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Belly Buster

I have been reading your site for a couple of years now and I really enjoy it. I have learned so many great ways to handle awkward situations.

Quite a while ago, there was a post about people touching others without permission. One of the main points of discussion was how people seem to do this to pregnant women. Once you start showing, it’s like you are fair game for anyone who wants to touch your belly. I don’t know who started the idea that pregnant women enjoy this, but I hope that they get schooled on why that is not true.

I am pregnant with my third child. I experienced people touching or trying to touch me without permission during my first and second pregnancies and now that I am showing, it is happening again. This time however, it seems to be happening more frequently and it’s not just “little old ladies”, like it was before. I wanted to share two of the most recent encounters I had with “touchers” and get the Dame and the E-hellions opinions on how I handled them.

First encounter: I was out running errands and shopping. I had already told one person who asked to touch my belly no. They were ok with it. After that, I was thinking about how one of the commenters in the post I referred to earlier saying her sister started rubbing the bellies of people who would rub hers when she was pregnant. I thought how great an idea that was and that I would do that to next person who touched me, or tried to, to see how they would respond.

I had to go to Wal-Mart to pick up something I had ordered online. As I was standing in line at the pickup counter a woman, who appeared to be maybe in her early 40’s, walked up to me with her arms extended and I knew what she was going to do. When she stopped in front and just to the side of me and started reaching for my belly and asking how far along I was, I quickly raised and extended my arms and managed to rub her belly first. She gasped, stepped back and yelled, “What do you think you are doing?!”   I calmly replied, “You were going to touch my belly without asking, so I decided to see how you would like it if a complete stranger just started touching you”   She yelled, “No one has ever minded before!”,  and a few other things I couldn’t quite hear as she was stomping off. I thought,  “Good for her but I do mind and I don’t want to be touched.”

The second encounter happened just a few hours ago, as I was standing in the check-out line at the grocery store. I heard a child in the next line talking to someone who turned out to be his mother. It sounded like he was asking her something, but I couldn’t make out the words. I heard the mother say, “Sure honey, go ahead.” A split second later, a small boy appeared in front of me and started forcefully, painfully rubbing my belly. As I instinctively reached out to grasp his hands to stop him, I heard his mom telling another lady in line how little “Johnny” loved to feel babies kicking.

The instant she realized I had grasped his hands to make him stop she raced over saying, “What are you doing? Why are you holding his hands?”   I replied, “I don’t like strangers touching me without permission and your son was hurting me.”  She said, “He’s not a stranger, he’s a child! He was just trying to get the baby to kick! He’s not hurting you!”   I said,”He is a stranger to me and he was hurting me. You really should not encourage or give him permission to touch strangers, pregnant or not, as some people might accidentally hurt him if he just walks up and puts his hands on people.” She sneered at me and said,  “You think you are special because you’re pregnant? My husband is a police officer! I’m going to call him and tell him you threatened to hit our baby and he will have you arrested!”  Her son said, “Daddy’s not a policeman.”

Then, the woman in line behind me said,  “Maybe I should call my husband, County Sheriff  “Smith” and tell him that your son is assaulting a pregnant woman and you are threatening her. Then both of you can get arrested.”   She pulled out her cell phone and said, “Shall I?”  The woman and her kid went back to their line, fast, and the woman never said another word. Her son kept asking her why she said daddy was a policeman, but she never answered him.

I profusely thanked the sheriff’s wife. She said she was glad to help because she got tired of hearing parents threaten to call the police on someone because people would not let others’ children “run over them.”

I don’t think I was wrong to stop the child from touching me or the woman at Wal-Mart. What does the E-Hell community think?   0110-15

I don’t think I would have touched Woman #1 first. If one believes touching by strangers is a violation of personal space, why compound the problem by doing the very thing to someone else?   In other words, one loses credibility in regards to how offensive stranger touching is if you also engage in the same practice.   If bellies are off limits, they are off limits to everyone.  I much prefer the firm removal of the hand off my body accompanied with, “What do you think you are doing?”, in an appropriately indignant and stunned tone of voice.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • AthenaC January 13, 2015, 5:17 pm

    All the comments remind me of something that happened when I was pregnant with my third –

    I was about 8 months along, GARGANTUAN (and proud of it!), and not really aware of how big I was. Translation: I bumped into things a lot with my belly. Including the head of one of my four-year-old Sunday School students. I immediately said, “Oh! I’m sorry, sweetie,” as she looked at my belly, looked at me, then looked at my belly again as if seeing it for the first time.

    “Do you have a BABY in there?!” she asked.

    “Why, yes I do!” I replied.

    “WHY?!” she said.

    I paused for half a second, thinking rapidly, and then answered, “Because God sent me and my husband a baby!”

    That seemed to satisfy her. Which is good because that’s about all I’m comfortable explaining to a 4-year-old. Especially one that’s not mine!

    • NotCinderell January 14, 2015, 10:36 am

      I had a similar experience once. I was at the recycling center, about 7 months pregnant with my first, and two very precocious young ladies (about 6 and 8 years old, I’d guess) told me they liked my belly. I asked them if they knew why my belly was big, and the older one said, “Because you’re growing a baby!” So cute.

    • Lanes January 19, 2015, 7:46 pm

      My 4 year old niece discovered my pregnant belly at Christmas. Being Christmas, she assumed it must have been a present and asked “who got it for you?”

      Unconvinced that there was in fact a baby in my belly she kept asking every couple of hours “can I see it?”, and “has it come out yet?”.

      My favourite question of the day was “what colour is it?”, as if throwing me a curly question such as this would make me admit that it was all a ruse and I just had a balloon in my dress.

      Out of the mouths of babes!

  • Alli January 13, 2015, 5:34 pm

    Somewhat related, my grandmother had very bright red hair (this was back before hair dye was as common/worked as well). When she was young people used to touch her hair, especially on the bus. It drove her nuts.

  • Nannerdoman January 13, 2015, 6:07 pm

    When I read the second anecdote, I wondered whether the woman who offered to call her husband the county sheriff was actually married to him, or just upping the ante? Whichever is the case, good on her for stepping up in defense of the OP.

  • Lara January 13, 2015, 7:24 pm

    On the day I was scheduled to give birth to my twin sons, I was waiting outside the hospital while my husband went to park the car (it was drizzling). A strange man was also outside, and approached me. He told me he was waiting for a hospital attendant to bring his wife and new baby downstairs. He then asked me about my pregnancy. When I told him that I was having twins, he said, “Wow,” and reached out and put his hand on my belly. I didn’t particularly like this, but because he had just had a baby of his own I put up with it; it didn’t seem worth making a fuss about. But then he reached down, grabbed the hem of my shirt, and PULLED IT UP, while bending over to take a look at my belly. I was so shocked I hardly knew what to do; I pulled the shirt down and squeaked, “Don’t!” He raised his hands, laughing, and backed off. I looked the other way, pointedly ignoring him. In a few minutes I looked around and he was gone. A nurse who had been out there with another patient and had seen the whole thing, asked me if I was all right. I told her yes, but I was glad my husband hadn’t been there–it would not have been pretty. He got back a minute or so later, and she helped us upstairs and got us installed in our room. I remember he commented on how very nice and friendly she was; I didn’t tell him why. It was a few years before I told him the story, actually, and even all that time later he was furious.

  • Wendy January 13, 2015, 8:28 pm

    I’m 39 weeks pregnant it’s the middle of summer here with 40 Celsius temps I’m hot uncomfortable and cranky I realise this so I’m very careful when out to be polite when I notice someone reaching out a simple ‘please don’t’ is enough to have them stepping back. The only real problem I have had is actually with people I know at work, if asked I was happy to let my workmates feel the baby move ( I love feeling babies kick but always ask) would if baby wasn’t moving at the time let them know when he was, one work mate never asked and used to come up where I couldn’t see her to touch the belly it always gave me a start and I would step back, she got quite offended when she would watch me let others know bub was kicking and invite them to touch but they asked and I could see them I didn’t think I was being unreasonable.

  • TheCatLady January 13, 2015, 9:46 pm

    I had that happen quite a bit too when I was pregnant. try stating very dryly “I’m not pregnant” and watch them flounder. At that point literally nothing they say will make it less awkward (for them).

    I guarantee they will never do it to anyone else again

    • Enna January 16, 2015, 1:00 pm

      If I ever get pregnant and need to deflect people from touching my belly I’m going to use this one.

    • yankeegal77 January 24, 2015, 3:48 pm

      If only there were a LIKE button for this!! Awesome.

  • Rebecca January 14, 2015, 1:45 am

    I may be in the minority, but I think the OP did just brilliantly. In scenario #1, the stranger had already conveyed that she thought it was perfectly fine for random strangers to touch someone’s belly. So the OP did just that. Not the OP’s fault if the woman reacted differently than what she had originally conveyed was OK.

    In the second scenario, I really doubt I could have stayed polite if I were informed by a stranger what I was or was not experiencing (ie “he’s not hurting you.”) I’d have been telling her to call off her little brat and teach it some manners, though reasonably, I know this would have been totally rude and not the “right” response, and that the child wasn’t at fault – the mother was.

  • mrsvandy January 14, 2015, 4:58 am

    The only people who ask to touch my belly when I was pregnant, were fortunately people who I felt comfortable allowing to touch my belly. No strangers tried thankfully.
    Now that the little one is here people have tried to touch her when she’s in my husbands care. Never with me only with him. He gets little old ladies trying to pick her up or touch her face. He’s like a ninja dad though, because he always pulls her away in time. He’s polite and says ‘Please don’t touch my baby.’

  • Ceallach January 14, 2015, 5:00 am

    I’ve been pregnant twice and never had this problem. And I spend a lot of time on public transport, in malls, and in parks, encountering heaps of strangers. So personally I suspect some people are a teeny but over dramatic about it! I literally had one person ever try to touch my preggie belly, and that was my stepbrother who was super excited when he greeted me once and greeted “the bump” specially as well. Perhaps I just have a hostile face and people know not to try to touch me??

    • Meegs January 14, 2015, 9:02 am

      I’m inclinded to agree with your suspicion. I’ve been pregant and no one ever even came remotely close to touching my belly, nor has it ever happened to any of my good number of friends and relatvies that have had babies. I’m sure it does happen but I don’t think its with the frequency or the flair that is portrayed here sometimes.

      • michellep January 14, 2015, 3:20 pm

        I assure you, my comment was truthful and I believe everything other posters have put. I’ve seen worse. I frankly resent your implying that I and others are lying. I wish it wasn’t true.

    • MsDani313 January 14, 2015, 2:45 pm

      It sure is nice that this phenomenon has not happened to you. However, that does not mean that PPs are being “dramatic about it.” I’ve had people touch my belly and I am not now nor have I ever been pregnant. I (and many others) do not like being touched by strangers. It is not a fear of germs or people that has led me to this dislike. It is a fervent belief that I and I alone can control who has access to my body. And let us remember that just because we have never experienced something doesn’t mean that others are exaggerating about their experience.

    • Ash K. January 18, 2015, 12:38 am

      I had super-excited strangers surprise me with a pat or a little rub, usually close to the end of my pregnancies (3). Something about pregnant women activates the “touch all the things!” impulse in people. I wonder why that is.

    • NostalgicGal January 24, 2015, 4:15 pm

      I am past childbearing years but because of how I wear my weight (partly medical condition) I’ve been on and off ‘pregnant’ looking for over twenty years. Sometimes I get those that want to touch or grope and sometimes I don’t (my arms and legs are ‘normal’ size so it exaggerates the front weight). I’m not even pregnant. I lost all my ability to have children years ago. People do bother those that look pregnant in later stages. Be glad that you’ve not ever had the issue. It happens. (one of my standard lines when asked when I’m due, is to state two years from now, so the reply right now is ‘2017’. Then when they’re absorbing that, it’s no I’m not pregnant, won’t ever be, and that’s just where my weight rides. For the few that don’t believe me, that’s their problem. Meantime the intrusion and hands issue have been resolved by then)

  • just4kicks January 14, 2015, 6:47 am

    Our youngest is eleven, so it’s been quite awhile since I’ve had this happen to me.
    Luckily, most of my “touch-ees” were little old ladies who asked first.
    I worked a few years ago with a gal who very tiny and petite and VERY pregnant with twins.
    We were partnered up quite a bit at work, and we both gobsmacked at the rude people and their kids who would grab this girl’s stomach.
    One little girl followed us around (we were unpacking boxes and putting away the merchandise) for a good ten minutes, until I finally asked her where her parents were.
    The mom, who was down the aisle a bit, snapped her head around and barked “I’m her Mom! I’m right HERE!!!” My coworker said, “Can you PLEASE come get your daughter? She is rubbing my belly, and hurting me!”
    The “lady” replied “Oh, for CHRIST’S SAKE! She is a child! She’s just curious….what’s your PROBLEM?!?”
    Uhhhh, you and your grabby daughter are my problem at the moment….I’m not on display here!!!!!

  • Desert Lily January 14, 2015, 7:18 am

    It’s not just babies and pregnant bellies. Several years ago I ripped a tendon in hand so it was completely immobilized in a player cast for several weeks. Innumerable people, total strangers in public, came up to me and asked me what happened, what’s wrong etc. And every time I saw a child they came up to me, the younger ones would just grab for my hand while the older ones would ask me and grab or poke. It was worst when I was at work and I had to fake a polite smile for each customer who commented and/or asked. And the dozen old men each day who took one look and asked me if I broke my hand on my boyfriends head. Har. Har. So funny. The general public seems to think that any visible attribute that isn’t “normal” in some way is fair game for doing whatever they want to. Hey, it’s my hand, my body, none of your business. Keep your hands and your mouth to yourself. I am so much more sensitive to people violating others’ personal space and privacy now, for any reason. I don’t blame the kids, either. I blame their parents who stood there and watched them do it and thought it was okay.

  • Desert Lily January 14, 2015, 7:18 am

    That was supposed to say plaster cast, not player cast.

  • UKHelen January 14, 2015, 9:03 am

    I visited a relative abroad when she was heavily pregnant. I wanted to touch her belly (to have some contact with this new relative I knew I wouldn’t see for some years) but politeness restrained me, until we were saying goodbye for the final time. I asked, “Would it be alright if I touched the baby bump?” and she looked at me in surprise and said, “Of course – you don’t need to ask! Nobody else asks, they all just start touching!”. It was obvious from the face she pulled that she was offended by their presumption.

  • Jessica January 14, 2015, 9:46 am

    My childhood best friend is 8 months pregnant right now, and my mom hosted a baby shower for her a couple weeks ago. I was really surprised by how many people walked up to touch her belly. They didn’t appear to be asking, but I might have missed it. She didn’t seem upset or uncomfortable, but I couldn’t help but wondering, do people think that just because it’s a baby shower they automatically get to touch her belly?

  • Yarnspinner January 14, 2015, 10:40 am

    Another thought occurred to me regarding the second incident. What on earth would that woman have done if, while her son was pummeling the OP’s tummy, the OP had dropped her purchases, clutched her belly and shrieked that “Oh no! I think the baby is coming!!!”?

  • OP January 14, 2015, 12:26 pm

    Hi- OP here. Thanks to all for your suggestions and comments.

    After thinking about it for a few days, I probably should not have touched woman #1 first. I did not have a cart or anything to block her with ( I was picking up cables that could only be ordered online so need for a cart). I should have just stepped back and said something.

    Woman #2 and her son- that was the worst case of “touchers” I have ever experienced. I agree with the commenter that said he may start to believe touching strangers or strangers touching him is ok. Hopefully, the sheriff’s wife taught her to not lie about being married to police officers! Her son busting her was fantastic!! I hope he told his dad.

    I’m not swamped by people touching/trying to touch my belly every time I go out. I live in the South, so maybe it’s a “southern thing”, but with child 1 & 2, a lot of the “little old ladies” type would touch my belly without asking. With pregnancy 1, I was shocked that people would just walk up and touch without even knowing me. With pregnancy 2, I used the cart block or “evade” maneuver as much as possible. With current pregnancy, it’s not so much “little old ladies” (even though a few have tried), it’s just random people in stores and such. So far, it’s been about 5 people total: woman #1, woman #2’s son, a lady at the ob/gyn office, a grandmother-type who lives a few houses down and a lady at the hair salon. Some people have asked and I said no, and they seemed ok with it.

    I usually put a blanket over the baby when I go out to try to prevent people from touching them (“please don’t- they just went to sleep” in a theatrical whisper) or if at all possible, leave them with hubby, aunt or grandma. It’s much easier to get the shopping done without having to worry about people grabbing at your child or having a colicky/cranky baby screaming for 45 minutes. I know it bothers other people and quite frankly, it bothers me – but we do have to have food, formula, diapers, etc. Online shopping and delivery is getting better, so I have utilized that quite a bit lately.

  • delislice January 14, 2015, 3:12 pm

    Yup, I’ve had total strangers just barrel up to me, gleam in the eye, and slam the palm onto my pregnant belly. They get very unfriendly responses.

    And my mother and I were out with my 2-week-old baby when we saw an older woman theatrically “sneak” up on a toddler riding in the seat of the shopping cart, and shout, “BOO!” I guess that’s how she played peek-a-boo, but she’s lucky she didn’t try it with my baby. (The toddler in question, of course, burst into tears, scared to within an inch of his life.)

  • JeanFromBNA January 14, 2015, 5:31 pm

    Oh, good heavens! You’re not carrying a petting zoo!

    • Lanes January 19, 2015, 7:53 pm

      Ohhh, I like this one. Look them dead in the eye and state “I am not a petting zoo”. lol

  • imc January 14, 2015, 6:16 pm

    I’m the kind of person who’s really bothered by out-of-place details: picture frames hanging off kilter, glasses of the wrong side of the table, clothing tags hanging out of clothes…. especially clothing tags hanging out of clothes. I am also aware I should not touch strangers or other people’s properties without their permission, so I generally refrain from righting frames in other people’s homes or grabbing random sweaters on a bus to push the tag inside. If I can resist that, I can certainly resist the inexplicable pull of pregnant bellies, and will only touch those of people I know and have agreed to let me approach.
    That said, I think I would find it rather funny to end up in situation #1 as the belly toucher, provided the pregnant lady’s reaction was played for laughs and she wasn’t really upset by my reaching (that would be mortifying). I wouldn’t mind her touching me (after all, I was about to do the same to her), but I would definitely respond with something like “but you’ve got someting interesting in yours! it’s just yesterday’s french fries in mine.”

    Situation #2 is appalling. I’ve never been pregnant, but I’m pretty sure that while kicking might be endearing, because you get to really “feel” your baby inside you, I don’t think it’s supposed to be at all enjoyable after the first few instances. To presume that your brat has any right to walk up to a stranger and start poking her in the hope to induce some kicking, which would divert the child for a few seconds and possibly inconvenience the expecting mother for the rest of the day is frankly absurd.

    • Ash K. January 18, 2015, 12:52 am

      … “but you’ve got someting interesting in yours! it’s just yesterday’s french fries in mine.”…


  • Elladen January 16, 2015, 12:27 am

    OP I feel for you – encounter number two sounded like a bit of a nightmare! I do feel rather sorry for the son in that situation- as the mother of a four year old whose emotions are moving a little faster than his brain, and subsequently being on the receiving end of frustrated flailing, I imagine the lad didn’t realise just how rough he was being. That said, heavens above lady, where do you get off giving your child permission to manhandle someone they’ve never met?? And compounding the situation by lying?! Not acceptable by any means! Good on you for standing your ground OP, and good on the (possible) sheriff’s wife for standing it with you!

  • Lanes January 19, 2015, 7:57 pm

    I’ve learned the hard way that offering someone permission to touch your belly can unintentionally invite unwanted touching from others too, so be careful who you say yes to!

    I’m currently pregnant, and the baby was moving whilst at a recent family gathering. I was having a private conversation with my MIL, and offered for her to have a feel since bubs was moving and kicking quite a bit.
    Queue Aunty (MIL’s sister) dashing in from the other room and plonking her hand on for a feel too.

    Funnily enough, baby stopped moving when Aunty put her hand on – must have sensed that Mama Bear did not appreciate it!

  • missminute January 19, 2015, 8:27 pm

    What a terrible and scary precedent that woman is setting for her son by teaching him to touch women without their permission.

  • Antfarmer April 3, 2015, 4:45 pm

    I guess I’m another of those women with a hostile face, because not once in two pregnancies did anyone try to touch me uninvited. And Ive never had anyone give me unsolicited advice about my children, either, which happens to my sister quite often.

  • erika613 May 14, 2015, 11:05 am

    The only people who touched me without permission during my recent pregnancy were my mother and MIL.

    I live several states away from my mother and only saw her for one weekend during my pregnancy. I was not happy, but accommodated her because I am her only daughter and was finally pregnant after years of fertility treatment.

    My MIL is a different story. DH and I live less than 15 minutes drive from her and we see her 2-3 times per month. The first time she touched me, I let it slide. The second time, I put my hands up in front of my belly in order to block her. She reached under my hands and touched me any way.

    The third time, I grabbed her wrists, turned sideways and said “I actually don’t like people touching my belly.” She made a big show of how much she understood and how she was not offended by my refusal. As I walked past her into her house, she said (not to me, but loudly enough so that I could hear) “But Grandma isn’t an exception?!” I stopped in the doorway and said “no,” then continued with the visit as normal. She didn’t touch me again after that.

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