Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Invasion and Public Perception

There's something about being pregnant that seems to announce to the world, "Touch me! Flatter/insult me! Tell me horror stories about the great ordeal through which I'll be going in just a few short weeks!" "Ask me hideously embarrassing questions about any topic which strikes your interest!"

Why? Why do old women and young place their hands reverently on my bump (and I'm always perversely glad when my child refuses to move until they're gone)? Why does my weight--always before a subject not to be ventured upon--become of such interest and approval/disapproval? And why in the name of all that's holy does every woman who has ever given birth, thought of giving birth, or heard of someone else giving birth tell me about all that can go wrong with birth--the enforced C-section, the endless labor with no progress, the hospital that ignored everything it was told--and then blithely turn away from me, saying, "Good luck with yours!"? Why do people ask me how we conceived this child (and yes, I'm tempted to say, "The usual way")?

I seem to remember reading a discussion at some point about how the pregnant woman becomes public property--how most individuals in our culture seem fascinated by the burgeoning belly, by the promise of new life, by the straying from the perceived societal norm of flat bellies. It is as if personal boundaries--easily infringed upon in daily life--become non-existent during the five or so months when pregnancy is discernable.

This may be partly due to the fact that, due to the obvious nature of pregnancy, one's personal life becomes suddenly public. The state of my reproductive organs has always been of an intensely personal nature to me, but now anyone,--from the waiter who offers my husband and myself seating for "Two and a half" to the smiling strangers who ask me when I'm due--can see exactly what is happening in the innermost sanctum of my body and make a crushingly good guess about what is happening in my emotional temple as well. My womanhood, which before I could either downplay or accentuate by my wardrobe choices and carriage, is now flaunted before the world. Every move I make fairly displays the femininity I carry. My round and lovely belly going before me is the flag of identification with every mother throughout history who has populated the world with all these wonderful, zany, tactless people.

It's a strange, far-too-public place to be. And yet there is very little I can do about it other than the obvious: repel unwanted advances, though that becomes very difficult as I'm usually not prepared and often in the moment more concerned about giving offense than anything else.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I missing a vital point in this public interaction during pregnancy? What is the strangest position in which you've been placed by being pregnant in public? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

1 comment:

Grace Marie said...

oh you KNOW how I feel about this ... same same same!!

Loving your blog! I never click over from reader to comment but am thoroughly enjoying each and every post.

and YOU are looking incredible ... glow et al.