I hadn’t seen her in a while, so when I encountered my pregnant colleague in the hall last week, I actually did one of those sitcom-style doubletakes. I couldn’t help it.
She has the same due date as me — well, the same due date that I had 16 years ago, when I was expecting my first child to arrive around September 30. So of course I found myself reminiscing about the final days of my own pregnancy. Back then, I had waddled about those very same halls with a similar stare-inducing profile, but in much less stylish clothing.
Aside from lacking good wardrobe options, I really loved being pregnant. I was lucky enough to get through both of my pregnancies feeling fine and cankle-free, with just a touch of heartburn now and then.
Looking at my coworker and the small crowd that had now gathered to hear the latest pregnancy updates and gaze upon her “bump,” I had a flashback to the same sort of scene, 16 years earlier. A few people at work had circled around me, inquiring about my water retention, my dilation/effacement stats, my breastfeeding plans, etc. (Obviously these people were women.) And then, a young male art director I barely knew marched up to me and plopped his hand squarely on my stomach — and held it there. I can’t recall exactly what he said, but it was probably something along the lines of, “Huh. Cool.” Then he just strutted away, leaving me speechless.
It wasn’t the first time a relative stranger did that to me, and it wasn’t the last. So what’s a woman to do? Well, these days you can find endless blog posts and advice columns about how to handle the situation. There’s also a whole cottage fashion industry borne from it, if you prefer nonverbal communication.
As for me? I just wrote a poem.
Yessir, That’s My Belly
It’s a veritable mound.
It’s renowned for its profound capacity to astound.
It’s large, not small — bigger than a basketball.
You could hardly call it diminutive at all.
You could watch it in lieu of hippos at the zoo.
(Though at the theater, it’s true, it might obstruct your view.)
It can eclipse the sun.
It can make people run.
It’s a bun that some shun, for it appears to weigh a ton.
Call it giant, if you will; say it’s huge as a hill;
Such comments will instill nothing in me but goodwill.
YET — many is the fool who feels its planetary pull
and thinks it would be cool to touch this gestating jewel
(without permission, as a rule).
Its attraction is such that they just reach out and touch.
I hardly think Miss Manners would approve of this that much.
Those I barely even know are compelled to feel it so, caressing high
(and even low!)
while, with hormones fast aflow, I long to tell them where to go.
And while I understand its draw and its ability to awe,
it’s really the last straw — it’s more than a mere faux pas –
and so….there oughta be a law.
© 2013 Carlotta Stankiewicz