Our loved ones don’t mean to offend us, of course, but our nice round bellies inevitably become irresistible. Their hands are drawn to our beautiful bellies like a magnet!
Sometimes that’s OK––we share their excitement and appreciate that they care. Other times, however, especially when strangers want to join in on the touching party, the mother-to-be needs to be able to express her discomfort and ask that the people around her respect it.
A gentle warning goes a long way
The best thing you can do to avoid awkward situations is to give the people closest to you a little bit of a warning. This will allow them to understand your needs better and they will avoid feeling rejected or blindsided.
Obviously, you can’t warn strangers in the same way, so you’ll have to develop some tricks to deal with all those well-meaning wandering hands.
Did you know that in October 2013, the state of Pennsylvania (USA) made it illegal to touch the belly of a pregnant woman without her permission?
Things you can say
You can choose to express your discomfort in a funny way or adopt a gentler approach, or you can decide to go the blunt route and speak your mind. Either way, there are many ways you can react and things you can say if people get touchy and you want them to respect your personal space.
- Back up with a smile and explain the situation gently: "This may be my hormones playing tricks on me, but I get uncomfortable when people touch my belly."
- Some people might not know how it feels to get touched when you’re pregnant. Try this: "My doctor told me it’s normal that my stomach is feeling more sensitive."
- If it’s early in the pregnancy and you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings, simply say: "I’m sorry, I would rather wait until the baby has started to move before I let you touch my belly."
- If the situation calls for it, you can also be direct, but polite: "Please, I don’t want you touching my belly."
- If you’re on the goofy side, humour could help you get your point across without causing any tension. If someone is about to touch your belly, jump back theatrically and yell: "Ouch! My uterus!"
- You can also play dumb and wonder out loud "What are you doing?" This will likely cause them to pause so you can explain.
- If you don’t mind having a little fun at people’s expense (of course, you can only use this one with strangers), you can act surprised and say: “Uh, I’m not pregnant!"
- Whatever you do, try to avoid getting angry. If you keep it polite, the other person won’t feel attacked and your message is far more likely to get across.
Things you can do
If you’re too shy to express your feelings out loud, remember that one look can help you convey a message without having to actually say anything.
Body language is also important. When socializing, you can keep your distance and cross your arms over your belly to protect it. People will be less likely to reach out for your stomach.
If you’re feeling up for it, try to stick your own hands on their tummy with a smirk and a knowing look, and see how they react. They will likely get the message.
If nothing else does the trick, try growling like a dog when they reach out their hands. Humour will help the situation be less awkward and it will certainly have the desired effect.
Some people just won’t respect your space, even if it’s polite or the right thing to do. This might be because they don’t really understand how it makes you feel. You might have to insist, so that they grasp the extent of your discomfort. Don’t be afraid to talk it out—it’s the only way they’ll be more understanding in the future.
Here are some of the tricks our members have shared on our discussion boards that helped discourage people from touching their bellies without permission during their own pregnancies.
- "I have every intention of touching their belly if they dare touch mine!" - LemonDrop
- "I think just to step back gently with a smile should be enough for them to understand that the gesture isn’t welcome." - LouColou
- "I would pretend to get a huge cough! And, for the record, I think we have a right to be rude! When people ask politely, we can tell them no, but if they pounce on us, I think we have every right to say ‘Hey, hold on a second, don’t touch me!’" - Arwen
- "When strangers or acquaintances would touch my belly without asking for permission, I would just move their hands away and start rubbing my own belly. They understood quite quickly. At the end of my pregnancy, I nearly always had my hands covering my belly to be sure no one touched it!" - Elexa20
Let your t-shirt say it
Wear your thoughts! A lot of clothing companies realize how much issue women take with people touching their bellies without permission. As such, you can get cute graphic t-shirts that will let people know exactly what you think about the whole thing, or you can create one with an original saying of your own.
Your family and friends may feel disappointed that they can’t touch "the baby" whenever they feel like it, regardless of how you approach the subject with them. These situations are never easy, but make sure you discuss it calmly and clearly with them. You want to avoid hurt feelings that could last longer than they should.
Insist on the fact that you appreciate their excitement and want to share it with them. Let them know that a pregnancy can be a challenging time and that you want to feel like you have ownership over your own body. Tell them you would like them to respect your privacy and ask before they put their hands on your belly.
If they feel rejected, you can reassure them by telling them that when you start feeling the baby moving inside you, you’ll let them know so they can share that moment with you!
Preparing for your baby’s arrival
If you think you’ve seen it all during your pregnancy, think again. Arm yourself with a ton of patience because when the baby finally comes, you’ll notice people invading your privacy more than ever before.
Your maternal instinct might kick in when all those people start touching your baby without asking you first. Remember most people are well intentioned––they just want to give your child affection. Be nice about it and they’ll get the message.
If you have any tips you want to share with our members, please let us know in the comments section below!