The fight for personal space during pregnancy is at best annoying and slightly funny. At worst, while mom-to-be is pregnant and feels like her personal space is being invaded or jeopardized, it is the ultimate frustration. The general public just doesn’t understand what the day to day struggle for personal space is like for pregnant women everywhere. Let me tell you, the struggle is real.
Basically, when you are 7 or more months pregnant you are walking around with a giant beach ball perched where your abdomen used to be. It requires a certain amount of dexterity and patience to achieve some mundane, everyday tasks when you are almost at full term. I’ve heard of women actually shedding tears of joy when they finally get their seat belt buckled. It’s these little things that crop up seemingly out of nowhere for pregnant women that can make or break a good day. Here are 15 ways that pregnant women face challenges in terms of claiming space for themselves and some tips for how you can handle the most frustrating of situations
15 The Belly - This Is Not Public Property
In general, I feel like most people are aware that you shouldn’t touch a pregnant woman’s belly unless she asks you too. There have been tons of opinion pieces written about how aggravating and uncomfortable it is for a pregnant woman to have her personal space so invaded that strangers - or even sometimes loved ones - feel it is appropriate to get handsy in the belly area. Even though it is becoming more widely respected that you should not touch a pregnant woman without consent, it unfortunately does still happen sometimes. It only takes one person or situation where people are oblivious of personal space for this traumatic experience to occur and once it does the pregnant woman rarely feels good about it.
In my experience, it's usually an elderly woman in a shopping environment (the grocery store, a department store) who feels it would be okay to just cop a quick feel of a pregnant belly. My advice when this happens is to just follow your instincts. You don’t have to let someone touch you if it's uncomfortable. Step away with a smile or change the direction of your stance. If this tactic does not work and the person continues to try to touch you then simply say (with a smile and shrug) “Sorry, I just have this thing about personal space…” and move on - you don’t even have to wait for a response, just give a friendly wave and be on your way.
14 Tiny Bathrooms - But When You Gotta Go...
When you are further along in your pregnancy using a public bathroom stall or even the tiny bathroom at your friend’s studio apartment can feel like you are gearing up for a solo in Cirque Du Soleil. The acrobatics and flexibility required to remove your pants, lean back, and actually land on the toilet seat in a small space is shocking. Let’s face it, no matter how fit you are during your pregnancy there is a strange shame that comes with not being able to move like a regular person when you are 9 months pregnant.
With that said, the best way to accomplish the deed (which everyone has to do, by the way) is patience and stamina. If at first you fail then try, try again. If it really is impossible to use the facilities you have access to you might have to leave and find a different bathroom. Now, here is where this article gets cringe-worthy…I am sorry to have to write this but…do yourself a favor – once you are in the third trimester you should definitely where a panty liner in case of a bathroom emergency.
13 Out And About - Waiting In Line
Have you ever waited in a line? Of course, you have, this is the modern world. We wait in line for everything. We wait in line at the grocery store, at the movies, for things we are passionate about and even of course just for a cup of coffee or tea. When you stand in line there is a respectable distance that most people grant the folks in front and behind them. For the most part, human beings don’t want to bump into other human beings by accident. When we touch other people we like it to be on purpose. Now, when you are pregnant and standing in line a few unique and frustrating things can happen.
First, the person in front of you may not realize you are pregnant and back into you inadvertently. This causes massive awkwardness and annoyance for everyone involved. Second, if you are hugely pregnant, there is a strong chance that you actually don’t know exactly how huge you are and could be standing just a little too close to the person in front of you. Again, in this scenario, you get bumped and everyone is massively embarrassed and awkward about the whole thing. In a crowded space when you have to stand in line your best bet is to stand sideways until you and the people around you get their bearings. Basically, rather than facing forward stand with one of your shoulders toward the person in front of you. This will help you and that person realize the amount of personal space actually required to prevent bumping each other.
12 Theater Seats – Um, Excuse Me, Pardon Me
Okay, for most people theater seats are hard to maneuver when you are not pregnant. Add in the pregnancy element and you get a large person, with bad balance, teetering through a small space in the dark. Throw in the bony knees and hidden feet of the people you have to pass by and come to grips with the fact that as a pregnant woman you might actually fall and cause an amazing scene in whatever movie theater or auditorium you are challenging yourself to enter.
There is really a simple fix to get around the embarrassment and flat out dangerousness of this scenario. Get there early. I don’t care if you are a chronically late person (like myself). Your only chance of surviving the near-impossible jaunt to your seat in Row D is to get there when the theater is not very crowded and the lights are still on. This at least gives you a fighting chance of getting to your place in one piece (and without hurting anyone in the process).
11 Great Expectations - You Must Be Due Tomorrow
The issue of personal space for a pregnant woman doesn’t necessarily mean physical space. To me, personal space (especially while pregnant) includes any and all comments made about the amount of personal space my pregnant body takes up. Perhaps this is not the classic definition of personal space – but it definitely has to do with my person and the space associated with me.
Coming from someone who became very large with each of my pregnancies I am going to come right out and say it – you invade my personal space when you pass judgment on my size. This invasion usually comes veiled as strange small talk in one specific way – correlating an expecting mom’s size with her due date. Many pregnant women are constantly answering variations of one question once they start to show, “Due in a couple weeks, eh?”
The answer, unfortunately for everyone involved, is usually “No, actually, I have a long time to go…” The best way to deal with this terribly shaming question is to simply smile, nod and walk away….and then likely cry…alone…so that no one can see the hugely sad pregnant woman. After you have a good cry, try to just let it go. You’d be better off focusing on where the bathroom is at your next destination.
10 Embarrassing Questions - The Weighting Game
You gain weight during pregnancy – this is a fact for most people. The weird thing is that people you barely know begin asking you how much weight you’ve gained as soon as you tell them you are expecting. It can feel like a complete invasion of privacy and, by extension personal space, because the whole topic is regarding how much larger you are becoming. I found it odd during my first pregnancy when one cashier at the supermarket would consistently ask me how much weight I’d gained each week and then horrifyingly try to guess.
I really perfected my ‘let’s change the subject now uncomfortable giggle.” It didn’t always work. It got to the point where every time this one person saw me I felt like a giant jar filled with jelly beans and she was trying to guess how many there were.
Of course, there are certain places this question is acceptable, like the doctor’s office. Even when a medical professional is the person asking me I am still completely uncomfortable. What’s worse, if you’ve had one of those pregnant weeks where your weight jumps up drastically (which can and does happen), you feel terrible when the eyebrows of the nurse or technician go up as you stand on the scale. So embarrassing.
9 Public Places - Planes, Trains, And Automobiles
Travel during pregnancy brings with it a whole slew of space related challenges pregnant women must face. Cars are probably the best mode of transportation because you have the most control over your surroundings – if you need to stop or pull over you simply do so or if you are a passenger you ask the driver. Let’s face it, though, as your body grows you can’t help but feel like a sardine in a tin can no matter if you are driving or riding in a car. It’s just the way it goes.
Public transportation can be a real nightmare for pregnant women though. Trains and buses are jerky with small seats so it’s pretty much inevitable that people are going to bump you. Planes present their own unique challenges for pregnant women. Tiny seats, small aisles, tiny bathrooms and no escape until you land safely on the ground. In my personal experience the only way to keep your mind off of how uncomfortable you are on a plane is to get a window seat – at least you can rest your head on the cool glass and look out at the wide open sky while you are awkwardly close to the person next to you.
8 Sleepless In Seattle - And Everywhere Else
Pregnant women sometimes have a lot of sleepless nights. Most people attribute this to anticipation, excitement or worry about the impending birth and becoming a mother. Those things may be the cause of sleep deprivation for some pregnant women, sometimes. All the other women out there who are expecting but are not plagued with worry and nerves but are still losing sleep are probably trying to share a bed with someone.
There are a few culprits when you are pregnant and have trouble claiming your personal space in your own bed. First, you could have a significant other who either has always hogged the space or, as you’ve gotten bigger, seems to hog all of the space in the bed. Either way sharing space with your bedmate can become an impossible task at times during pregnancy – after all you are already sharing your body with someone else – it is easy to quickly become frustrated if you feel your bed is being overtaken by your partner.
Additionally, if you have children already you might struggle to carve out – and keep – your space in your bed. Toddlers seem to have a sixth sense about how to wiggle their way into the spot in your bed that prevents you from sleeping comfortably. They do it under the cover of darkness and most times it can be just too hard to move them back to their own beds when you are almost due with your next baby.
Remember, this time will be temporary. This doesn’t fix the problem at all, I realize, but at least it might prevent you from snapping at the people you love.
7 Squeaky Clean - Readapting To Tiny Spaces
The pregnant body is beautiful. You blossom with new life, your skin and hair seem to glow, your fingernails grow healthy and strong and your body can become so misshapen and humongous that you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror. The physicality of all the changes happening to your body are most emphasized, I think, in the bathroom when you go to take a shower or a bath.
You basically have a new body that you have no idea how to fit into all your usual places. Mix that with water and lots of slippery soap and your struggle with personal space may be just that you want to stand upright on two feet rather than slide haphazardly in a soapy mess on the bathroom floor.
A couple of tips to keep you on your feet within your personal space are to first, take it slow – don’t rush and give yourself the time you need. Next, if you really feel wobbly install some temporary hand grips – you’ll feel more stable just knowing they are there if you need them.
6 At The Docs – Giddyaup!
Ahhhh, Obstetrics and Gynecology... what awkward experiences you offer women all over the world. I mean, thank goodness for modern medicine, of course, but come on the stirrups? Isn’t there a better way?
It would be nice if pregnant women got some sort of special treatment at the OB/GYN office. Who knows, maybe I just haven’t been to the right office, maybe what I think would be nice actually exists, I really don’t know. Two simple things really challenge pregnant women and their struggle for personal space when they go in for their checkups. The tables are so darn high. At 5’8” I am relatively tall – or at least I am not short. Even I found it difficult to heave my pregnant body up on the exam room table at some of my check ups. A couple times my personal space almost included the entire floor area of the exam room because I thought I was going to teeter the wrong way when I was getting on the table. And, more importantly, the stirrups.
Toward the end of my pregnancies, I needed help to even just get my feet in those awful stirrups. If you have to help me put my feet anywhere – especially someplace I’d rather not put them in the first place - it is an invasion of personal space. In order to avoid any overly awkward situations at the doctor’s office (or anywhere for that matter) I’ve found that asking for help is the key. Ask for a hand before you actually need the help because the other person may not realize how close you really are to a personal space emergency.
5 At A Restaurant - Make Way!
Intimate romantic dinners in candle-lit tiny restaurants temporarily become a thing of the past when you are in your third trimester. First of all, your growing belly prevents you from pulling your chair comfortably close to the table. Then, even if you do situate yourself in a way that is somewhat comfortable you are likely sitting so close to the table behind you that you will have to move every time they move or get up. The fix for this situation is an easy one – go to big loud restaurants. And love every minute.
It may not be romantic, and depending on the location, may not satisfy your desire for a refined evening out but when you are pregnant and out for dinner your best location is one that has lots of room so that you can claim your personal space and enjoy your meal in peace.
4 Swollen Feet - Swollen Everything
A pregnant woman’s feet are an entity unto themselves. As such they have their own unique struggle for personal space. Imagine, for a moment, that you are a pair of feet that belong to a pregnant woman. You suddenly expand and bloat up to an unrecognizable shape and size. There are no shoes big enough to encase you, the stretchiest of socks feel constricting. Your only hope for relief is to spend hours suspended above the head of the pregnant woman you are attached to. The swollen feet of a pregnant woman are a hapless circumstance.
It is a struggle to fit your feet into most shoes, let along high heels, during pregnancy. The thought of having to put shoes on your feet when pregnant can cause anxiety while you are getting dressed. It’s just another wonderful way pregnant women find themselves struggling for space while they carry their unborn child – they can’t even find enough room for their growing feet inside a normally comfy pair of shoes. Just remember, it is temporary.
3 At Work - Especially Working With Men
Getting too much personal space can be, at times, even more difficult to deal with than the invasion of personal space pregnant women so often have to endure. What I mean is when people are overly cautious and careful around pregnant women. I’ve actually walked into a conference room as men were literally jumping out of their seats and away from the table as a pregnant woman was lugging the heavy conference room chair out so that she could sit in it.
I felt like I had walked in on some kind of office-inspired nature show and a narrator would voice over at any moment something to the effect of “the males move back, wary of the female as she makes space for herself within the group. With hands outstretched behind them in a passive gesture the males wait, alert, unblinking until it is safe to return to their seats.”
A simple move to the side, in this case, would have sufficed. No need to make that pregnant woman feel like an oddity of nature.
2 In Your Clothes - Nothing Fits Anymore!
In reality, nothing is more intimate than the clothes you put on your body. It’s a shame that women, when we are pregnant, must struggle to fit into what were once our most comfortable clothes. Our bodies are built to change and expand so that we can welcome new life into the world. Unfortunately, that comes at the cost of being uncomfortable in pretty much everything that we have in our closets and drawers.
Maternity clothes are a huge help – thank goodness for pants that fit our ever-growing baby bumps! But even maternity clothes are not ideal. They are usually not made to last since they are only worn a few months at a time and just like non-maternity clothes on non-pregnant women – not all maternity clothes look good on all expecting mothers.
The only fix that I believe exists that will help a pregnant woman feel slightly better in her clothes is to get regular exercise. It may not make you slim down but exercising will improve your mood so you won’t mind as much when your clothes don’t fit!
1 In Front Of The Refrigerator - Decisions, Decisions...
Ha, ha, ha – it’s sooooooo funny when pregnant women get cravings or are just plain hungry. Well, guess what? Get your chuckles out and then move over so that pregnant woman can get some personal space in front of a heaping plate of whatever she wants to eat. Growing a human is hard and takes a lot of calories at the end of your pregnancy. Hopefully, it’s not something that she wants to do all of the time but I guarantee you every pregnant woman at one point or another wants to just sit and eat until she is full.
The point is sometimes you get cravings and you just don’t want to be laughed at for them. Next time you see a pregnant woman chowing down, whether she is a stranger or someone you are related to please do both of you a favor – just leave her alone. If a pregnant woman is raiding the fridge - just let her eat!
Even though pregnancy can feel like you are trying to perpetually put ten pounds of something into a five-pound bag it is ultimately worth every ache, pain, and ounce of discomfort that mothers face. When you see your baby’s beautiful little face for the first time you want to willingly forego all your personal space just so that you can have longer moments of sweetness with your child.