It’s not exactly unusual for women to feel they have limited ownership of their bodies, pregnant or not. Comments such as “you’d be so pretty if you’d just smile more” to outright harassment have manifest themselves in the lives of many.
This said, I have definitely experienced an uptick in public commentary on my person since finding out I was pregnant. As a survivor of sexual assault many of these experiences (two of which I’m sharing here) these experiences are particularly poignant for me. As such, I imagine they’re difficult for others to handle as well.
This first one happened roughly 16 weeks ago (because when you’re pregnant your life is suddenly measured in weeks, rather than months). I was 7 weeks pregnant and so people really only knew I was expecting if I told them. On a lovely Saturday I was going to meet up with my friend, Tricia, for some coffee and conversation. I arrived at the cafe before my friend and so I was standing by myself at the pick-up counter for my drink. An older (to be clear, she was not old. I was guess late 40’s to early 50’s) woman was waiting next to me. As I was looking around the shop I noticed the woman look at me, give me the “once over” with her eyes. Following this action she decided it would be appropriate to say “It looks like someone hasn’t visited the gym in a while. ” I was flabbergasted! As this coffee shop is my favorite and I have no desire to be banned for life my initial response to punch her in the face seemed like a poor choice. So I decided on my next choice, which was to say, “Well, I’ll just tell the baby to stop growing, shall I?” It was the woman’s turn to look flabbergasted as I grabbed my drink and settled in a very comfortable arm chair.
This second experience is a somewhat classic “belly touching” story with a rather unfortunate twist. A couple weeks ago Nathan & I were enjoying the company of some friends we had not seen for quite some time. Drinks were had (clearly not by me) and everyone was having a great time. It was at this point that an old acquaintance came up to me and began to loudly proclaim how strange it was that there was this weird little alien inside of me. She then began to share with me, slightly less loudly, how scared she was to have a baby of her own one day. It was at this point that she asked if she could touch my belly. I said yes and she began to rub my abdomen for about a minute. We continued our conversation and she began to start looking shifty eyes, her eyes darting between my belly and the others sitting around us. This time I invited her to touch me if she wanted, and apparently she did. Our conversation continued and a third desire to touch me apparently overwhelmed her because she began to jab at my belly with a lot of force. I asked her to stop and informed her (in no uncertain terms) that she was hurting me. When it became clear that she did not get the message I quickly stood up and stepped away, again stating that she was hurting me.
Both these experiences are not unique to me and the first is definitely not unique to only pregnant women. Our bodies are under constant scrutiny and it’s definitely difficult to deal with. This is what I’ve found helpful to dealing with the growing scrutiny, as well as my own growing discomfort of my own body.
**side note: I just realized that you could read “growing” as a pun. Although it was unintentional please feel free to chuckle and think “Man, Rachel is so funny.”**
1) Talk about your experiences with others. A good friend, your partner, or even a co-worker can provide a good sounding board to how you are feeling.
2) Try and remind yourself that you, and your body, are amazing. Whether you are growing a human being or not think about all the amazing things your body does every day to keep you alive and kicking!
3) Sometimes you just need to cry about it, and that is okay.