Life

 

Last night I was watching an episode of Red Oaks, well, re-watching since we’re being honest here. The main character, David, bumps into one of his mom’s friends, who is pregnant. He asks, “Can I?” since he wants to touch her belly. She replies, “Of course.”

Why does David want to touch that pregnant belly? And why does she so readily consent? Surely he would not ask and she would not agree to this rather intimate contact under other circumstances. After all, they hardly know each other.

The more astute (or should I say woke) among you see where I’m going here. There’s life in that belly and we all have a stake in it. Historically, children have been a sort of public property* in the sense that everyone feels some responsibility and care for children even if they belong to strangers. Yet somehow these beings are not given the most basic human right before they exit the womb. Even animals are better protected from suffering. This and related contradictions will have to be resolved someday. On a personal note, I admit without hesitation or embarrassment that my own views on this matter have changed over the years, in no small measure because of posts and comments here on Ricochet.

I have to wonder if it’s still ok to ask a pregnant woman if you can touch her belly. My guess is no — not that I would ever be so bold.

That’s too bad. There’s Life in there.


*I stole this from Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners in her book Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children, which was published in the 1980s — coincidentally it’s the decade in which Red Oaks is set.

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There are 73 comments.

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  1. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    Since Advent is about to begin, and I will seek to journey in spirit with Mary toward the Birth of the Incarnation in Bethlehem, your essay has special and powerful resonance.

    There’s Life in there. Amen.

    • #1
    • December 1, 2017, at 3:02 PM PDT
    • 18 likes
  2. Doug Watt Member

    Nice post, in a very real way when I see a family at Mass my first thought is that the parents must be generous, because of the time that they will have to invest in their children. My second thought is that the world for all it’s troubles is still filled grace, compassion, and worth sharing with children, who will in turn experience joy, triumphs, and sometimes defeat.

    Thanks again.

    • #2
    • December 1, 2017, at 3:10 PM PDT
    • 21 likes
  3. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    I love me some Miss Manners!

    • #3
    • December 1, 2017, at 3:16 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  4. Larry Koler Inactive

    Nice story about touching a women’s belly. Very sweet thing to consider.

    Commonly held beliefs and commonly held responsibilities are things of the past. One can say that this is natural in a country of so many diverse cultures but actually this topic is kind of unique to the western “culture” at large and not due to differences in ethnicity or race. This new idea that the left has of secularist atheism cuts across all cultures and represents a vertical division rather than a horizontal one (best name for this is silo-ing). In other words, as a general rule, the newly created and large upper or elite swathe is the realm from which this murdering has sprung and the lower swathes of humanity are all mostly against it.

    • #4
    • December 1, 2017, at 3:18 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  5. RightAngles Member

    When I was pregnant, plenty of total strangers in the grocery store etc came right up and touched me as they asked when I was due. I didn’t mind. It seemed like a reflex action, like the way it’s impossible to say the word “goatee” without stroking your chin at the same time. What a nice post.

    • #5
    • December 1, 2017, at 3:43 PM PDT
    • 19 likes
  6. J.D. Snapp Moderator

    My mother told me that all sorts of strangers came up to touch her belly, without permission, when she we pregnant with me. She was not a fan. I find the idea of being handled by strangers horrifying.

    • #6
    • December 1, 2017, at 3:57 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  7. Profile Photo Member

    Thank you for this post, as Mama Toad says, it is a good Advent post. :)

    • #7
    • December 1, 2017, at 4:02 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. EJHill Podcaster

    I certainly wouldn’t do it today. That’s a lawsuit that’s showered, fully dressed and waiting at the bus stop. Maybe as a teen if I was in the same situation as the protagonist in your story because there is something wondrous about feeling a baby kick inside the womb.

    I remember the first time I experienced that with our oldest. As a man your intellect tells you that there’s a baby inside but you don’t feel what Mama feels. You’re out of that intimate loop between mother and child – until you have your hand on that belly and the baby kicks. My God, there’s a real live person in there!

    • #8
    • December 1, 2017, at 4:04 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
  9. EJHill Podcaster

    J.D. Snapp: I find the idea of being handled by strangers horrifying.

    Another story surrounding Baby Girl. She was born in a very prominent teaching hospital in Detroit. When our OBGYN came into the room I swear she had a basketball team with her. Everyone took their turn at examining my wife. Stranger after stranger put on a pair of gloves to check the wife’s cervical dilation. By the time we got to the 5th guy I was ready to hit somebody – anybody. For all I knew the janitor threw on a white coat and got in line.

    • #9
    • December 1, 2017, at 4:12 PM PDT
    • 22 likes
  10. Annefy Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    When I was pregnant, plenty of total strangers n the grocery store etc came right up and touched me as they asked when I was due. I didn’t mind. It seemed like a reflex action, like the way it’s impossible to say the word “goatee” without stroking your chin at the same time. What a nice post.

    One of my favorite parts of being pregnant. Talking to strangers, a reflexive pat of my belly, a connection.

    My daughter, on the other hand, hated it. But she’s not by nature a hugger or touchy. I just explained to her that so many people felt connected to her and protective of the baby in her belly.

    When I was a young(ish) mom I never felt more connected to everyone. Every single person I saw on this earth came into the world the same way, and pretty much half of them had experienced what I was experiencing.

    Good times. I miss it.

    • #10
    • December 1, 2017, at 4:12 PM PDT
    • 22 likes
  11. Doug Watt Member

    J.D. Snapp (View Comment):
    My mother told me that all sorts of strangers came up to touch her belly, without permission, when she we pregnant with me. She was not a fan. I find the idea of being handled by strangers horrifying.

    Perfectly understandable, when someone realized that I wasn’t going to take them to booking, if they were a guy they wanted to shake hands, if they were a gal they wanted to hug me. I just put my hand out for a high five.

    • #11
    • December 1, 2017, at 4:14 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  12. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    This post brings back wonderful memories. Not once did anyone touch my baby belly without asking, but I was surprised that it was usually a man. Giving birth to a live child is, in many ways, a miracle, and I’ve since thought men want to feel just a bit of that miracle. A neighbor of mine, who was a retired OB/GYN, once told me the thing he missed the most was that feeling of triumph when he was able to be a part of a bringing a new life into the world. Uh, he also told me he didn’t miss the 4am phone calls from the hospital!

    • #12
    • December 1, 2017, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  13. Amy Schley Moderator

    I can tell you from my pregnant friends they’re just relieved when people actually ask before they start touching you! Apparently resting bitch face is one of the only ways to avoid it.

    • #13
    • December 1, 2017, at 4:43 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  14. Jimmy Carter Member

    drlorentz: Historically, children have been a sort of public property* in the sense that everyone feels some responsibility and care for children even if they belong to strangers.

    I disagree. That’ too “It Takes a Village.”

    If I didn’t screw Her, then I have absolutely 0 responsibility for Her kids to be fed, house, educated, etc. And if I am going to be responsible for kids I didn’t conceive, then I should at least be given the option to screw Her.

    drlorentz: There’s life in that belly and we all have a stake in it.

    That I agree with. We are all responsible for the culture in which these children are raised.

    • #14
    • December 1, 2017, at 5:17 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. The Reticulator Member

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    drlorentz: Historically, children have been a sort of public property* in the sense that everyone feels some responsibility and care for children even if they belong to strangers.

    I disagree. That’ too “It Takes a Village.”

    If I didn’t screw Her, then I have absolutely 0 responsibility for Her kids to be fed, house, educated, etc. And if I am going to be responsible for kids I didn’t conceive, then I should at least be given the option to screw Her.

    The left approves of your attitude, because it means that responsibility more easily becomes the role of the government.

    drlorentz: There’s life in that belly and we all have a stake in it.

    That I agree with. We are all responsible for the culture in which these children are raised.

    • #15
    • December 1, 2017, at 5:54 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Aaron Miller Member

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):
    That’ too “It Takes a Village.”

    In the old days, you could discipline a neighbor’s kid in many circumstances. And yet parental “rights” over their children were much stronger than they are today. Not all philosophies asserting inherent responsibilities to neighbors are statist.

    • #16
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:01 PM PDT
    • 18 likes
  17. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    Since Advent is about to begin, and I will seek to journey in spirit with Mary toward the Birth of the Incarnation in Bethlehem, your essay has special and powerful resonance.

    There’s Life in there. Amen.

    I’m taking your implicit suggestion and capitalizing Life in the last sentence.

    • #17
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:01 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  18. Jimmy Carter Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    The left approves of your attitude, because it means that responsibility more easily becomes the role of the government.

    1. The “government” is Me/Us.
    2. I’m stating the responsibility is the Parents’ and the Parents’ alone.
    • #18
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:04 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    J.D. Snapp (View Comment):
    My mother told me that all sorts of strangers came up to touch her belly, without permission, when she we pregnant with me. She was not a fan. I find the idea of being handled by strangers horrifying.

    I understand and agree. However note that in the vignette, the character asked for permission before touching. It’s polite to ask.

    • #19
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:04 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  20. The Reticulator Member

    I had never observed this phenomenon of strangers wanting to touch mommy’s pregnant belly, much less of some mommies thinking it’s just fine. But if it’s really a thing, then I think I like these humans for it.

    When a woman of our acquaintance becomes pregnant and it starts to show, whether or not we’ve ever met her before, I tend to notice a lot quicker and sooner than Mrs. R does.

    I was somewhat indifferent to becoming a father myself until I was in the delivery room and the doctor or nurse had placed our newborn daughter on a tray where she lay while they finished up other work. Then I was excited about it. That was a life-changing moment for me.

    • #20
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:05 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  21. Jimmy Carter Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    In the old days, you could discipline a neighbor’s kid in many circumstances. And yet parental “rights” over their children were much stronger than they are today. Not all philosophies asserting inherent responsibilities to neighbors are statist.

    Per Yer discipline comment: agreed. That’s why I stated We are all responsible for the culture in which all the kids are raised.

    • #21
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:06 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. DocJay Inactive

    I touch women all the time. They even pay me for it.

    • #22
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:08 PM PDT
    • 18 likes
  23. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    drlorentz: Historically, children have been a sort of public property* in the sense that everyone feels some responsibility and care for children even if they belong to strangers.

    I disagree. That’ too “It Takes a Village.”

    The same thought crossed my mind as I was writing it. But neither Miss Manners nor I meant it this way. Mrs. Clinton wanted to take over child rearing in some kind of collectivist way. That’s power and control, which is different from responsibility and care. If I see a small child wandering around without an adult, I’ll try to find a parent. What’s the alternative, let them walk into traffic?

    • #23
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:11 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  24. The Reticulator Member

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    The left approves of your attitude, because it means that responsibility more easily becomes the role of the government.

    1. The “government” is Me/Us.
    2. I’m stating the responsibility is the Parents’ and the Parents’ alone.

    That’s an unusual and extreme idea even among our society in which the notion of family is restricted to the nuclear family more so than in most other cultures. In most societies in most times and places, some of the responsibility has been shared more widely than that, although the details vary from one culture to another.

    • #24
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:11 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. DocJay Inactive

    To the OP, what better way to connect with God’s great miracle. If this changes then I’ll quote the great philosopher of our time , “sad”.

    • #25
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:12 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  26. The Reticulator Member

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    drlorentz: Historically, children have been a sort of public property* in the sense that everyone feels some responsibility and care for children even if they belong to strangers.

    I disagree. That’ too “It Takes a Village.”

    The same thought crossed my mind as I was writing it. But neither Miss Manners nor I meant it this way. Mrs. Clinton wanted to take over child rearing in some kind of collectivist way. That’s power and control, which is different from responsibility and care. If I see a small child wandering around without an adult, I’ll try to find a parent. What’s the alternative, let them walk into traffic?

    I’ve always agreed with the title of Mrs. Clinton’s book more than she did herself. Her problem is that she means it takes a totalitarian police state to raise a child.

    • #26
    • December 1, 2017, at 6:14 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  27. Randy Webster Member

    J.D. Snapp (View Comment):
    My mother told me that all sorts of strangers came up to touch her belly, without permission, when she we pregnant with me. She was not a fan. I find the idea of being handled by strangers horrifying.

    Hm. No one’s ever come up to touch my belly.

    • #27
    • December 1, 2017, at 8:00 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  28. Annefy Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):
    That’ too “It Takes a Village.”

    In the old days, you could discipline a neighbor’s kid in many circumstances. And yet parental “rights” over their children were much stronger than they are today. Not all philosophies asserting inherent responsibilities to neighbors are statist.

    We had lots of neighbor kids stop by over the holiday weekend – they’re all grown now. I chastised one to sit up straight.

    He did, and thanked me. He said I was the only adult in his life who took the time to correct him.

    Considering he has a mother, that made me sad

    • #28
    • December 1, 2017, at 8:08 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  29. Annefy Member

    Annefy (View Comment):

    weird double post. Sorry.

    • #29
    • December 1, 2017, at 8:09 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. Larry Koler Inactive

    Annefy (View Comment):
    When I was a young(ish) mom I never felt more connected to everyone. Every single person I saw on this earth came into the world the same way, and pretty much half of them had experienced what I was experiencing.

    Good times. I miss it.

    I’ve heard a few women in their 80s and older speak of motherhood in this way. They said they would gladly do it all over again — good and bad times but full of Life. And they said that they missed it — true nostalgia for one of the great contributions made by them to the world, to God’s great purpose here.

    • #30
    • December 1, 2017, at 8:29 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
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