Short Version: a post about basic human compassion, following on from the comments of last post.

**I wrote this when I was still feeling riled by the sheer tone of entitlement in anonymous' comment. This attitude was exactly what I was objecting to in my post (moreso than the belly-rubbing itself, truth be told - a few different things culminated to set me off and I've kind of latched onto belly-rubbing as a focus). Other comments that followed were much more respectful and balanced, even if the author's didn't feel they agreed with me all the way. Knowing the authors, I doubt they're who I'm talking about in any case. Actually, most pregnant women - fertile or not - know how to behave with respect. It's just a few don't.

I've written this followup post to clarify, but in some places it's even angrier than the first, which might not help. The tone aside, I stand by what's written here. I don't think I'm asking for much - perhaps not as much as you thought I was asking for, in fact. But the idea that you can do what you like and everyone else has to lump it because it's your right and it's their problem if they don't like it just gets right up my nose. And I'm feeling really pregnant about biting my tongue today, so watch out.**

Let me tell you something my mother taught me, because it seems a lot of people in this world haven't had the benefit of a proper upbringing.

My mother taught me not to openly eat lollies in public. You have to be careful eating lollies in public because not all the children around you have lollies. Some of them can't afford lollies, others come from homes where lollies are not allowed. A few may be on special diets. And yet others get as many lollies as I do - and more - but they just don't happen to have any right now even though they want some. The point is, when you have lollies, you should remember that not everyone around you also has lollies, and therefore you should eat them quietly and without fuss, preferably in a descrete space, but certainly not as far out in the open as you can possibly manage, with a big, smug grin on your face, looking around at the other kids and getting indignant if they don't immediately smile back at you and say, "Hey! Good for you! Lollies!"

It's not about diminishing my enjoyment of lollies, she was careful to explain. It's not actually about me at all - only a self-centred person would think it was. It's about basic courtesy, and we all owe it to our fellow human beings. This is a lesson I learnt when I was in kindy. How come other people missed out?

Your actions, in public, affect the public. Therefore you cannot do what you like with your own body in public because it's your body and no-one else has any business over it - in public you must restrict yourself to those actions which show due consideration for others. This basic courtesy applies to all facets of human interaction - walking through a crowd, getting into a lift, queuing at the cash register, working at your desk, comporting yourself during pregnancy, and yes, for the four-year-olds, eating lollies.

If you're fertile, you probably don't know about belly-rubbing. You have some vague idea that infertility is "hard" and that infertile couples are "easily upset", but you probably have trouble realising exactly how hard, or what upsets them. You might not even know who these infertile couples are. That's ok. No-one truly expects you to.

So I say this now for your edification: belly-rubbing can be upsetting. When an infertile woman sees a pregnant woman in public, it gives a little pang. But pregnant women are expected - the world will go on, even without us. When an infertile woman sees a pregnant woman touch her belly, it's like a little kick to the gut. But pregnant women will touch their bellies from time to time - for reasons of comfort, or in conversation, or in response to a movement or a flutter, and almost always in ignorance of the pain it's causing someone else. It's life, so we deal with it, and we remind ourselves that the pregnant woman isn't trying to hurt us deliberately. But it does hurt. Now you know.

Twelve and a half percent of the population is infertile. One in eight couples. You will pass someone at the shops today with fertility problems. You will take the train in to work today with someone who knows that pain. You will be seen today, during the course of your half-hour lunch break at the hawker centre down the road, by a man or a woman who struggles to conceive. You won't know who they are, but I can guarantee you - they will be there. Infertility and pregnancy loss is a fact of your life, just as it is of mine. Not every kid has lollies at any given time. We all have to adjust to live with these realities.

So belly-rubbing hurts infertile people, like a kick to the gut, and infertile people are everywhere, every day. If you're belly-rubbing for a laudable purpose, you will be understood. If you're rubbing in ignorance, you will be forgiven. But when you know that infertility is everywhere and that belly-rubbing causes pain, what you don't do is claim a right to glue your hand permanently to your belly and wander around with a smug grin on your face, looking to see who's watching you and getting indignant if not everyone smiles. This lacks basic human decency and is very, very self-centred.

I am not suggesting every pregnant woman should wear a burkha or shut herself indoors. I am suggesting that when you go out, you refrain from insisting that everyone should look smilingly at you and arrange their lives around you. This means that if you want to pat your belly, you do so without fanfare. Strutting along in a self-satisfied way with your hand permanently attached to your bump and your eyes sweeping from side to side to gauge who's watching - that's fanfare. A gentle touch between you and your baby when you're tucked away in the spice aisle of the supermarket or seated at your desk clicking away on your computer is different. That's like eating your lollies quietly and without fuss.

This is a lesson I was taught when I was freaking four freaking years old. It's a pretty minimum standard of behaviour I'm asking for. Please don't tell me you're "entitled" to act in any other way.


Caro said...


An example of infertility being all around us. I just found out (as I suspected) that the one other person in my company who doesn't have kids is having problems conceiving. There are only 10 people in my company.

Serenity said...

*Standing ovation*

Well said.

Beth Kyle said...

I am afraid I have to disagree about the belly rubbing. I don't think pregnant women should walk around on egg shells, modifying their natural actions in case there are infertiles out there that might be offended.
It is different than a lollie.

Anonymous said...

For me it varies, it's the attiitude with which as opposed to the rubbing per se. If a woman is having a contemplative pat or enjoying feeling a kick from within, fine.

Here's a true life example of brag rubbging: Anorexic ditsy receptionist at hair salon brags about HUGE wedding to all customers from 12/06 - 9/07. Big fuss. Calls off wedding 1 week before the big day. No fuss. Gets knocked up with some random guy within weeks later (who she has no plan to marry but whatever) and now she spends all her free time rubbing her anorexic little bump, most likely so that people have not doubt that she is pg, not fat.

She is a brag, look at me, belly rubber and I want to hand her a box of rubbers.

OK, there, see I am the perfect example of a petty infertile, now Ms. Sock can leave you alone and call me self centered.

TeamWinks said...

Excellent analogy. Belly rubbing is fine, but actively seeking out attention due to the fact that you are pregnant is not.

IdleMindOfBeth said...

Well said!

A quiet, private moment between a mother and her unborn child is so obviously different than the obnoxious "hey, LOOK AT ME" belly rubbing attention whore, that even my overly-sensitive infertile self can tell the difference. I applaud the first, and have been known (on my worst days) to daydream of strangling the second.

queen said...

You are my hero with this post. Consideration for others is important, it's necessary.

You have put it so perfectly.

Pamela T. said...

THANK YOU! Seriously, I appreciate this post more than you know. As an infertile who has been subjected to more belly rubbing than I ever thought possible, I'm sorry to say it does bring unnecessary pain. The challenge for someone like me is being on guard and prepared for the state of pregnancy which seems to be a constant wherever I go. I accept that babies come to other people, but I don't need my face rubbed in it. Please save your intimate communing experience for those periods when others are not subjected to it...

Barb said...

Still well spoken. :) I wish I had your way with words. I love the lolly reference.

I don't think preg women need to walk on eggshells either, but the smug, "look at me" thing the minority of women do can definitely stop. And I know that exists because I often thought how *I* would do it when I became pregnant. This was when I was very ignorant and assumed that it was your right as a pregnant woman to get attention and have people smile in happiness with you... almost like when you're the bride. Now I feel differently. (agreed with Beagle)

Jess said...

Yes, yes!!

I AGREE wholeheartedly. It's like, when you're little and you have something to eat in class and the teacher asks "well, is there enough for everyone?"

It's not that you can't enjoy it, it's that you need to be respectful in your enjoying it.

I agree that people shoudn't have to walk on eggshells...but with lollies or pregnancy or WHATEVER, but there's a difference between being "entitled" and smug and just eating your candy/touching your belly.

I spent a crapload of time with my hand on my stomach at home. BUT in public? I was uncomfortable just BEING pregnant most of the time, let alone drawing more attention. For other people who were suffering, yes, but in truth...also because I worried that actually BEING pregnant would somehow get him taken away from me. The more people asked when I was due, what the baby was, etc, the more uncomfortable I became.

But then again, I suppose I don't really wish my mindset on anyone else. I didn't really enjoy my long awaited pregnancy because I was always ALWAYS afraid. Always.

But the point you are making is a point I agree with....balance people, balance.

Schatzi said...

Amen, sister.

Your point is well-taken. In general I feel there are way too many people who are oblivious to how their actions in public affect others. And I am not just referring to belly-rubbing and infertiles.

Dramalish said...

Absolutely, Bea.

I suppose for me, I wondered where the line between joy and smug-y-ness actually lie. For instance, the day after my doubling beta, I really and truly had to restrain myself from telling the check out girl at the grocery store that I was pregnant.

I took a lot of joy in it. And I have never been a reserved person (my excited conversations that brought all eyes on me on the Paris metro made me realize that).

But right is right.
And smug is smug.

I would never ask a pregnant woman to lessen her joy for the sake of my pain, but I would hope that she wouldn't lord that joy over me in a triumphant nah-nah-nah-nah-nah fashion.

Are there really people like that out there? Because most of the pregnant women I know are lost within their own Baby World, and not looking to be a spectacle of fortunate to the unfortunate.

I already know the answer. Yes, there are people who get off on a lot of attention. And hurting others (even as a unintended bi-product) for the sheer sake of basking in that attention is not nice.

Thanks for the clarification, Bea.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I have rheumatoid arthritis and can't run (after years of being an avid runner) and also can't wear heels. I hate having to see all these women looking much more elegant than me in their high heels, and all the runners I pass on my walk to work through the park depress me. But what really gets me is when they run in their heels, that's like rubbing it in. 2-3% of women have rheumatoid arthritis, so please consider that before you run in heels in public.

E. Phantzi said...

There's a difference between being offended and feeling pain. The first suggests moral outrage, the second simply vulnerability. I know that when I was TTC and struggling, it really really hurt to see my pg friend rubbing her belly in front of me - although, to be charitable, I don't think she was conscious of what she was doing. But precisely because of those moments, now that I am pg (and not showing much yet) I keep my hands off the belly when I'm around other people. I can't help but be mindful of it, because the shoe was on the other foot less than a year ago.

Bea said...

Anonymous Two - the rheumatoid arthritis example is pretty illuminating. If I see a woman running down the street in heels trying to get everyone to look at her - hey look at me running in heels everybody! - I roll my eyes *but then I forget about it*. It's the difference between being hurt by it and just thinking, "Gosh, that's inappropriate grandstanding," and then wondering what to have for dinner.

From time to time, however, I do wonder how people feel about things like that if they mobility problems, and then it makes me a bit angry.


Unknown said...

I am amazed at how you see things so clearly most of the time. Or at least you make it sound like you do when you write it out!!
I don't mind it most of the time, but it's easy to see those women who stick it out and rub it like a buddha. And then I find it aggrivating not just as an infertile, but as a person who finds people who attention seek like that annoying.
i don't care if it's your big fat diamond ring, your skinny little ass, or your big ol' pg belly.

My bf's SIL was preggo and just stuck her belly out all the time. She was BARELY showing, but would just thrust her tummy out. Then she would whine and complain about being hungery and this and that. I finally told her husband to take the girl out to eat before I smacked her in the head. And this was before failing IVF.

No one should walk on eggshells, but common courtesy is sometimes underrated.

millie said...

Loved loved loved this post. And the lollie story.

I think one of the problems today is that few people have had these lessons.

Anonymous said...

The world would be a much better place if there were more people like you around.

Anonymous said...

Rubbing your belly serves many purposes. Its partly pride for sure. But its also comfort...physical and mental. It feels good on your skin but it also feels good emotionally to touch your baby. This is as close as you can get to your baby for many months. And once your baby is here you wouldn't dream of not reaching out and touching it starts the bonding process early. Your baby is moving inside you...and no one has the right to tell someone else they can't bond with their baby. Just because 12.5% of the population is infertile doesn't mean that the rest of the world has to limit their interaction with their unborn child. Life is full of hurts. Should slim people stay home because fat people could be hurt by seeing them? Should ugly people hide inside so the rest of the world isn't offended by thier hideousness?? I mean is full on inequalities. Someone is always going to be hurt. Thats just the way life is. But a mother and childs bond starts at conception(if not before). Yes people shouldn't set out to hurt people on purpose. But aside from bragging...I highly doubt many people are actually setting out to hurt people with thier belly rubs. So to say someone should hide their love, elation, selfish. You don't have the right to limit 87.5% if the populations joy. Thats just as self centered as you think rubbing someones belly is.

Anonymous said...

I know what it is like not to have children. I have had two babys that pass on at end of 2nd trimester. After second baby died, doctors did more testing, and do to my uterus, I can not carry a baby to full term. He was amaze that I carry the boys that far. When I was carrying my second child I had my hand on my belly all the time, it was my way of say mommy still here son. Silly to some people but not to me. When he pass on, it hit me, know matter how much I held my stomach it was not going to stop the passing of my angel. I now am in hope of adoption. But I would give the world to feel my babys in side me alive kicking with my hand on top and I am sorry if that offend anyone. I am also sorry that my comment offend you. I do apologizes. As for the education you were giving me, I pass on that lesson. I would hold, rub, and feel my baby all over again if given the chance to carry to full term. As adults, I hope we all look at both side of every coin. For me to call you self center was wrong of me. I am sorry!

Pamela T. said...

I just have to weigh in again here to Allie. Just how much time do you spend in public? How much of that time in public is spent rubbing your belly? Is it so much to ask that you restrain yourself in public? Do you have problems controlling yourself in other ways? Maybe you need to think about how you comport yourself in public. I know I do...

And I really hope that you grow some compassion. You'll need it if your children are infertile.

Natalie said...

Sing it sista, bravo!

Anonymous said...

Pamela Jeanne:

Grow up. Compassion is a wonderful thing...but life ISN'T fair. Again I repeat...just because someone is skinny...should they hide themselves so as not to offend? Or people with crooked teeth...should they hate all people with straight teeth?? Sounds stupid yes?? Well being bitter about a hand on the belly is understandable enough...but expecting people to not touch their belly when the baby kicks...or reach out to instinctively touch and protect your baby with your warm touch...its just as stupid to think people shouldn't to that.

If my children are infertile I will cry with them, pray with them and be angry along side them. But...when they say they hate people touching their belly...with tears in my eyes I will say I can understand...but that motherhood is so instinctive and all consuming that you shouldn't hate a woman for loving her child.

And as for comporting myself in public...I've never had a complaint yet thanks. But you may want to think deep if YOU are sending out bitter, and resentful vibes and glares when you look at pregnant woman...because someone who would resent a pregnant womans joy...thats disgraceful. And you probably aren't "hiding" the resentment as well as you think you are.

Bea said...

Allie - I'm going to use your example of being skinny, because it supports my point perfectly.

If you have an ideal figure and perfect skin, no-one expects you to stay home and lock yourself indoors. But it is considered polite to dress appropriately when you go out. It is not ok to flash your tits or bare your flesh everywhere you go, beautiful as they may be, and whatever rights you might feel you have (and actually have) about enjoying them. (There are, of course, some social situations where it is ok - at the beach, nightclubs, etc.) Dressing appropriately doesn't make life fair or unhurtful, but it does show respect for your fellow human beings.

Moreover, if you look around next time you walk out on the street, you'll see that almost everyone agrees with me. In all ways it's an excellent analogy.


MLO said...


You are the perfect point of what my family calls the decline of manners in society. Once upon a time - and not long ago - we would have considered belly-rubbing in public equivalent to picking your nose in public. Do you scratch your bum in public? Do you scratch out dandruff in public? It really is the same thing in my and even some fertile folks' minds.

I'm sorry, but the Baby Boomers' rejection of manners has led to nothing but cruel and inappropriate behavior all around. As I have grown older, I am finding I wish for more, not less, etiquette. There are reasons for it.

Anonymous said...

Well I certainly love this post.

There are plenty of pg women out there who are sensitive, compassionate, etc. So I'm not painting with a broad brushstroke. But this *IS* an infertility blog, is it not? Then why oh why are there those with such a strong sense of entitlement who are reading here, trying to tell you how wrong you are and how you should feel? DISHEARTENING to me really.

I agree, the discrete pat here and there is one thing. But how odd is it that a woman who was so totally capable of decades of conversation WITHOUT rubbing her belly now can't utter two words without an obligatory stroke? COME ON.

No one is asking a pregnant woman to stay home--as the skinny-vs-fat analogy implies. But I doubt you'd hear a skinny person lamenting in front of a fat person that no matter how many banana splits she eats, she still LOSES weight. But if you are so stuck on the world revolving around YOU then I guess the best we can hope for is that the apple will hopefully fall far from the tree.

Bea said...

I'm not sure why Allie is here myself, but I'd like to think that if she doesn't identify with the topic directly, she may be searching for information in order to help support someone she knows. Anyway, since I don't know, benefit of the doubt and all that. It would be horrible to think people read infertility blogs just to take pleasure in others' misfortunes.

And I do think the first reaction a lot of us (people, that is) have when someone points out that we should be more mindful of others is to get indignant out of guilt and try to talk about how it's not our problem. Hopefully, on reflection, that passes.

And I think the sarcasm of the first post didn't get my point across properly, and perhaps this one's more angry than it should be (see note up the top, and also the latest post). I hope, twenty-four hours later, there won't be a need for more problems.


Kami said...

I love the posts - and the comments as well.

I have often thought about what is appropriate in public. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband and often hold hands, smile lovingly at each other and sometimes even kiss in public (just a peck). Since infertility struck, I have wondered if we should tone it down some. Sure, it is spontaneous and not meant to gloat, but to someone who is lonely or recently divorced, etc. I think it could be a painful reminder of what he or she doesn't have.

If we know we are in the company of someone who may be vulnerable to our actions, we definitely tone it down, but what about a walk through a park? I admit, we haven't modified our behavior much. Perhaps we should.

On the pregnancy front, now that I am showing, I find that I try to suck it in, stand a bit taller and roll up my sleeve to expose my pomegranate bracelet. I have thought about getting a shirt that reads, "I'm not pregnant, I'm just fat."

Anonymous said...

Actually I have several friends that have/are struggling with infertility. They are needless to say frustrated/upset by the situation but they aren't bitter, at least not to the general public. With their friends and family the cry, scream and express the misery that they are entitled to feel. Which is how I found myself here. A friend of a friend of a friend mentioned it and I popped over to see. They also feel that its ridiculous to sensor a woman and her belly touches.

As for the "decline in manners of society" well...resting your hand on your hip, brushing you hair behind your ears and thoughtfully resting your hand on your chin aren't considered ill I can hardly think that resting your hand protectively and lovingly on your hand is ill mannered. But I do think its quite gross that you'd think of a loving gesture is the equivalant to scratching your a$$. Classy...

And as for the skinny girl analogy...great...except you say that the women dress appropriately and illustrate your point. But the size of the outfit they are in is the concern for fat people...they don't care how classy and correct they dress...they simply find distress in the size of the garment.

Anonymous said...

errr.. I'm confused. Are the infertiles the fat people or the skinny people? I'm guessing we are the fat people? Is that right? Who exactly are the arthritis people? Are we the runners? No no.. that can't be right, although I have been known to run in my high heals when I'm late for a blood draw. Was that wrong? Or maybe I get a pass for running in high heals and being a fat person. grrr.... I wonder if perhaps we can stick with the lollie analogy as I'm starting confuse my comparisons. Personally I'm thin AND I run, so I guess that makes me a giant lollie licking ass right?

(but I don't really lick asses, so maybe I'm still confused.)

Bea said...

Allie - the reason there is a difference between resting your hand on your chin and deliberately and unecessarily trying to draw attention to your pregnancy is in the effect it has on other people. I'm beginning to wonder if you've read the post or are just reacting to a *perceived* attitude.

Comparing it to arse-scratching is not classy, but the point being made is that gestures which offend those around us are impolite. This example, it has been noted several times, is much harsher than it needs to be, because arse-scratching is *very* unacceptable in public. Unfortunately, though I've calmed down, some commenters are still feeling very ticked.

You lost me, also, on the dress size analogy - it doesn't seem to fit in. Are you saying that skinny people tend to go around loudly mentioning their dress sizes and asking what dress size fat people wear all the time? Personally, I think that's a bit rude, too, but then most people think that behaviour is a bit off. No-one said that simply *having* a larger, or smaller, dress size was anyone else's problem. In fact, I specifically said it wasn't.

Let's all stick to debating the issue as I've written it, and not try to make some sort of bigger issue out of it.


Bea said...

"Let's all stick to debating the issue as I've written it, and not try to make some sort of bigger issue out of it."

P.S. In case it wasn't clear - this is a general comment.


Bea said...

Kami - argh. The internet ate my comment.

The sort of public affection you talk about is a useful example. It varies as to what actions, exactly, people think are appropriate, but we can agree that it's always appropriate to be mindful that those around you may be having a hard time relationship-wise, and it's especially important to restrain yourself if you know they are. It is never, of course, appropriate to show affection simply for the sake of public display (which, because we all agree on *that*, happens rarely).

Other than that, it is really hard to know where the correct place is to draw the line. A lot of people have echoed that thought.


Bea said...

I know - I'm hogging my own comments section, but I don't have everyone's emails. Also, I'm going to duplicate another comment, because the argument seems to be getting spread across posts and I think this bears repeating:

I wanted to drop in just to highlight the good counterpoint that I thought came out of this discussion, because I don't think I made enough of it.

In some cases, pregnant women may have a heightened need to bond with their children before birth, due to special circumstances. This is not because they want to strut or draw attention, and is well above what would be considered a "normal" need to bond.

I think the basic idea behind what I've said encompasses this scenario, in that I've emphasised mindfulness and consideration according to needs. If you go out, mindful of those around you who are experiencing infertility and loss, and weigh your needs against theirs, your needs may indeed be greater. Therefore it's hard to make snap judgements about individual situations based on looks alone.

When you're suffering, you do expect other people's actions to hurt sometimes. That's life, and everyone accepts this. Even if we're in pain, others' needs can be greater than our own.

But what no-one should accept is a complete disregard for their feelings. Unfortunately, a lot of people are not aware of the extent of the problem of infertility, and worse - a minority of pregnant women seem to think that theirs are the only feelings that matter.


Anonymous said...

I acknowledged that somepeople brag in my original comment...when I said "aside frm bragging" that most people don't deliberately set out to hurt peoples feelings. Its not as though I or anyone I now ALWAYS touches their belly or deliberately does it to hurt someone. Its instinctual...MOST times. Some people do it to be braggy...just like some people go arond telling the WORLD that will listen about their infertility woes(no I don't mean on a blog...I've heard it in lineups at stores from people I just met). I would NEVER go around bragging about how my husband and I got pregnant first try and slip into personal details. But several women I know of(not friends of friends who aren't like that) tell of health issues, fertility issues, money a way of garnering there are "braggy and whiney" types out all mindsets. But in general MOST people don't set out to hurt people by sticking thier hands on their bellies...thats all I'm saying.

Bea said...

Allie - that's very true. I think - at least I would very much hope - that all infertile women understand that, no matter how much hurt they're in.


GLouise said...

When I first glanced at your new posts, I mistakenly thought someone had been attempting to rub *your* belly, LOL.

But really, I appreciate your sensitivity to this.

Cuz yeah, the incessant, unstoppable belly rub. Ouch!!

Bea said...

Forgot to say to Jenna (inconceivable journey) - LOL it is getting confusing! Just to clarify - running in heels for a genuine reason is fine! Frankly, the nature of heels is such that I don't think anyone runs in them without one! But it would be rude if they did. In fact, it's generally considered rude to run from place to place everywhere you go. Usually it's polite to walk unless you have a reason to do otherwise, or within certain contexts (joggers in the park). Which to the infertility/belly-rubbing metaphor means... well, exactly what I said in the first place!


Anonymous said...

Brava, Bea!

I do not mind the occasional pat on the belly and happy soft smile that often glows on the face of the PG woman. What I do mind is the woman who uses her belly as a convenient shelf for her arm or constantly cups her belly with both hands. Some many say it is reflexive or instinctive. I would say it is a reflex that has grown into a habit.

kate said...

Oh, what a nerve you've touched here.

I am an infertile who thinks that it is perfectly appropriate to discuss infertility in public, loudly even, and mostly because people seem to think that infertility is shameful. Just as idiots seem to think it's appropriate to ask when I'm going to have a child, or why I don't have any yet (or my favorite) "are you pregnant?" (no, asshole- I'm just fat, but thanks for reminding me.), I consider it appropriate to openly say, "No, I'm not. I'd like to be, but for me, getting knocked up will be an emotionally, physically, financially and mentally draining task. And that's a really hard question to answer, so you should consider not asking it to other people, too, because you never know who might be in the same situation I am. It can really hurt a person's feelings." It may sound like "garnering sympathy" to the casual overhearing person, but instead, it's really trying to get people to quit asking those inappropriate questions, and to be honest about why. Because really, until people are educated about it, how in the world can any kind of change be expected? And until it's discussed frankly and openly, how can we ever expect to not wear that coat of shame?

And, just a question for Allie, with her infertile friend who guided her here- is it possible that maybe- just maybe- your friend forwarded you to an infertility blog so that you could gain additional insight about how to act towards infertile women? I'm asking not to be rude, but to point out that it's possible that you perceive these friends of yours as being totally non-bitter with the path that their fertility (or lack of) has taken, and in fact, they may feel very much the same as some women here do. My own best and closest friend might, like you, think that I'm totally normal and non-bitter and well-adjusted in regards to the baby-making process, but in truth, I don't share the anger and the hurt and the loss and the bitterness with her because she just wouldn't get it. She sees in me the public face that you seem to see in your friends. Do you *really* know that your friends enjoy watching pregnant women gratuitously stroking their bellies? I'm just asking to maybe prompt you to consider that it is possible that these friends of yours may not be sharing all of this with you because (at least as you seem in your comments here on this infertility blog) you don't necessarily get what the whole life of an infertile person amounts to. I really promise that I'm not trying to be mean or ugly, or start up a fight, but rather out of curiosity for how you came to be in the midst of a debate on a blog dedicated to infertility.

Bea said...

Ellen: I think you have to be careful interpreting the word "instinct". It's not a hard-wired instinct like drawing your hands away from a flame, which can only be overcome through extreme concentration akin to self-hypnosis. It's more that it's the "most obvious thing that comes to mind".

Obviously, this doesn't automatically make it acceptable. The point we can agree on is that it's not calculated malice, it's just lack of awareness.


Bea said...

Kate: Your first paragraph highlights an important point.

The thing is, there was a time when a woman's fertility was used almost like a stick to beat her. During pregnancy she was made to quit work, cover up, and be not seen and not heard. This spilled over after birth - formula was best, baby routines were in, and if you didn't cry it out you might as well be abusing your child.

The scary thing is it wasn't long ago. Which is why we're dealing with this current problem now - those ideas are too recent in our society's memory.

No-one wants to return to those days. We want pregnant woman to feel worthwhile, confident in their bodies, and respected. We even want them to use their mothering instincts - to breastfeed, to reach out to a child who cries, etc.

The problem is that, for some people, the backlash has taken things too far. There is an attitude out there that pregnancy gives women a "right" to treat the world like an extension of their own living rooms. (Another part of this is the breast-feeding police who call "child abuse" at anyone using formula, for whatever reason.)

A public space is still a shared space, and everyone's needs must be taken into account.

There is a middle ground here, we just haven't come to a good agreement on where it is. That's why it's important to raise awareness about infertility.

Of course, having made people suitably aware, we should be careful not to "flaunt" infertility, either. It's going to take a while to achieve that balance. Some over-reaching tends to happen, and we must watch out for it.


Bea said...

(Oh, as for the friends, it's very true that a lot of infertile women assure their fertile friends that they don't mind about things like belly-rubbing because they don't want to sound overly bitter, when actually they do mind. But there are also women who truly don't mind. Since we don't know these friends of Allie's, I'm going to take them at their word.

Just because a few infertile women don't mind doesn't alter my point - that we should be mindful in public. After all, there are more than enough lonely singles, recent divorcees, people whose partners refuse to have babies with them, etc etc to make up for those members of the infertile population who truly don't mind.)


Anonymous said...


My friend didn't guide me here...I found my way here through her links and her friends links and then we spoke about it after the fact.

And I said in a previous frieds have cried and screamed and expressed thier frustrations to(no WITH) me on occasions. I was simply saying that they aren't bitter towards everything baby/fertility related. Its hard to get the tone/words when its in writing here...but I do sympathize and feel emotions for people. However thats not my point is...that a woman shouldn't have to reign in her joy for anyone. A PERSON should be kind and considerate if they are knowingly being mean...but the belly touches are pride/love/instinct/protection.

My feelings and relationships for my friends aren't up for debate here...they are never questioned by those who count. And I have deliberately asked a couple of them not to comment here with response to this thread...its nt their fight...although they've assured me that they understand. And they are also the first ones to reach out and touch my belly when I would see't worry about thier feelings. They are storogn confident women...and would be the first to tlel me if I was being politically/personally incorrect towards their situations.

Anonymous said...

Ooops that was supposed to be (NOT with) me not (no with)...which would imply they were with me...was in a hurry and didn't proof read at all...sorry


Bea said...

Allie - it's not true that a woman should never have to restrain her joy for anyone. If I rung my sister bursting with good news about my pregnancy, only to hear that my sister had that day received a cancer diagnosis, then it would be very appropriate to restrain my joy. People would be shocked at my behaviour if I didn't.

Note this doesn't *diminish* my joy. I am still just as joyful over my pregnancy. It's just that it's appropriate to reign in my bursting excitement out of mindfulness for other people's circumstances.

Of course, the same amount of restraint isn't called for in everyday situations - the restraint is only proportional to the situation around you. But to say there is *no need whatsoever* to reign yourself in for anyone *period* is clearly wrong.


Anonymous said...

Of course in extrordinary circumstances you have to contain your joy...thats true...but its relative to the situation.

I`m talking in general...everyday life situations. Not `gramma died and my dog got run over`situations.

I general...if I am walking down the street and my baby kicks, or feeling maternal and loving while shopping for baby clothes...or having a good yoga stretch and feelign at one with my body...then yes...I should not restrict my movements. there is nothing shameful about touching a belly(except the act of doing so to HURT someone-but thats not teh belly touch thats shameful, simply the attitude of the person). Yoga for example is physical, mental, spiritual...and when you are that focused on your body...then you are more likely to be even more filled with feeling towards your belly. However you example of the b*tch at the vet...thats not a pregnant thing...thats a self absorbed thing. And a lousy pet instead of resenting her attitude...pray for her baby...and her cat.

I KNOW the world is full of a$$holes...but in general...I still do not believe that someone touching their belly is gross, or wrong or disrespectful. When I see someone touching thier belly(and yes I am not infertile but I can see how it might hurt to not be able to do it) I prefer to see someone loving thier child and building a lasting bond with their baby. And no one will ever be able to convince me that an innocent loving gesture is wrong. Just like no one will ever be able to erase the pain of infertility from your minds.

kate said...

Thank you for your response. My question regarded whether or not you truly know how your infertile friends feel, not how firm your position was regarding belly touching (and not how you feel about each other, but how they feel about gratuitous belly touching). I appreciate that you are attempting to clearly show how you will not be moved on this position, but I’m still asking how, as a person with no fertility problems, you can truly know what is going on in the head of your infertile friend.

Friends or no, I think you missed the point. I am not debating your feelings towards your friends. My friends love and care about me and know me inside and out. Our feelings for one another are genuine and loving and supportive, as I’m sure yours are with your friends. However, as I said, my friends, even the closest of close, have no real idea of how hurtful some situations are. I, just like your friend, am an extremely strong and confident woman. You have to be to deal with infertility and come out as anything other than a shell of who you were before. And I would tell my friends if they were doing something to me that bothered me. But having a friend do something is very different than having a stranger do something. I think you might agree with that- you probably don’t mind your friend touching your pg belly, but a stranger doing so would possibly be a little weird. In the same way, seeing a friend rub her belly is very different than being a witness to a stranger gloatingly stroking a belly. So I think what I’m trying to say (and trying to glean a response on) is regardless of how well you know your friends, or how close you are, or how sure you are that they would tell you so, how do you really know that they hands-down agree with you regarding excessive belly touching?

I understand that you will never be convinced that lovingly touching your belly is wrong. Because touching your belly isn’t wrong. Repeatedly rubbing your belly in public (while not specifically wrong) is unnecessary and gratuitous. And I respect that your mind is firm on this issue, but I would say that you should consider that maybe as much as your infertile friends love you, that there is a little piece inside them that is crushed every time you present yourself with your proudly pregnant belly, and that because they love and care about you, it may be possible that they present a different face to you than they would to another infertile person.

I am certainly not debating how much you and your friends care about each other, or how strong your infertile friends are or aren’t. I’m not debating that you feel that lovingly placing a protective hand on your belly is always appropriate. I am debating whether or not you really have any understanding of what it’s like to see someone being incredibly insensitive, and whether or not what you consider “loving” rubs, may, in fact, be gratuitous at times.

And furthermore, you say that you sympathize, but then you immediately follow up by essentially saying that there is never a circumstance where your joy should be tempered by the situation. So how is it both ways? How can you sympathize, or “feel emotions” for (for instance) a woman who has just suffered her third failed IVF, while at the same time, refusing to (temporarily) abstain from lovingly rubbing the pregnant belly that this woman may never have? And I think one of the major points of the initial post is that 12.5% of the population is infertile, so 12.5% of the time, rubbing your belly could be hurting someone. Being subtle with your actions is all that has ever been asked. To balance your needs with those of the greater community, and to be mindful of that 12.5% of the community that most people would rather sweep under the rug, is all that is being asked.

I know that I won’t change your mind. I know that you have repeated the same point over and over again, which is that your joy is so great that you cannot rein it in, and furthermore that no one’s hurt or suffering could ever be enough for you to abstain from publicly sharing your joy and your love with not only your future child, but anyone who is lucky enough to be within eyeballing distance. And yet I still need to know how it is that you can be respectful towards and empathetic with infertile women as you claim to be if there is no single person in this world for whom you would “rein in” that joy?

Anonymous said... obviously didn't bother to read what I responded. I have stated that there are CERTAIN situations when touching bellies aren't appropriate...when someone is visibly hurting is the main example. Or when someone is trying to literally "rub it in" But in general...AGAIN I repeat...most people don't do this to hurt someone and therefor shouldn't be punished for doing something so loving or natural.

And I can only go by what my lifelong friends have said. I have neverasked someone to rub my fact aside from myself and my husband and children I quite resent when people touch my belly. Its mine...back off. EXCEPT when I have had friends touch it at THEIR request. Infertile or not I have let them...although not all ask or wait for permission. But as for my friends suffering from I said...we have talked in depth...just as we have talked in depth about marriage, death, prengnacy and other life issues. I can not be inside their heads. No one can. So you can't presume to know what ALL infertiles are thinking. I trust when they say something is okay...I can see and read their expressions when something is not. Yes...I am sure it hurts that they aren't currently feeling a belly or thier own when they see someone touching thier own...BUT they both(my 2 good friends) have said that seeing that gives them hope that outweighs the sadness. So to say that no woman should rub thier belly becuase it hurts 12.5% of the population...well its stupid. Sorry...but it is. Seeing people running off to enjoy dinner and a movie or a cruise on short notice...that makes me whistful sometimes...I don't do short notice now because I made the choice to have a should these people reign in their excitement over weekend plans because I can't go see the latest movie? Or while at a work party...when I see everyone drinking...should they not have a drink just because I can't because I am pregnant or nursing? I mean REALLY...its crazy to assume people should stop doing stuff just because someone else can't.

Don't assume you know who I am or what I am made of. My friendships, new and old say enough to le tme know I am doing just fine in the thoughtful citizen department. However I am a realist...and in "general" I would never expect someones to minimize there joy for me. I would expect them to use sensitivity...but infertility can go on for years and to assume someone shouldn't "glow" just in case they hurt some random stranger...sorry...thats crazy talk.

And I've spent more than enough time on this topic. Think what you want...think I'm an uncaring b*tch...and I'll think your just as uncaring to wish all woman would disappear to a secret valley once they get pregnant. Cuz that is the feeling you are giving off. You know...speaking as one of those would be velley dwellers.

Bea said...

You know, Allie, the most frustrating thing is I'm not actually sure whether you disagree or not.

To disagree with me you would either have to think:

1. That there is no need to act with humility in whatever we're doing, out of respect for those in the world who are less fortunate than us, or

2. That pregnancy is a special case, unique amongst all the cases we've examined here - eating lollies, being thin, running in public, getting in and out of a lift, sending your kids to school with lunch, etc - that allows the pregnant woman to ignore this most basic rule of etiquette, upon which all other rules are formed.

If you agree with either of the above statements, then I'm sorry, but you're wrong. If you disagree with the above statements, then we agree.

I do think the yoga has lessened my need to bond by touching my belly, since most of the yogic bonding exercises are done with hands in other, highly improbable positions.

For the record, when my sister told me about the pregnant client at the vet clinic, the first thought that came to my mind was that she was in the middle of a real or possible pregnancy complication, had rushed to the OB for an emergency visit, and the OB had, for some reason, failed to alleviate her fears (either by confirming them, or because s/he'd had to run a test the results of which weren't in yet, etc).

So I explained to my sister that, even though that didn't make her actions *right*, they might be, at least, understandable, and that she should refrain from taking it personally and give this woman the consideration we should all give to any stranger whose circumstances we aren't aware of.


Anonymous said...

I'm late to this party but my grandmother gave me the same speech only applied to ice cream rather than lollies

And I'm not sure who said this but I have the feeling it was one of the ancient philosophers:

"Be kinder than is necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

And while I don't always succeed because, hey! I'm not perfect (who knew? Not me!)it has repeated very loudly in my brain many times I've been about to waltz gaily down the unkind pathway.

Bea said...

When we first started trying, back when I thought a spontaneous pregnancy was, at the very most, only a few months away, I asked a favour of Mr Bea. "If I start turning into one of those obnoxious pregnant women who has to let everyone know she's pregnant all the time, will you slap me?"

"I don't know," he replied doubtfully. "I've put so much effort into not slapping you for being obnoxious in the past. You're asking me to undo a lot of training."

Back then, I was worried about irritating people. Infertility has made me realise it's much more important than that.

I want to make a closing statement on the debate. The bottom line is that we should all be mindful of how our actions affect other people, and pregnancy doesn't get you out of that. It's easy for women to believe that it does - amidst the turbulent storm of twentieth-century feminist politics, this is one of the myths which has surfaced and is still bobbing hopelessly about on the top of the water.

Of course, we should remember that some women face unique circumstances with their pregnancies, which may lead to a heightened need to bond with their unborn child through belly-touching. The basic principle - considering the needs of others as well as your own - still stands, but the "proper" actions will be different where the needs are different. This makes it hard to judge individual cases from the outside, but that's a problem we run into in every facet of life.

I have also tried to stick to debating the general rule, rather than the minutiae of its application. The readers and commenters here come from all parts of the globe, and for that reason, it's just not going to be possible to agree on a specific code of conduct. You wouldn't act the same way in Adelaide as you act on the streets of New York or Dehli, pregnant or otherwise. Some commenters (on the blog or by email) have acknowledged this by prefacing their thoughts with, "I come from such-and-such-place..." If you're reading this debate and your disagreement lies in the detail, just keep this in mind.

Others have openly admitted that, whilst they agree in principle, they're just not sure where the line should be drawn. Nevertheless, as Dramalish most eloquently put it, "smug is smug". I have yet to come across a society where people are allowed to do as they please without regard for the strangers around them. This applies to invisible as well as visible problems, and whilst ignorance of the fact that infertility exists is forgivable, it ought to be remedied.

Since nothing new has come up in this debate for a bit now, I'm closing off comments. If you have something to add, you are welcome to email me. I will add your comment if it adds to the debate.


Powered by Blogger.