Walking down the street with a 71/2-month pregnancy belly is no easy task. Well, not for me anyway. I make large babies, which consequently means I grow a large belly when pregnant. And I mean large!

People stop and stare. They point. They comment loudly to their friends, perhaps thinking I can’t hear through all that belly. Children cry out for their mothers who try furtively to explain.

And many people just walk right up to me and place a hand on my belly. Strangers. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous? What happened to respecting one’s personal space?

In actual fact, I think it’s amazing how the miracle of pregnancy calls to people. People who would never look in your general direction otherwise feel some sort of intimacy with you and the life inside of you.

Personally, I don’t mind when people stop to ask when I’m due, or wish to touch the belly. I think it’s beautiful, and I’m happy to share the wonder.

But many pregnant women don’t feel the same way, and I can understand that. Here are some tips to help bystanders and pregnant women get along better when out in public:

  • Most pregnant women appreciate the little things that help them conserve energy, such as someone holding open the door for them or giving them a seat on the bus or subway.
  • Standing in line can be very tiresome for a woman who’s obviously pregnant, so, if it’s at all possible, let her jump in front of you.
  • Strike up a conversation before moving in for the belly rub. Ask her basic questions, like “How are you feeling?” and “How far along are you?”
  • Be sensitive and gauge her answers. If she doesn’t seem in the mood to talk, respect her privacy. If she engages you in conversation, only then should you ask if you can touch.
  • If she’s bigger than a house, like me, don’t make comments like, “Wow! You’re huge!” Trust me, she knows, but it’s not something any woman wants to hear. Ever.
  • Be aware of your timing. A woman walking out of a grocery store with her hands laden with bags doesn’t want to be engaged in conversation, unless you plan on helping her to her car.
  • Be sensitive — just because you’re intrigued by her situation doesn’t mean she’s interested in sharing her intimate details with you.
  • Tread lightly — many women have undergone some sort of ordeal before or during their pregnancy and that, combined with her raging hormones, can make for a very sensitive female. Don’t ask too many questions. Let her tell you what she’s comfortable with disclosing.

Pregnancy is one of nature’s great miracles, and most people, men and women alike, appreciate that. But we’re still talking about a human being with her own personal issues, ones that a passerby can’t possibly know. Pregnant women like to be acknowledged, but anything more intimate depends on them.

letters@metronews.ca

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