Oh, you’re pregnant

From affectionate tummy pats, to speculations about gender preferences, mum DEBORAH WARD muses on the public attention one gets when pregnant.

Nothing draws attention quite like a pregnancy. A woman might have been going about her business, dealing with her own inner and outer workings independently for years, but as soon as she makes a cute baby announcement on social media, all eyes are on her and she had better prepare herself for some scrutiny!

First there are the belly-touchers. It would seem that the usual rules for personal space and consent don’t apply when it comes to an adorable baby bump. One minute the expectant mum will be standing in a grocery aisle, examining the ingredients list on a cereal box, and the next minute she’s on the receiving end of a stranger’s hands giving her unborn child an affectionate pat. I think my ‘Don’t Even Think About It’ face must be so scary that I never experienced this phenomenon personally – except once when I wasn’t in fact pregnant. But that’s a story for another day.

One delightful response to pregnancy, which every mum-to-be must surely experience, though, is the cheery comment on the size, shape and orientation of her belly. Most of us were taught as children to keep our thoughts about other people’s bodies inside our heads, but it’s evident that this rule doesn’t apply to pregnancy.

Another aspect of impending parenthood that is rooted firmly in the realms of public interest is the number of children the woman already has and is intending to produce in future. No matter what a person’s relationship with the pregnant woman might be (or, indeed, if he or she knows her at all), it is considered a human right to ask her which ‘number’ this child is going to be. By all means, one should be sure to share one’s personal views on her answer too. That she’s not really a proper mum until she has at least two kids, that two children will be easy peasy, or that three is most definitely too many kids and what was she thinking?

A related issue is the gender of a woman’s offspring. If the expectant mother is accompanied by a female child, for example, a member of the public will be bound to comment that she must be longing for a male baby. Should the pregnant woman already be in possession of a girl and a boy, strangers are well within their rights to express horror that the woman has chosen to procreate again.

The naming of an unborn child is also a matter of public concern. There are some utterly ridiculous baby names out there, so it is important that strangers ask a pregnant woman if she has a shortlist that can be commented on. If the expectant mum becomes defensive about all the patting and questioning, Joe Public has that covered too. ‘Not to worry’, the stranger will soothe, ‘it’s just the hormones. Here’s some unsolicited advice to help you out.’