No, you can’t touch my belly

No, you can’t touch my belly

As women our bodies seem to always be open to other people's criticism, and that is only heightened during pregnancy.

Being pregnant in our culture means that I’m always doing everything wrong and that my body is no longer mine.

I’m eating the wrong things. I’m gaining too much weight. I’m not gaining enough weight. I’m not working out hard enough. I’m working out too much. 

To some, I’m a horrible mother because I still lift weights, run and practice yoga. I should be on the couch eating pickles and ice cream.

To others, I’m a horrible mother because I’ve been taking it easier — lifting lighter, walking more often than running and mostly practicing restorative yoga. I shouldn’t let pregnancy stop me from pushing myself.

I’m also a horrible mother because I’m choosing to have my baby naturally in a birth center with a midwife and a doula, not a doctor or an epidural.

And I’m a wonderful mother for it.

It’s as if I am carrying around a sign that says, “My body is open to your feedback."

It also has an arrow pointed toward my stomach that says “Pet me.” 

This must be true because complete strangers have walked up to me and rubbed my belly. As if it’s not still my belly. As if my body is just an object. Surely a decent human wouldn’t just rub a stranger’s body without consent. Right? Would you? Wouldn't that be a bizarre exchange?

Side note: I read somewhere about a pregnant woman who would respond by rubbing the other person’s belly. I think that’s amazing and awesome and maybe next time I’ll have the courage to do it.

This body is still mine. It’s housing two souls, but I still get to make all the decisions. 

I get to decide what I eat and don’t eat. How I move or don’t move. Who gets to touch me, where and how. And how this precious babe will make his or her entrance into the world.

My husband's and midwife's opinions are the ones that matter most to me. My husband understands that even though I value his input, I still get to make the decisions. Once we are officially parents, decisions will be mutual. But for now, it's still my body. My decisions. He respects that, and I love him for it. 

Everybody and every body is different. My understanding is that every pregnancy is different. When I have a question, I seek the answer. I consult trusted friends, family, my midwife and of course, the internet. 

But sometimes people interject answers when I haven’t even asked a question.

Would you approach a man and tell him, without him asking you, how to eat? Or work out? What to put on, in and around his body? Or give him unsolicited healthcare advice?

No.

Because it’s his body and it’s really none of your business unless he seeks you out for advice. And even then, they are still very much his choices to make. Somehow the same rules don't apply to pregnant women.

I don’t believe everyone giving unsolicited advice or opinions has bad intentions. I don’t even think the strangers who pet my belly have bad intentions. But their conditioning has made them believe that pregnant women’s bodies are objects. Objects to be discussed, touched and criticized. Why is a pregnant woman’s body more vulnerable than a man’s body?

The objectification of women’s bodies is still an issue. I'm experiencing it at a heightened level now, while a very special small human is growing inside me.

It may seem trivial. Like it's not a big deal. It's only for nine months — can't I just suck it up? Smile through the "advice" and belly stroking like a polite girl.

But it's these seemingly trivial things that add up to a sexist culture. Please, let's not wake up in a patriarchal world where "The Handmaid's Tale" is our reality. Where women are literally walking wombs whose sole purpose in life is to "fulfill their biological destiny" at the mercy of men. 

I’ve never experienced something so … magical. My body is changing. It’s creating life. It’s a sacred time shared between our beautiful growing baby and me. Even my own husband can’t experience it (besides feeling those precious kicks from the outside). Because this is my body.

It’s housing two souls, but it is still mine.

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