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Mom's Talk Q&A: Jump Right in With Your Thoughts

Some moms don't want people touching their expanding bellies. How about you?

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on Sherman Oaks Patch, in which local parents are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting issues.

Each week our Moms Council members will discuss a different issue. Join the conversation by weighing in on a topic or asking questions.  

 This week's Mom Council members include:

Linda Arbiter:  A licensed family therapist in Sherman Oaks, Linda is also the mother of three children. Linda's specialities include parenting issues, adolescent development, and anxiety issues involving children.

Michele Dahl: Michele is a freelance writer and mom to 3-year-old firecracker, Shelby, and 1-year-old sweetheart, Cash.  In between working  three jobs—not including her unpaid gig as a mommy—she is a contributing writer and product reviewer for www.hollywoodmomblog.com.  

Randi Green: Randi is raising three children, ages 18, 15 and 10. She is a personal trainer, working with children as well as adults. Randi says: "I’ve dealt with the terrible twos, the trying tweens and the terrific/horrific teen years, and have firm opinions on it all!"

Rose Sevilla: Rose is a full-time personal assistant to her toddler, Alastair, and is pregnant with twin boys.  She holds a master's degree in linguistics, and consults as a language/learning specialist.  Prior to entering motherhood, Rose was a classroom teacher for nearly a decade.

This week the conversation focuses on an issue that pregnancy itself can present. Rose Sevilla poses the question: Feel free to tell us what you think in our comments section on the site.

The womb is indeed a place of wonder, and what can happen inside of it is nothing short of a miracle.  For those of us who have ever experienced pregnancy, we are all-too-familiar with the hands of others gravitating towards our protruding place of progeny, sometimes without even a warning.  But what happens when someone you’ve never met approaches and rubs your belly as if it were a magic lamp?  Do you ask them to make a wish?  While usually the act is well intentioned, one would never approach a total stranger, invade their personal space, and proceed to caress any other body part, right?    A few things to keep in mind:

  • Not all pregnant women enjoy being touched on their bumps.
  • Some women are enduring a difficult pregnancy, and would prefer not to discuss what they are having or when with someone they have never met, much less be felt-up by them.
  • Be careful never to assume someone is pregnant.  Some women carry weight differently, and are not pregnant at all. 
  • Poking a woman in the belly button as if she were the Pillsbury Dough Boy is never appropriate, as the area can be quite sensitive and the act rather demeaning.

Rose Sevilla will be online at 1 p.m. to discuss the topic with our readers.

Artemis321 March 16, 2011 at 06:44 PM
This happens often and I often wonder what women really think of it. I know I would not be happy if some random stranger approached me and touched my stomach if I were pregnant. I would be polite and try not to react in anger, but at the same time I would be thinking, "Please stop touching me".
Anna King March 16, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Moms Talk has begun! What's your opinion on today's topic? Do you agree or disagree with our first commenter?
Rose Sevilla March 16, 2011 at 08:01 PM
That's a great point, Artemis321. Welcome, everyone! Please share your opinions about this touchy (pun intended!) subject.
Alice March 16, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Ive never really had a person i never met before touch my belly, but if someone i didn't know ever did. I would be vary uncomfortable with it.
Jennifer B March 16, 2011 at 10:35 PM
This happened to me once when I was pregnant and I was too stunned to react. I've since decided that, if I were to go back to that moment and do it over, I would reach out and touch the stranger's stomach right back. Taste of their own medicine, so to speak :)
Linda Arbiter, MFT March 16, 2011 at 10:44 PM
Personal space is so different for each of us. When someone comes up to you and wants to "rub the belly" or give you hug, pat your shoulder or kiss you on the cheek it is important to be aware of "what am I comfortable with". Most of us don't stop to think about our own comfort zone until it has been violated. Try this exercise with a partner: 1. stand facing each other, 2. person (a ) walk toward person (b), 3. person (b) notice how close person (a) can come towards you before you begin to feel uneasy, 4. at this point, the space between person (a) and (b) is your "comfort zone". It is ok to ask people to respect this space, "you are standing too close to me, would you mind moving back just a little?" or "I really don't like it when people touch my stomach, however, you are welcome to ask me questions about my pregnancy if you wish" or "I'm really happy to see you, but I would prefer you not touch me". It may feel awkward at first, think of it as teaching appropriate boundaries to your children. They learn about their personal space from us, their parents.
celeste March 16, 2011 at 10:58 PM
I have always been over weight, so when i was pregnant I didn't show for a while. When I finally began to show, it was an over night explosion, my belly was huge! I didn't mind when it was my mom, my husband, or my sister....but not so with strangers. It was uncomfortable for me!
L. B. March 16, 2011 at 11:00 PM
I guess I was lucky - no one touched my belly without asking, and I tried to be a good sport and accommodate those who did ask (though none were complete strangers - don't think I would have been comfortable with that!). But I guess I don't really understand the appeal... why do so many people WANT to touch the belly? Really. Why???
Erin Myles March 16, 2011 at 11:04 PM
This has happened to me as well and to be honest, I was like Jennifer B...too stunned to react. I can remember smiling and thanking the woman for her kind congratulations and returning to shopping for my gingerale & flaxseed. A pregnant belly is like a magnetic force that pulls seemingly normal people to it and temporarily disengages their common sense. I think it's time for a public service announcement on the topic. Rose are you up for it???
Jennifer A March 16, 2011 at 11:05 PM
I think this is a great topic to bring up because often people just ignore the discomfort because they don't want to offend the well-meaning stranger. (Surely, they don't mean any harm, but I think it is very awkward for a good portion of pregnant women to get the "pat down"). I'm really glad the author brought up the second point to consider. Many people out there, myself included, have suffered a pregnancy loss or had difficult pregnancies. The last thing I want is a stranger rubbing my belly when I am already on edge about everything that could potentially go wrong. I think these issues are not brought up enough, so many people don't realize the appropriate etiquette. Thank you for putting this out there.
Rose Sevilla March 16, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Great insight, ladies! L.B.: I suppose the appeal lies in the mystery and magic within, but I totally agree with you. Erin, I'll add it to my list of PSAs that I'll try to do within the next few years, starting with the one about never touching someone else's baby, especially on the face/hands! I'm sure that'll be a topic for another Moms Talk Q&A. As for how I feel about the subject: I'll be honest, it doesn't bother me too much, unless the person is creepy about it. I figure the person who touches my belly is sending great, positive vibes to the creature(s) within, and I'm absolutely fine with that. When it's someone I know, I appreciate it. When it's someone who is a total stranger, I'm apprehensive, but allow them to do what they need to do. Everyone does indeed have their own comfort level, and as long as the person is kind and gentle, I'll smile and carry on with my day. Now, if someone asks me when I'm due or tries to touch my belly AFTER I have the twins, I'll have no problem making them feel like an absolute fool. Point is: If you don't know the person, curb the urge. If you do know them, at least ask before you "pat down" as Jennifer A. stated above.
Beth Tyszkiewicz Nesbit March 17, 2011 at 12:13 AM
This is my first pregnancy and I have to say it is startling to have strangers touch my bump. Some strangers will ask, "can I touch" and that is still awkward as I feel bad to say no. If I wasn't pregnant no-one would ever want to touch my stomach, they would respect my personal space. It's one thing if it's friends and family but very different if you don't know the person. Great topic!!
Lauren S March 17, 2011 at 12:23 AM
This is such a great topic! When I was pregnant with my daughter, strangers use to try to touch my belly all the time. I didn't like strangers touching me period, let alone the place my baby called home. I don't know these people. Why should they be able to touch my body? And without asking most of the time. I would never touch a strangers belly. I don't understand why a stranger would want to touch a belly of a person they don't know. When it's a friend or family member there is a connection. You're gonna know and love that little person or persons in there. It's exciting and fun! I know some strangers are sweet and mean well, but asking is a must if they feel the need to touch a pregnant belly.
Jen March 17, 2011 at 01:25 AM
I think I'm different than a lot of people in that it didn't bother me to have people reach out to touch my belly when I was pregnant. I definitely get the personal space thing - I don't like people to stand to close to me when I'm in line or when we're in conversation, but when I was pregnant, having people touch my belly seemed like they were sharing my excitement in a way.
Randi Green March 17, 2011 at 03:06 AM
I really don't remember being offended when I was pregnant if a stranger patted my belly. I agree with Jen that I enjoyed sharing my excitement with people I didn't know. I do, however, believe that people should ask first and touch if given permission. I loved the attention that people gave me when I was pregnant, asking when your due date is and if you know the gender. It's a really special time and I think people want to convey that.
Michele Dahl March 17, 2011 at 03:41 AM
People touching my pregnant belly never really made me angry. Although, I don't recall many complete strangers attempting to do so. I just find it so strange that so many people think it is completely acceptable. It is a very narcissistic gesture; they think that their curiosity with your belly bump supercedes the concept of personal space. Its like, "Oooohh big belly.. must rub." When really the pregnant woman is thinking, "Ooooh touch me again and see what happens, buddy." How ironic that this blatant disregard for personal space occurs to women when their hormones are in overdrive and their mood swings are completely unpredictable. Everybody knows that pregnant women are like emotional time bombs - so let's rub their bellies and see what happens!? Just doesn't make sense. PSA! PSA!
Michele Dahl March 17, 2011 at 03:47 AM
PS - I tried to chime into this at 1 pm, when the discussion opened. But 1st - got pulled into a meeting at work 2nd - snuck out and ran home immediately after said meeting 3rd - realized it was 4:30 pm and crap, I had not written my part yet 4th - cleaned, fed, bathed, chased, fed, wrestled, did I say fed? the rugrats for 2 hours 5th - typed response then, What the?? My 1 year old had powered down the computer from under the desk. fabulous 6th - dad is home. kids are in bed. silence... finally. And here I am 8 hours later. story of my life.
Sarah Fried-Gintis March 18, 2011 at 07:45 PM
I understand how some women could feel a bit awkward being touched by a stranger, but I have to say.... I loved it. I loved it when the random women in the movie theater touched my stomach as I walked by, when strange men told me how beautiful I was while looking at my belly, and how every friendly mother had a story to share. For me, pregnancy was this wonderful communal experience. I felt connected to people in strange ways -- yes, I know it was probably the hormones speaking --- but I loved feeling a part of something far bigger than me and my baby. For me, bring it on. Rub my belly! I would however suggest taking a good look at the momma before you. Her body language will say alot. Asking is always polite too!

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