Awkwardness should be defined as “a perfect stranger touching one’s stomach.” When someone asks to touch my stomach, their eyes glimmer and their fingers simmer as if they are about to boil over with joy while anticipating the awkward hold. I often want to stare at them long and hard and respond honestly, rejecting their request abruptly by telling them it’s weird, invasive and inappropriate. I don’t know why they want to touch my stomach. Especially considering Bronson is perfectly still every time someone asks.
But something in me caves. I nod, tentatively, while my mind shrugs. There’s no reason to accommodate these stranger’s requests, but I can’t come up with a good reason not to either. I’ve considered telling people he’s very shy or has a phobic reaction to stranger’s hands; but in the end, I stand while a stranger touches my stomach. Perhaps they think they are extracting the fountain of youth or determining his aura, or perhaps, they’re just so delighted they can’t contain themselves.
In the last 34 weeks, I’ve come to experience people in a completely different way. I’ve always been shy and to myself. I don’t make small talk with strangers.
But the blob on my stomach serves as an invitation. It reads, “Talk to me. I’m pregnant.”
So everyone does. The grocery clerk remarks “Not much farther, eh?” The woman in the line next to me declares, “It’s a boy. Isn’t it?” When I smile and affirm her rather presumptuous assumption, she tells me she carried all her boys that way. But the woman on the ferry tells me it can’t be a boy. According to her I should be showing more if it were. The runner yells through panted breath, “Congrats!” And at a crowded restaurant, a couple gives Ryan and I their buzzer to be seated immediately, rather than wait, because I’m pregnant.
Certainly, not everyone is kind. Many people still think their dog’s long leash is more important than giving me space. Some people find it annoying that I take up additional space. Other people do everything possible to avoid eye contact in a restroom line. They fear that I require – or expect – special treatment.
But for the most part, people are more friendly than they’ve ever been before. We should acknowledge each other with a smile and find common ground to remark on. We should delight in each other’s monumental moments. We should enjoy the small things. And we should always celebrate children.
So while I don’t love the strangers touching my stomach, I’m thankful for a season that has opened my eyes the possibility of interaction, of caring, of entering into people’s lives, even if it is just for a odd pat on the stomach.