It Takes a Village to Harass a Pregnant Lady
By Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
Pregnancy is an enchanting time of joyous expectancy for the mother-to-be. You’ll find yourself contemplating with awe the miracle of the new life that you carry inside of you. You’ll spend countless hours eagerly anticipating the arrival of your little bundle of joy. Thank heavens you have something so wonderful to look forward to! You’ll need to hold that thought as you endure some of the less-than-wonderful realities of nine long months of pregnancy.
Unless you’re extremely lucky or genetically gifted, your first trimester might feature a bit of morning sickness and fatigue. Under the influence of your rampant hormones, you might become a bit of an emotional fruitcake. But not to worry. This too will pass!
You’ll experience equal parts delight and dismay as your body evolves to assume its new, pumpkin-like dimensions. With the promise of your precious baby, you’ll gladly accept the battle-scars of pregnancy: Stretch marks, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and slightly-wider hips. No problem!
If you’re like most expectant women, you were fully prepared for the physical changes of gestation, but you might not have been warned about the total loss of privacy that accompanies every pregnancy. I’m not talking about the loss of modesty that occurs at the latex-covered hands of your obstetrician or midwife. By now, you’ve come to realize that as long as you’re pregnant, a number of folks will be peering closely at your private parts. That’s not the worst of it. The greatest loss of privacy you’ll experience stems from the tremendous fascination that friends, family members, and even total strangers have with your pregnancy.
These people have heard and heeded the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, and they like to get involved in their child-raising duties the minute your pregnancy makes itself evident.
Your belly and the little bundle of joy that resides inside become public domain of the village. Well-meaning villagers will find it absolutely imperative to interrogate you about the status of your pregnancy, the events surrounding the conception, and your post-partum plans. Nothing is sacred.
Unsolicited and erroneous advice will flow freely from the villagers. Regardless of their age or experience, everyone you know, meet, or pass in the supermarket aisle will have a strong opinion about how you should deliver, name, feed, and discipline your child for the next 18 years.
Older, seasoned mothers generally feel obligated to recount their pregnancy-related miseries and delivery-room war-stories to you. They’re eager to welcome you to the sisterhood of women who have walked through the fire of the reproductive process and lived to complain about it.
All of this attention is tolerable in small doses, but the slight-nosy-to-downright-rude inquisitions are often more than a mere mortal mom can bear.
Having two babies in two years, I had 18 months of pregnancy to ponder the most frequently asked questions and to formulate the snappy retorts that I wish I had been brave enough to use.
Undoubtedly, the number one FAQ is, “Do you know what it is?” Your reply, (with all of the innocence you can muster): “Why yes! We’re quite certain it’s a baby! We’ll know for sure after the ultrasound!”
The second question most often posed to moms-to-be is, “When’s your baby due?” Inquiring villagers desperately want this information. Give it to them. To save your breath, you might want to have some cards printed up. Be sure to include the exact date and time of delivery and a map to the hospital. Invite them to bring a friend, a camera, and a bag lunch.
People who know your spouse will find it necessary to ask, “Is your husband happy about the pregnancy?” My favorite, unused response: “I’ll let you know after we get the results of the paternity test!” Make sure you give your inquisitor a big wink and a poke in the ribs for added effect.
Tactless villagers with excessive concern for your financial security and emotional wellbeing often inquire, “Did you plan this pregnancy?” You are perfectly within your rights to counter with a question of your own, like, “Did you plan to be rude?”
Although these FAQs will annoy you, they can’t touch the very real problem of the belly-rubbers. Belly-rubbing villagers will not hesitate to rub, pat, caress, or croon to your belly and its contents, often positioning themselves for up-close and personal, face-to-belly interaction.
You may have to fight the impulse to flop down on the ground, roll over, and shake your leg in the air when a belly-rubber gets her hands on you. You probably won’t be able to stop her It’s difficult to defend your belly when you can’t reach it all, and in your condition, you certainly won’t be able to make a run for it. You might feel a little better if you return the favor and rub the belly-rubber’s belly while she’s rubbing yours.
There’s a reason that expectant mothers used to sneak off to the woods as their due dates approached. It was to escape the loving, annoying attentions of their fellow villagers.
If the villagers are driving you crazy, remember, they’re only doing their jobs. The moment you give birth, they’ll focus all their wonderful efforts and energies on welcoming your baby to the world, and your entire village will help you raise your precious child.