Photo courtesy of Ryan Franco
Given how often pregnant women vocalize their discomfort with unwanted baby bump touching, it seems counterintuitive that so many people continue to do it. Yet, like other forms of harassment, the difference between the person being harassed and the one doing the harassing is that one person understands boundaries and the other does not—and might not care to.
You have the right to decide who touches your body and who doesn’t, but it’s often the case that when you’re pregnant, people forget that. Don’t worry, we haven’t. When someone touches your bump without asking and it upsets you, firmly say something like, I’m glad you’re excited for me, but please don’t touch my belly without asking.
If it happens in the workplace, talk to your boss or HR about it, especially if the person does it after you’ve explicitly told them not to. Any unwanted touching at work is inappropriate. Full stop.
Beyond that, it’s entirely appropriate to tell your manager at the beginning of your pregnancy that you’d prefer your coworkers not touch your bump when you start showing, and you’d like them to make that clear to the team from the outset. It doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable announcement. Ask your manager to work it into diversity training or to frame it like this in 1:1s with your coworkers or during a team meeting (if you’re comfortable with that):
We’re all so excited for Cali’s news! While we’re on the subject, let’s go over a few ground rules for pregnancy in our office. It’s up to the mom-to-be whether she wants to share what she’s naming her child or its gender and whether she’s okay with people touching her baby bump. Please keep that in mind with Cali, or any future pregnancies we have in the office. The same goes for dads-to-be. Give everyone the freedom to share news when they’re ready.
Ideally, this should only serve as a refresher for what people should already know: that office life, though a good place to foster strong relationships that eventually become out-of-office friendships, isn’t a family reunion or a weekend brunch with your best pals. It’s still work, and if you cringe when your mother-in-law touches you belly, then you definitely don’t want your director of sales crossing that line.