By Julia Vidakovic
Ask anyone who's been there - people love touching pregnant women. As soon as it becomes obvious that you're pregnant and not just carrying an excess of chocolate cake, the hands fly out from all directions and affix themselves firmly on your ever expanding belly: the checkout operator in the supermarket, the little old lady at the crosswalk, the mail carrier delivering your mail - they all seem to have the irresistible urge to speak to you, proffer advice and gently pat or touch your burgeoning belly.
I often wondered about this phenomenon, as, over the years I watched obviously pregnant friends fighting off, dodging and politely preventing the advances of what often seemed like a myriad of hands; some of them I admit have been my own, in a sort of primeval 'Oh a pregnant woman - Must touch' gut reaction.
After years of observation I finally realized that it usually came as a complete surprise to the 'toucher' to find out that their hand was somehow resting on the bump. How on earth did that get there? Their faces seemed to say as they retreated back, staring at the offending hand as though it had somehow betrayed them. It seems that as a species we just can't help it.
When I became pregnant myself I got to experience this phenomenon first hand, so to speak. As soon as it was patently obvious that in there was a growing baby and not an excess of calories, the hands immediately began to work their way out. At first it was close friends who knew for sure, who patted and held, then it escalated to acquaintances but pretty soon everyone was at it. A pattern also emerged, as the 'touch' was without exception, an open palm resting comfortably on my tum and was always accompanied by a kind of dazed expression. These people really didn't know what they were doing. If I asked them to move their hand, dodged, swerved or even pointed out to them where their hand was, their reaction was one of complete and utter surprise, followed by an 'oh', an abject apology and a spell where they stared at their own hand wondering how on earth it had managed to get so out of control.
Having been lucky enough to work with therapeutic touch in the past few years I have my own very simple explanation for what is going on; it's your inner healer dancing forward and taking over - connecting and passing on your good thoughts, intentions and a little healing to the growing life within. It is after all, mum's tum you wants to touch. There's nothing more natural than touching a pregnant woman and so people go ahead and touch her. And I haven't had a bad experience with anyone yet.
Most pregnant women get to accept the constant grabbing and fondling of their bellies by perfect strangers - it saves time, upsets and arguments to smile, nod and then move on. Some get angry at the intrusion - believe me after all the poking and prodding that most of us experience, personal space really can be at a premium; pregnancy being uncomfortable enough without having some strangers hand permanently affixed to your midriff. Yet others find it irritating as they fight to move through the world - they usually become dodgers. And finally, some (like me) actually quite like it.
So if you see a pregnant woman struggling down the street and have an irresistible urge to stroke her tum, try to remember to ask her first if she minds: you never know she might just smile and say, "Go ahead be my guest."
Julia Vidakovic is a new mum, Reiki Master and wedding dress designer, living and writing in Vancouver B.C. Canada. When she's not chasing after her incredibly active and delightful 21 month old son she can be contacted at Juliav@chrysalisdesign.com and may take a little time to reply.