When I was a high school teacher, my closest friend, who taught in the classroom next door to mine, got pregnant the summer before our third year of teaching. We were in our mid-twenties, and her pregnancy was the first one I really witnessed. While I loved learning about her experiences with every new development and milestone, I was also sometimes appalled by how people acted towards her. During our lunch period, the male teachers would look at her, think of pregnancy, and dredge up their own stories, saying something like, “Did I tell you about the time my wife almost died on the delivery table?” A few too many times of those story lines and I grew fed up. “We’re not eating lunch with you anymore until you find something else to talk about,” I insisted (appropriate that we taught high school with my behavior and all, don’t you think?). We were both baffled at the way people would come up to her—anywhere, especially the grocery store—and touch her or tell her their horror stories. It was like she was up for grabs all of a sudden. Another time, as she walked towards our classrooms after lunch duty, the art teacher down the hall, a woman in her mid-50s who had two children, screamed for all the world to hear: “QUACK, QUACK, WADDLE, WADDLE, QUACK, QUACK, WADDLE, WADDLE.” So it came as no surprise to me when the Fierce Women e-mailed the women in our lives to ask them what they wanted discussed on the blog that several of them e-mailed back, “Why is a pregnant woman’s body and state up for grabs? Why do some believe that it is okay to touch her without asking? Why do others use this time to volunteer their unpleasant or negative experiences?” And it also comes as no surprise that this group of Fierce Women had some thoughtful answers to share. – Rosie
Amy: Could it be that the sharing of these negative experiences is similar to the bad body image comments we have talked about in past posts. Maybe these are experiences that somehow as women we’re all “supposed” to relate to and share and bond over. I can’t tell you how many pregnant friends I’ve had complain about comments others have made about how they are carrying their baby. It’s like somehow it becomes socially acceptable to stare at someone’s body and then declare what your thoughts are . . . like “wow, you’re carrying low, must be a girl or a boy”. Unfortunately, being pregnant is not something people become completely accustomed to. . . by the time someone gets completely fed up and ready to set some limits, the baby is born and then she gets to start talking about losing the baby weight . . . sheesh!
Donna: This is a weird one for me…several times I have had a pregnant friend offer to let me ‘feel the baby kick’ or move, and I never know how to respond to this…I would never be feeling their stomach in any other situation, so it’s a little awkward for me. I have no idea why many people think that it’s okay to violate normal body rights during this time. It’s a complete mystery to me. We may need a guest fierce woman that has been pregnant to chime in on this one!
Crystal: If one of my friends or a family member is pregnant, I’m usually so excited about the pregnancy that I can’t wait to feel the baby move. In my more impetuous youth, I would put two hands on the belly without asking. Now that I’m more mature, I ask.
Pregnancy is a state of being that changes everything about the woman’s life, her partner’s life and those of people who love her. I think pregnant women are enchantingly beautiful and mysterious. The only thing I try to give/get from those moments of touch is a chance to love and support.
Since I’ve never given birth, and odds are at age 44 I never will, I have no horror stories to share. I also have a million questions: “What does it feel like?” “Are you comfortable?” “Do you feel as beautiful as you look?” “Are you ready?” “Are you scared?”
I wish I’d been there when my sister in law gave birth to my nieces and nephew. I’ll never turn down that opportunity again. So, what makes us intrude? For some of us, it’s amazement, curiosity and love.
Amy: I am also that way with my friends! I think being pregnant is really phenomenal!
So, what say you, fellow Fierce Women: do you think pregnancy has become a public state that the expectant mom has little control over? What strategies have you used in your efforts to set boundaries around your pregnancies? What can loving friends do to offer support?