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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?

The Invasion of the Belly Touchers continued...

"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.

Just Say No!

While using clever psychology can help, Brennan reminds us that, be it touching or commentary, it's also appropriate to express your displeasure with how you are being treated.

"It's really OK if sometimes you just have to say, 'Please don't do that, it makes me uncomfortable,'" says Brennan. This, she says, can be a particularly helpful tactic with people you see every day, like co-workers.

Indeed, the most stressful pregnancy situations often occur not with strangers, but with colleagues. It can be hard for a pregnant woman to maintain her privacy without insulting the people she interacts with on a daily basis.

Rachel Weingarten, author of Corporate and Career Cool, says maintaining a professional attitude is another smart way to cope.

"You can say no without having to say it, if you simply maintain a strong sense of corporate 'cool' and professionalism," says Weingarten. By maintaining your own sense of professional decorum, she says, you can help co-workers continue to view you as a colleague, and not a pregnant colleague, which in turn can circumvent some of the inappropriate behavior.

Though this won't stop some people from becoming overly familiar, she says, "The more professional your attitude, the more professional decorum they are likely to observe around you."

Bennett agrees but adds this final piece of advice: "It's also important to remember that you don't have to give up the perks of pregnancy, like working from home two days of the week, just to maintain your decorum; just this once, you really are entitled to have it both ways!"

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