Can't touch this: How to maintain personal space while pregnant

April 7 | Guest post by Letty
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
No Touching
By: sterlicCC BY 2.0

I found out a week ago that I'm pregnant. So far we've told immediate family and a small group of others.

I am not generally a hugger. I tend to tense up when someone even reaches in my personal space (again, excluding immediate family and a small group of others.) And I know when we share the news publicly, people will tend to want to invade my space. I also often hear about strangers, in addition to family, friends, and acquaintances, touching a pregnant belly, often without asking.

How do I keep this from happening? How do I remind people that my pregnant body is mine, and not community property without coming across as rude? -Letty

I put this question out to the Homies on our Facebook page, and here's some of the great advice they had to give that runs the gamut of fist-bm…

I work at an elementary school where a lot of our kids are really "huggy." A trick I've learned is when you sense someone going in for a hug, step back to arm's length and offer them a fist bump instead.
It kindly communicates "I'm not into hugging, thanks!" and not as germy as high-fiving/shaking hands. I wish I'd have learned that trick before I had my kids, and especially when I was pregnant, but you can bet I'm teaching them now! -Emily

My sister was the same way. She didn't like people touching her while she was pregnant (or at all). I don't have anything rally productive to add, but I did get this shirt for a friend:

Can't Touch This Maternity T-shirt by Etsy seller discobelly

And it drew people's attention to the fact that they weren't even thinking about what they were doing. -Holly

I'm in the same boat and showing with baby #2. When people want to feel my belly, especially people I don't know (like strange ladies in Target) I politely yet firmly remind them that I don't know them, and will break all the fingers on their offending hand like twigs if they are not promptly removed from my belly. If that doesn't work tell them that it's akin to sexual harassment or physical assault if they touch you and you've asked them not to. -Codi

Step back when they reach out. Sounds harsh, but it works. Like if it's a friend or a co-worker you'll probably want to explain a bit first, and try other things mentioned above, but it it's a total stranger reaching out to touch you without being asked, step away. It immediately puts them in their place, and they won't try again. You don't owe them jack. -Chrysoula

Honestly, I would just be honest. (Ha.) If someone starts coming in for a hug, or trying to touch your belly, tell them just because you're pregnant doesn't give them permission to put their hands on you. Let them know you're not comfortable with it. Unfortunately some people don't even realize that their behavior may not be welcome or make others uncomfortable. However, once you have made that clear to them and they continue to do it, welcome to full bitch mode, enhanced by the hormones of pregnancy. -Kristen

The favorite answer by FAR:

The best advice I got while pregnant: Whenever someone rubs your belly uninvited, reach out and rub theirs. It's incredibly uncomfortable for them, and they're not likely to do it again. -Carmen

This is all great stuff, people. Keep 'em coming! What else works to help maintain personal space while pregnant?

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  1. I have no problem with family or close friends hugging me/touching my belly once I start showing. But the thought of strangers doing it creeps me out.

    1 agrees
  2. I am not a huger. Like at all. I truly value my personal space. When I got pregnant with twins this was something I worried about. Luckily I never really had any unwelcome belly touching. I think it comes down to 3 things. 1.) My friends, family, and co-workers know that I am not a touchy-hugey person. And they respect my space. 2.) Since I was already not a hugey person I think I naturally keep a personal space bubble between me and most people. Which doesn't lend itself to unwelcome belly touching. 3.) I am tall and carried really high. Most people didn't believe I was pregnant with twins since my belly was pretty small. If someone wanted to touch the babies they would have had to place their hands on my sternum. And that is just awkward for everyone.

    4 agree
    • I wonder if this, in combination with my natural RBF, has thus far kept strangers' hands away from me. Not only am I carrying high but I was already very busty before pregnancy.

      I've actually found more strangers avoiding looking at my belly so they don't feel guilty not offering me a seat on public transit. For the moment, I'm ok with standing as long as no one crowds my belly but will probably be more assertive as that passes.

      2 agree
  3. Carmen's answer! I've had many pregnant friends struggle with this, and be concerned about stepping back (and appearing unfriendly, defensive, etc.). Two that I know of tried this- when someone reached for their belly, they reached for the toucher's belly. Almost immediately, the toucher themselves goes on the defensive. I think they don't realize it's an invasion of personal space until (unless?) it's being done to them as well. I'm not sure my friends every actually made contact, seemed like just reaching toward their belly was enough to halt the baby bump grope.

    8 agree
  4. I had this concern when I was prego also, but it didn't really pan out to much. Most people who know you probably won't try to touch you cause they already know that you are not a touchy-feely person. I also mentioned it a couple times in passing that I thought it was weird for people to touch prego bellies. At work when people would say something like, "I just want to rub your belly", I would make a simple statement like, "I'd rather you wouldn't, thanks." That was usually enough for people to get the idea. I did let a couple close friends and family touch my belly if they asked. It wasn't so bad! I live in the mid-west USA and I think people are just too 'nice' to try to touch random strangers or make comments about you being prego, especially if you are not super-obviously-prego, cause they don't want to offend people. I think I also have a working b**** face, so people generally don't talk to me much in public. If they were looking like they were coming towards me to touch me, I would just smile or nod and walk away quickly. Good luck! Hopefully this isn't much of an issue for you.

    4 agree
    • I've had the advantage of my winter jacket through most of my midwestern pregnancy so far! I think strangers just have honestly not been able to tell, or their midwestern politeness has kept them from touching at me. I might also just give off a "give me my space" vibe.

      We'll see how the last 7 weeks of pregnancy go, though, as we're getting out of the winter jacket season and I'm more and more obviously pregnant by the day!

  5. I quote the emperor from the Emperor's New Groove, "no touchy" and wave my arms like he did. It's funny and effective.

    9 agree
  6. I don't think you need to worry too much with strangers who try to touch you–they clearly aren't worried about being polite if they are grabbing at your torso, so why should you be? Just say "no thank you" like we teach kids to do and move away.

    With friends, they probably already know your boundaries, but speaking as a huggy person, it can be automatic–that's my problem, but you shouldn't have to endure it. You can just move away and you and the baby aren't up for hugs–it's really ok to tell people who care about you what makes you comfortable. And honestly, how horrible would your friends feel if they found out you endured years of hugs that you hated?

    4 agree
  7. I've actually experienced the reverse problem – where a pregnant mother wants me to "feel the baby". When it happened I awkwardly accepted the invitation because I didn't want to be rude, but if it happens again I'm going to say no thanks. I'm not a touchy person and touching a pregnant person is even weirder for me.

    3 agree
  8. I am not pregnant but my hubby had an interesting solution to this problem when I told him my friend was having this issue.
    My hubby joked that he'll bring a spray bottle with us when out & about to spray people who try to touch my belly.
    😀

    4 agree
  9. With my first pregnancy I got mauled every time I went into public. I looked comically like a bloated frog with an obvious waddle. My tshirts stretched over this huge ball belly and people would scamper across the shops to touch me.
    I once nearly punched an 80 year old woman in the face who snuck up and then LIFTED my top up to try KISS my belly.
    I freaked out, dropped a glass bottle of milk and made a scene. Another customer yelled that they thought I was going into labour. I was mortified.

    Second pregancy I found a secret weapon. Material sheilds. By wearing long, open cardigans and vests the material disguised my bump from behind and draped in a way to discourage grabby hands. It also gave the bonus of covering my flabby back rolls and wedgie undie lines.
    I carried a huge empty handbag that protected one side of my body and if people did attempt to lunge Id instantly cover myself with it.
    If they looked too offended I'd say that I'd just got over a nasty virus and did not wish to get sick again.
    On particularly vulnerable days Id push a shopping trolley around in front of me and put my bag on my exposed side.

    Worked a treat! It gave me the freedom to strut my peggo body in public with confidence rather then hiding at home with anxiety. 🙂

    2 agree
    • A stranger tried to KISS your belly?? What. the. actual. fuck. Why would anybody ever think that's appropriate in any way?

      And for the OP:
      This isn't necessarily the best idea, but try to Perfect your Bitchy Resting Face. My whole pregnancy, nobody ever tried to touch my belly, and I'm pretty sure it's because I have serious Bitchy Resting Face. Sadly, it didn't do anything to stop the dumbass comments I got (my favorite: "You haven't had that baby yet??" Oh yeah, actually I did, but then I shoved it back in there just to throw you off.), but at least nobody groped me.

      7 agree
  10. I guess I just have an icy vibe. Cultivate a bitch aura. No-one ever tried to touch my belly, except maybe my sister in law. (And I didn't even say anything and she stopped.)

    There are chances that strangers who would have tried that might have gotten instinctively slapped away or something. Guess somehow they knew?

    2 agree
  11. When I was pregnant I had a few people touch my belly without permission. I took to putting my hand on their belly when they touched me. Some of the responses were quite comical, one lady jumped back about two foot. I think it made the point quite clearly!

    1 agrees
  12. When I was pregnant a couple of years ago, I was really, really worried about this. The only person who did any unwanted touching was my MIL. At first, I would put my hands up in front of my belly, but then she started sneaking her hands under mine. Finally, I just grabbed her wrists and told her that I didn't want people touching me. She starting going on and on about how she understood how I felt and "no offense taken" (i tell you not to invade my personal space, and YOU'RE the one who thinks you should take offense? wtf).

    As soon as my back was turned, she said out loud (to no one in particular) "Doesn't grandma get an exception?"

    I looked at her and said "no", and then kept on doing what I was doing.

    Didn't have any problems after that.

  13. I'm not a touchy person in general, but I actually find belly rubs less invasive than I thought I would. So far I've allowed them pretty happily.

    Granted, at 6 months, so far it's only been people I know who asked before touching, which makes a big difference. As others have mentioned, resting bitch face, flowy clothes, and large purses seem to deter strangers.

    The only problem I have with giving belly rubs in return for unwelcome pats is that I don't particularly want to touch a stranger either. If it comes to it, I'll probably settle for a firm, "I don't know you, please don't touch me," in the same tone I would use when my students act inappropriately.

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