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Pregnancy Violations: Don’t Be a Victim

Scary labor stories, probing questions, unsolicited belly-rubbing: How can a mom-to-be handle these pregnancy etiquette violations gracefully?
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The Invasion of the Belly Touchers

While remarks, comments, and unsolicited advice on eating sushi can be irritating, it's not nearly as stressful as the hands-on, touchy-feely familiarity that seems to run rampant during pregnancy.

"It seems as if the moment your pregnancy starts to show, everyone wants to have a feel at you. It's not so bad when it's family or a friend -- but a stranger? Come on. A pregnant woman has to draw the line somewhere, and it should be here," says Stacy Quarty, author of Frankly Pregnant: A Candid, Week-by-Week Guide to the Unexpected Joys, Raging Hormones, and Common Experiences of Pregnancy.

Brennan agrees. "During my first pregnancy, I was in Grand Central Station and a total stranger grabbed my stomach, so I grabbed hers back! She said, 'What are you doing?' I replied, 'What are you doing?' I'm happy to say she got the point and walked away, though I think you have to be a bit careful when you do something like that, since you never know how the other person is going to react."

And that's precisely why Bennett says the best approach to this pregnancy stress is to put both a physical and mental distance between yourself and strangers.

"First, you have to realize that because of your size, you may be in closer physical proximity to strangers than you realize, your head may be a respectable distance away, but your stomach may be closer than you think, so you'll probably have to overcompensate by intentionally putting more physical distance between you and other people," says Bennett.

But equally important, she says, is to arm yourself with attitude -- and plenty of it!

"If you're feeling vulnerable and think of your life as an open book that everyone is entitled to read, then you're going to have a hard time keeping hands off your belly," says Bennett. But at the same time, if your attitude, your body language, and your posture all come together to say "I have a right to guard my privacy," then, says Bennett, you also put out a vibe that tells people you are not an object for public display or touching.

"Of course, some will ignore that vibe, either because they are not sensitive to your body cues, or because they just choose to ignore them. But for the most part, it should help reduce a good deal of the inappropriate touching," says Bennett.

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