Hands Off The Belly
And plus, I didn’t think it would start so early…I’m only 12 weeks pregnant.
My favorite story of hers is when a homeless man in New York City told her to put a hat on her baby
“She’ll catch a cold,” he told her.
“Everyone will give you advice,” she warned me. “Everyone will tell you how it’s done.”
The words echo in my mind every time somebody touches my stomach, because really, isn’t it kind of the same thing?
I’m not even “showing.” I mean, I think I had a flat stomach before and now my jeans are too tight to wear. But it’s not as if I have a “baby bump” yet.
But as soon as I started telling people I was pregnant which I did on the earlier side – after reading an article online that the underlying factor of waiting to tell people about your pregnancy is a sense of shame if you miscarry – because it seemed like a feminist move to tell. Plus, I’m not a private person.
But back to the point: as soon as I started telling people, they started touching my stomach.
Nobody ever touched my stomach before, maybe a previous boyfriend or my husband, but only briefly on the way down or the way up. Nobody ever spent any real time there. So why now? Because I’m pregnant? Because there’s “life” inside?
I walked into a party and three friends grabbed my stomach, one after the other.
Then one of them asked me, after the fact, “Does it bother you when we touch your stomach?”
What was I supposed to say? I didn’t want to be rude. Clearly they didn’t see anything wrong with it.
I meant to bring it up at dinner the next night. I was having dinner with a group of people including one of my favorite liberals. Surely she would agree with me. She would back my sentiment with a feminist proclamation that I could then relay to others. But right when she walked in the door she beelined for it?—?my stomach.
In that moment the conversation became off limits. In her defense, there was a slight difference in this embrace, and I realized I don’t think it would bother me if my best friend did it, or my husband. Anyone I’d feel comfortable changing clothes in front of, really. Someone where there’s already an intimacy in the relationship.
Her embrace included an affection towards me, as opposed to just trying to connect with the child in there.
Is it a child yet? I find myself overly conscious of the nouns I use to describe the growing fetus inside my body. Fetus seems impersonal but baby just doesn’t feel quite right yet. It is the size of a lime and as of this week can move its hands open and shut. I believe it has fingernails. I could still legally get an abortion, not that I want to, but I do have the right to where I live. I could still miscarry.
I have taken to calling it “bean,” because that is what it looked like at my first ultrasound and at one point it was the size of a kidney bean.
A male friend touched my stomach at a concert?—?in public
He was the first man to touch me there, including my husband (again, except in passing).
The next day I asked my husband “Imagine if everybody you knew touched your belly for the next eight months of your life?” He winced at the thought. “I don’t envy you,” he said.
Except for me in that moment, nobody will ever refer to his stomach as his “belly.” I envy him.
I went to a small private elementary school in Pacific Palisades called The Village School, and the quote “It takes a village to raise a child” was used in many a speech there. I believe it was even written on a wall.
It’s not that I don’t believe in it. I believe that it takes parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and mentors to shape a child’s education, and I believe that teachers come in all shapes and sizes. I am grateful for the strong community around my husband and me and feel blessed that the “bean” will have a multitude of friends and role models. But it doesn’t take a village to carry a pregnancy to full term.
I hope I turn out to be a great mother. I hope I am selfless in my actions and put my future child’s needs before my own. But for now, the “child” isn’t here. It is inside my body and using my resources to grow and eventually enter the world.
I’d like to be selfish for the next seven months and ask you to please refrain from touching my stomach unless I tell you it is okay first
The science personifies the fetus long before it’s a person. I have a video from the ultrasound where the bean is extremely active. I have shown people the video and we have analyzed the bean’s personality.
Every time I look at the ultrasound pictures and video I think to myself how personal it is. I am literally showing people the inside of my uterus. Regardless, I posted a picture of the ultrasound on Facebook and it got over 300 likes. I am playing into the fantasy of what I think my future child will be.
I already know the gender. I have already decided she is a feminist because I cried after somebody referred to being female as the noun “pink” and it upset me that being a girl is reduced to one color on the spectrum that is not even a primary color.
But none of that is accurate. The only thing I know about the bean at this moment is that she is healthy and female, for now.
Part of me hopes no one I know will read this piece so none of them will be offended. The other part wants everyone to know it is not okay to touch my stomach
Is that the female paradox? I’m afraid to speak up for my own body for fear of being called a b-word. I thought about publishing this anonymously, but I choose to publish this under my own name.