Pregnancy is an intensely personal yet a weirdly public experience. Enquiring when you’re thinking about having a baby seems to be asked as soon as you start a serious relationship. Demanding to know why you’re not drinking and presuming its pregnancy related is apparently fine. Strangers touching your growing bump is allowed and wondering when you’re thinking about having number 2 is a question that’s out there almost as soon as, “how was the birth?”
This public scrutiny comes at one of the most stressful, wonderful and frustrating times of our lives. For some, getting pregnant is as straightforward as ABC. They’ve even managed to timetable their pregnancy to fit with the school calendar. Conceiving may have been simple but they still don’t want the complication of, “OMG you’re pregnant!” when ordering a lemonade on a night out in their first trimester.
For others trying to start a family, the scrutiny can be suffocating. Trying not to have a baby when younger is tipped on its head when you can’t have the family you crave when you’re ready. Nutrition, stress, diet, fitness, lifestyle and emotions can all negate our fertility levels as well as known and sometimes unknown medical factors. It can be a tough ride and being asked when the patter of tiny feet will be on their way, when you’ve been thinking about them non-stop for the past X number of years, is unbearable. More heartbreaking is when you don’t feel like a glass of wine after work and the presumption is your obviously pregnant.
When you do fall pregnant, it’s a time of joyous celebration and even strangers are often drawn to mothers-to-be wanting to congratulate and be happy for them. A new life coming into the world will bring smiles to new faces and starts conversations otherwise passed by. Wearing the “Baby On Board’ badge should get you a seat but could also get you a pat on the bump. Opinions are definitely divided on this. Some hate the intrusion of personal space while others would prefer to be asked first before fingers are on them. I read about one expectant mother complaining that no one had given her bump the slightest thought and she was craving someone to reach out. She probably shouldn’t go to Pennsylvania where strangers patting bumps was banned by law in 2013.
Not very close work colleagues, friends and acquaintances all seem to feel they can scrutinise, touch, mention and ask about it. What is it with pregnancy and its immense physical body changes that make it a free for all to wade in with prods and pokes at an often fragile state of mind? It’s a situation that has to be judged carefully. The journey can be heart breaking, painful and lonely and just the most wonderful feeling in the world.
Be careful when next presuming or patting. Especially in Pennsylvania.
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