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Did strangers touch Mary’s belly when she was pregnant with Jesus, too?

PREGNANT WOMAN
With Love of Photography | Getty Images
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Why is touching a pregnant belly irresistible to many people? Perhaps they, too, are drawn by the miracle.

I’m about halfway through my third pregnancy and yes, I’ve already had well-meaning friends and relatives reaching for my tender midsection. One such person even commented on my first-trimester belly and its relative “squishiness” — this person was apparently unfamiliar with the sometimes volatile nature of a newly pregnant woman’s emotions.

Really, where does our fascination with the pregnant belly come from? And why are so many people drawn to touch it with little regard for the fact that it’s a fairly intimate region of anyone’s body?

I confess, I’m one of those people who reaches out to touch a pregnant belly, even after I’ve grown gargantuan bellies two-and-a-half times running, and I know just how awkward a strange hand on a sensitive tummy can feel. I’ll admit I’ve never caressed the middle of a total stranger, but when friends are glowing and their bellies are protruding, I can hardly resist. Most of the time I’ll timidly ask if I can feel their stomachs, and my requests have been met with proud smiles. But I’m not touching them with any kind of disrespect; in fact, my desire to touch the taut tummies of the expectant mothers around me comes from a place of deep respect and awe for what is happening inside these brave women.

Each pregnancy truly is a miracle, a strange and wonderful thing to witness as a human being is grown inside another by the hand of God Himself. Perhaps we’re so drawn to this rare and physical manifestation of God’s power and His simultaneous humility — Jesus was also fashioned in the womb of a young woman. I wonder how Mary felt about people touching her belly, when just on the other side was the son of God incarnate?

Maybe there’s a subconscious connection to the spiritual aspect of new life that draws our hands and eyes, or maybe there are other, more simple reasons big bellies are so irresistible. Perhaps strangers who are past their child-rearing years are fondly remembering the sweetness of raising babies. Or perhaps women who are yearning and hoping for children of their own are heartened by the sight of yet another miracle taking place, right before their eyes.

Whether our society’s draw to swollen bellies comes from a deep desire to connect with God or simple curiosity, we might do well to remember that perhaps not every pregnant woman enjoys being touched. Maybe instead of instinctively reaching for the bellies of strangers, we can admire the gift of life being created from afar. Nevertheless, if you’re like me — sporting a huge, heavy and very active belly — perhaps rather than annoyance or irritation at inquisitive strokes, we can be compassionate.

Pregnancy is grueling and often tiring work for a mama — it’s easy to forget how wondrous and deeply spiritual it is. I still have a few months left before my third child arrives, and I’m expecting my belly to swell just as much as it did as my first two sons grew inside. This time, if well-meaning people just can’t help but search for signs of life on the other side, I’ll smile and remember they’re just trying to get a glimpse of the miracle. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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