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Why It Doesn't Bother Me When Strangers Rub My Pregnant Belly

Teresa Strasser is an Emmy- and Los Angeles Press Club Award-winning writer and radio and television personality. The following is an excerpt from her new book from Penguin, Exploiting My Baby: A Memoir of Pregnancy and Childbirth.

We pregnant girls are united in what some might call “acquired situational narcissism,” but what I prefer to think of as a harmless case of “It’s all about us.” Who else would even bother pretending to care about nuchal fold measurements or leg cramps?

We need each other. We really do.

That’s why I really hate to turn on my own kind.

It seems kind of petty, I know, but I just want to haul off and smack pregnant ladies who get all bent out of shape when people rub their stomachs. You really need to lighten up and get over yourself, two pieces of advice I myself have never been able to take, but which seem very fitting in light of the low level of affront that is actually being done to you. Someone is patting your belly. That’s it. It’s not like strangers are walking up to you and ambushing you with a trip to third base. That would be rude, and unsanitary. No, they are just grazing your shirt, keeping many layers of fabric, skin, fat, muscle and fascia between their fingers and your future child.

And generally, it is not some belly-molesting evil-doer trying to attack you, but rather a nice, well-meaning person experiencing the magnetic pull of your irresistible, giant bump.

If you don’t see why that mesmerizes people, you just don’t understand the miracle of childbirth. C’mon. Take a step back. A baby grows in your stomach and comes out of your vagina and then goes to nursery school and becomes a full-fledged human being, who may very well create other full-fledged human beings. If you think about it, and I don’t suggest you do this high, it’s mind-blowing.

I see where you’re coming from, I really do. You don’t think people should invade your body bubble just because you’re pregnant; after all, they wouldn’t do this horrible thing to you if you weren’t pregnant, wouldn’t dream of it. Yes, your body is still your own, absolutely. I just don’t quite grasp the near religious fervor that seems to screech, “Don’t touch me, because I’m so special that if your grubby hand goes anywhere near my precious child, I’m going to get regular people cooties!”

Do you really need the righteously indignant and borderline sanctimonious “Hands Off My Bump” maternity t-shirts and others like it that are available online and also in hell, where ironic maternity t-shirts are very popular? Talk about literally wearing your aggression and smugness on your sleeve.

If you want to hear a chorus of pregnant women shout “Hallelujah,” just start going off about strangers or even relatives touching your stomach, which is why I really wish I could relate or at least fake agree; I’d love a chorus behind me and I think it’s patently obvious I need validation like my fetus needs folic acid. I just can’t lie, though. Women who wear those bitter message t-shirts bother me. Getting riled up about this isn’t nearly as adorably sassy as some women think it is.

It would be nice to think of those of us on the verge of becoming mothers as warm, cuddly, open creatures who will endeavor to make our babies feel safe and cozy in the world, not as rigid rule-makers and enforcers who will crumble the first time some poop lands on our pristine white changing table pad or perhaps works its way into our giraffe-themed nursery throw rug.

I hear tell childbirth is going to be a messy business. Hands will be on us, grabbing or cutting out a kid and possibly helping to shove our nipples into their little mouths.

My specialty is whining about nothing, and this annoys even me. Pregnant ladies, quit wearing “Hands Off” t-shirts and start recognizing that your personal space is going to be invaded from here on out. Or just get some crime scene tape and carry it around with your everywhere you go. And don’t be mad at me.  I’m just trying to point out what a high-quality, first-world problem this really is. “Hands Off” being intolerant and shrill and maybe “hands around” the concept that your belly is just so compelling it makes nice people toss away their manners.

*For our readers on the west coast, Teresa will be signing books at Green Apple Books in San Francisco on February 25th.

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