Let me first make it clear that unwanted touching is not okay. For the most part, I think we know when to keep our hands to ourselves and I hope that if you are subjected to unwanted physical contact, you react by separating yourself from said contact and/or verbally communicating your desire not to be touched. And if you know someone who has a tendency to get a little touchy, it may be wise to avoid close proximity to this person altogether. I hate to put the responsibility of respecting boundaries on the recipient of the touch, but in my experience and observations, it's sadly not likely that Touchy McFeelerson will mend his/her ways unless you make your boundaries clear. If it seems like you're wearing a sign inviting people to touch, you can wear a clever sign that lets people know that this is not the case.
Some would-be belly rubbers at least have the decency to ask before they reach out for your bump. However it seems to me that this courtesy could be construed as equally awkward and offensive to pregnant women who have a hands-off policy. So again, I think it's best for would-be belly rubbers to keep their hands to themselves regardless of how tempted they are to touch a belly. If someone asks and you do not want them to touch your belly, you can simply say "No" or you can get your point across with a little humor:
- "Sure, that'll be $10."
- "I'm not pregnant." (will only work on strangers)
- "Anything else you'd like to touch while you're at it?"
- "You can touch mine if I can touch yours!"
Belly rubbers needn't despair if they respectfully and patiently keep their hands to themselves. As long as they are not real creepers, they will eventually meet someone like me who doesn't really mind foreign paws on their bump. I'm really excited about my growing baby and comfortable in my pregnant body and now that baby is getting to be very active, I'm regularly seeking loved ones to feel my belly. Warranted I would not invite a stranger to touch my belly, but I wouldn't necessarily reprimand someone who took liberties if I felt as though he/she did so with good intentions.
Everyone's An Expert
Personally, I think it's more difficult to react to everyone who feels the need to share their advice for pregnancy and parenting, from your closest family to strangers on the street. Normally I just smile and nod, keep calm, and carry on. While it may easily appear to be judgmental and misguided, for the most part I think it's people's way of trying to be friendly and express interest. It's up to you whether you interpret it as harmful or harmless, although I'm convinced you'll be better off if you don't dwell on it either way. Of course in my line of work I spend a considerable amount of time sifting through pregnancy advice whether it be professional, anecdotal, or speculative, so I can use what people say for research purposes.
What is your baby bump policy? How do you handle unsolicited advice? Please share below in the comments.