, simple fact is this - it's showing off. It's not that I want her to apologise for being pregnant - I don't apologise myself. I put in a few hard yards along the way, of course, but even if I hadn't, I would still deserve to be pregnant as much as the next woman, which is to say not at all, since fertility is one of life's gifts, like being born to decent folk in a nice, middle-class neighbourhood of a modern, wealthy country with a proper welfare system, instead of to a mentally-unbalanced and destitute AIDS victim amongst the rubbish piling into a third-world gutter. No, it's not that we deserve to be pregnant, or don't deserve to be pregnant, or need to feel guilty and ashamed of being pregnant. It's just that "smug" is out this season, and nothing says "smug" like having your hand permanently glued to your belly, especially if you're constantly surveying the crowd to see how much attention you're getting for the act.

I'm aware of the argument, of course. Pregnancy is uncomfortable, and sometimes you have to rub things to ease that discomfort. For my part, I've found that it itches all over my abdomen and sometimes I just have to scratch. On the other hand, sometimes when I'm out in public my crotch itches, or my underwear rides uncomfortably into areas no underwear should go, yet I don't tend to stand in the middlest middle of wherever I am, clear my throat loudly and wait til everyone's watching, then scratch my girly privates with a flourish or pluck my panties from the depths of my arsecrack whilst looking around to make sure everyone's got a good view. No, I make any adjustments quickly, quietly and discretely, and then I get on with my life.

Some will roll their eyes at me. They'll say, "Rubbing a pregnant belly is hardly the same as fingering your bum," and to this I agree. It's often considered polite to duck into the nearest ladies' toilet if your intimates need attention, whereas I don't think a quick belly scratch demands the same, high level of delicacy. Nevertheless, my point stands - it is discourteous to draw unnecessary attention to yourself and your body, especially when that attention is likely to bother others around you.

So next time you're swollen with the wondrous and extraordinary gift of a fragile, new life*, just... tone it down. We can see you're pregnant and we think that's very nice for you. But there's no need to keep rubbing it - quite literally - in everyone's faces.

*I know, it happens to us all the time.


Jess said...

Oooh, the belly rubbing makes me uncombortable. And what made me more uncomfortable was that later on as I got bigger and bigger I actually took to resting my arm on my belly when seated, because there was no where else TO rest it.

And I was always looking around making sure no one was watching, or trying awkwardly to find a place for my arm.

I think I actually made more attention for myself that way! lol :p

Anonymous said...

I am sock, and if I want to rub myself or show some kind of loveing touch to my unborn child it between me, the baby and my body. Hello, has nothing to do with you! Do not be so self center!

Bea said...

Anonymous - is that your real name? - anything you do in public is between you, your body *and the public*. That's why we have different rules for acting in public - to take into account the fact that now your actions are affecting other people, too.

It doesn't matter whether we're talking about pregnancy or any other subject, it's just basic common courtesy to consider the feelings of others around you and not make an unnecessary fuss.

It's all about me and nothing to do with you? That, my friend, is the very definition of self-centred.


Anonymous said...

I heart you, Bea.

Anon can suck it.

Dramalish said...

I totally understand your point, Bea.

And of course, I rubbed my pregnant belly like a genie was due to pop out.

While anonymous expressed herself like a total asshat, I must say that I too liked feeling like I was connecting to my baby in some sort of real, fleshy way. The belly was really my only physical link to the concept that I had a *baby* inside me (as opposed to the stomach flu, or unexplained weight gain). Throughout my day, it was really nice to put a hand to my stomach and acknowledge that life... and, as I work 40 hours a week, a lot of those times were in public.

did I rub my belly too often? Lord, yes.

Was I offending some people?
I didn't stand in the middle of room and clang on an Old West-style triangle to announce the moment.
Also, I think my students were probably more upset with their eyes being drawn to my fat gut than to the fact that I was pregnant and they weren't (then again, they are 16).

Would I rub less if I were ever lucky enough to fall pregnant again?

I'll answer that with this last thought:
I worked hard for those 9 months. They are a result of years and years of dreaming. Dreaming of being able to do things like... rubbing one's belly when one it is tight or rumbly...

Not on Fire said...

I have to confess that when I was first pregnant after 10 years of trying, I touched my belly a lot. I was not always conscious of it. The bigger I got the more I did it. It was partly bonding, partly habit and partly fear that someone would snatch it away from me. I kept my hand there to protect it somehow. Hoping that that baby would stay. Hoping that baby would feel my love.

If I had been around someone that I knew was infertile, I don't know what I would have done. I get how much it can hurt. The best I can say is know that she did not do that to hurt you. I wish I could make this better for you.

Rachel Inbar said...

Interesting post... I certainly don't walk around with my hand glued to my belly and, since I don't go out much (I work from home), when I do rub my belly, it's only my family that is around. I think there's one main thing that can make me rub my belly despite the fact that other people are around - when the baby moves around a lot. I kind of feel obligated to show the baby that I feel it and that I appreciate the fact that it is moving around inside me and that if I don't, it's as if I'm ignoring it.

I'm guessing that with Hadas (my first) it was a way to reassure myself that it was real, that I was going to have a baby...

When I was going through infertility, it was only hard for me when close friends had a baby, not when I walked down the street and saw a mom with a stroller or a stranger rubbing her belly... It may be a personality thing... or just the fact that I was fairly sure I would never have a baby and that I decided I better get used to it.

beagle said...

Her name is "sock" it says so right there. "I am sock, . . ."

Just saying, don't let a sock get to you.

serenity said...

Yes. Belly rubbing in public makes me uncomfortable too. I am really conscious of when and where I rub.

But like jess, I often find myself at a loss for where to put my arm or hand. And as I get more uncomfortable these days, I find that rubbing my back also draws attention.

Anonymous can suck it.

Barb said...

Beagle - I laughed out loud and even gasped a bit at your comment it was so funny. Thanks for that. ;)

Bea - I really think you made a very good argument, and this is well written. You're never going to have everyone agree, but I think you did a good job of trying to be balanced. I, too feel it like a knife in the art when someone incessantly rubs their belly. It's not so bad if it's just someone on the street I'm passing. I can ignore that. But it's particularly bad when I'm stuck in a room with them and it's the constant, "look at me" belly rub. That one drives me insane. You can tell the difference, and I certainly don't mind some touching that they need to do. I just have the really obvious stuff from people who know. Pregzilla knows and does it constantly. I want to kick her. In contrast, another coworker who knew, and who would have gotten a lot more leeway from me because she's so wonderful, hardly did it at all and she was very uncomfortable her whole pregnancy. She did it when she needed to bond or when she was feeling stretched or itchy. But it had NONE of that obsessive "MY baby, look at ME" tone to it. I loved her for it.


Barb said...

OK, apparently I'm no better than "Sock." I meant, "knife in the HEART," my art is quite safe. And I actually haTe it from someone who knows.. not haVe it. sheesh. I really should spell check FIRST.

Jackie said...

I'm scared that I draw more attention to myself with grunting than with any belly rubbing. But I seriously cannot seem to bend over, get into a chair or out of a chair without serious effort which always seems to result in a grunt (trying to hold in gas at the same time, it's hard work!). I try to keep the histrionics to a minimum until I'm around the husband who is like, legally bound to me and has no interest in ever getting pregnant himself.
BTW, you almost made me pee my pants with your descriptions of arsecrack and girlie parts. I don't know if that that was the intent, but it worked.

Bea said...

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