Do not touch me
People tend to ask permission to pet a dog - why the hell was I getting touched so much when I was pregnant? I was more likely to snap at them and chew them out for violating my personal boundaries. How did my personal space cease to be personal during pregnancy? I don’t want to go into detail about the lack of bodily autonomy that women are allowed to feel in this country, but suffice it to say you should treat a pregnant person the same way you’d treat a non-pregnant person… with respect. If you go in for an un-approved touch, don’t be surprised and pretend to act outraged when you get your hand slapped away from her belly. She’s not rude, you are.
Sadly, the entitlement to your body continues when you have your baby because those same boundary-stomping people will continue to feel entitled to affection and interaction. They will grab your baby out of your arms whether baby wants to go or not, whether you want them to hold your baby or not. I’m not talking about loving grandparents or aunts and uncles (though they are not immune from entitlement). I’m talking about completely ordinary looking people turning rabid and chasing you like those fast moving zombies from the movies at the first sight of your baby.
A few extreme examples:
A middle-aged woman dropped out of a 5k on Roosevelt Island to try to pinch my baby’s cheeks. That’s right, she was running the race, and upon seeing my baby, she started squealing and veering off course to try to pinch her cheeks. Fortunately, my tall husband managed to stick out his long arm and block her advance before she tackled us. She looked stunned and offended that we didn’t want some random stranger grabbing our daughter’s face as we were watching the race.
My husband I had a random old dude with a thin moustache in a vest and cargo shorts try to pinch my baby’s toes, prompting a ten pace slow motion awkward chase around a Trader Joe’s. I went off on him yelling a variety of curse words perforated with questioning why the hell he would think it was okay to just grab my baby even after we said no. He looked surprised and offended that we didn’t want some random stranger grabbing our daughter’s toes as we were shopping.
Not every interaction is as extreme and as memorable, though. Most of the time the boundary-crossing incidents are just mild irritants that fall into one of two categories: People who don’t seem to see my baby as a full person and so just pass her around like she’s more of a doll, and people that seem to see her as more of a small toy that does tricks. None of these interactions are malicious, and no doubt come with affection and love, but good intentions don’t cut it.
She’s a person. She’s not here for your entertainment.
She’s a little human who deserves all of the respect and consideration that you should be giving to everyone. She doesn’t have to give you a hug. Don’t act offended, hurt, or try to guilt trip if she doesn’t want to be held by you. And, don’t override me if I say no! I can see her reaction and read it more clearly than you. If I say no, it means she said no. For that matter, you should know that it’s okay for her to say “no” to you. In fact, I’m teaching her that it’s okay for her to say no to anyone. I never want her to feel the stupid obligations to shut up and smile for forced interactions that are not in her control and that she doesn’t feel comfortable with. It doesn’t teach her respect to hug a stranger, it teaches her to ignore her feelings. I don’t want her to learn to shut down her own discomfort to placate others. I have to protect her sense of agency, and her sense of self is more important to me than some baby-boomer’s desire for a baby hug. I want my baby to learn give hugs out of love and affection, not out of guilt and obligation. I also want her to understand consent. That’s it. There’s nothing else to say. The conversation is closed. It is not up for discussion.
Notice there’s no comment button here. That is intentional. If you’re pissed off and want to give me a piece of your mind, wanting to comment on what a jerk millennial I am, no thanks. I will instead close with a comment on you: I think you’re entitled and rude, and I don’t care what you think. Stop touching pregnant women and grabbing babies.