At 30 weeks, she was undeniably pregnant. People didn’t have to hide their thoughts; strangers confidently asked questions, not doubting the nature of her bump. Most common was, “Is it a boy or a girl?” She didn’t mind this question so much. Her baby girl was exactly the gender she’d hoped, and she smiled each time she proclaimed, “A girl.”
More annoying was the advice – unsolicited, usually about sleep, and often just bad. “Rest while you still can!” or “Nap when the baby naps!” or “You’ve got to let them cry it out!” Did this advice ever actually work for the people spewing it? She wondered about their motives, concluding this onslaught of over-eager and non-helpful admonitions was at best an unsuccessful attempt to self-soothe. Clearly these people had fallen short when parenting their own children. She usually smiled politely, said thanks, and rolled her eyes as she turned away. How could sleep be that big of a problem?
Worse than unwanted counsel was unwanted touch. It had only happened twice with a stranger, but countless times with colleagues, friends, and family. What about a pregnant belly says community property? Any unwanted physical contact is an invasion of privacy and personal space, she thought. The last time a stranger had embraced her belly, she reached around with both arms and grabbed his ass. Shocked the guy for sure, but drove home the point.
People need to walk their own paths. Leave pregnant women be. Less questions, please. Stop reliving your parenting mistakes through the advice you compulsively force on others. And for the love of human decency, don’t touch other people’s bodies.
She looked forward to not being pregnant. Her body would be her own. Yet she wondered how she and her partner, who both worked full time, would add a baby into their lives. Both of their parents lived in different states. And they weren’t really close to any of their siblings. Most of their friends didn’t have kids yet. They planned to hire someone to help them in the evenings, at least in the beginning.
At 30 weeks, she was undeniably pregnant. People didn’t have to hide their thoughts; strangers confidently asked questions, not doubting the nature of her bump. “How are you feeling?” and “When is the due date?” She enjoyed the questions, though it felt a little awkward to talk so openly with strangers.
These same strangers often offered advice. She listened and took note. “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” or “The breast is best!” or “Laundry can wait, but babies don’t keep!” Most of it she filed away, knowing these strangers meant well. And while she respected their experiences, she had her own ideas about what would work best for her family and her child.
On occasion, people would reach out and touch her abdomen. She didn’t know how to react. It was a strange sensation for someone to deliberately put their hands on her body, but she liked the joy it brought others. She usually stood somewhat frozen and smiled or laughed awkwardly until the Buddha rub ended. She wondered about this urge others had to connect with her growing belly.
Taken in concert, it was the overarching kindness of strangers towards pregnant women that perplexed her most. She enjoyed the purposeful eye contact, the smiles for no reason, and the unsolicited help, but she fumed after. She was upset that this lack of façade in favor of raw realness was reserved but for a small window of another person’s life. How different the world would be if we embodied this unabashed, presumptuous love at all moments. She wished that each of us euphemistically swelled with child, so that kindness would be ever present.
While she looked forward to meeting her baby and reclaiming her body, she wondered if the same strangers would be as kind after the baby was born. No matter, she would have a beautiful child to care for. She planned to take some time off work to be with her baby those first few months. Her mom was going to stay with her family during the time leading up to and following birth. Between her mom cooking meals and the food tree her friends planned to build, she knew they’d have help with the transition. Still, she worried about becoming a family of three. While she didn’t know exactly how she’d transform, she knew it was possible.
At 30 weeks, she was undeniably pregnant. People didn’t have to hide their thoughts; strangers confidently asked questions, not doubting the nature of her bump. “Do you know the gender?” and “How is your sleep?” She relished in answering, eager for the basic human connection. Simple questions led to full on conversations. Each person she met was uniquely interesting and beautiful – she was thankful for the intersections of paths.
Everyone offered advice. And she listened with attentive reverence. She hardly cared whether the advice was relevant to her. More important was the underlying story. She knew that advice was born of experience. And experience shaped the emotions and perspectives of the strangers standing before her. She listened out of respect for their unspoken tales. And she learned a great deal about the wisdom of a people. She knew that this wisdom would profoundly impact the relationship she was already building with the child inside her.
She often grasped the hands of strangers and placed them on her abdomen. This is how we all started. An entire people grown and born from the sacred belly of Woman. You and I are the same. We share this fundamental truth, and we must protect and revere it. She wore the gift of humanity with a selfless, calm pride, and she celebrated this magic with anyone her belly could embrace.
Strangers, family, and friends – we are one people. She found that all questions, all advice, and all touch illuminated. She welcomed a community to witness her protection and care for a unique expression of the Earth as it grew inside her. She needed the support of a tribe as she swelled nearer a split into two conscious beings.
Before child, pregnant, and postpartum, she stood in awe of her body, welcoming each state as she experienced it. Her body was transformative, and it was a constant reflection of her baby, who was so loved. Not just by her and her partner, but by their people. A community raised her as a child, a community birthed her as a Mother, and a community would swaddle this baby. She didn’t worry about food or how she would care for her baby. She knew that we would care for her baby. She was doubtless of the support that surrounded her and had the confidence of one rich in community.