One might read that title and think, “Of course, she’s not making peace with Buddha, she’s Catholic.” In one sense, you’d be right. But the Buddha I’m referring to is more of a phenomenon than the actual Buddha himself.
Its funny (read: not funny) how pregnancy changes the world around you. Suddenly people think they now have free license to say all kinds of things to you, some kind, some horrifying, some downright rude. Not only do people say just about anything to a pregnant woman – without, it seems, so much as a second thought – but people also touch you without so much as a second thought. Generally speaking – and I do mean this as a general rule – I don’t mind when people ask if they can touch the bump. Rubbing me as though I’m Buddha himself is another notion entirely.
Way back when I read Olivia’s post about her students touching her belly I thought to myself, Surely, I’ll be like that – who cares who touches my belly! Wrong, though not entirely.
When it comes to the kids I interact with through my job (preschool-5th graders), I basically never mind when they touch my belly. They generally don’t ask, but they don’t make me feel one bit uncomfortable. Their gentle touches are filled with complete wonder and awe at the life that God is growing inside of me. Not all of them understand why Ms. Amanda’s belly is growing, but they ask and then reach out their tiny little hands to marvel at what is just beyond their view. The kids aren’t beating on my belly, they generally don’t poke me/the baby, nor do they make me feel like some crystal ball, waiting to reveal their future. They just touch, eager to know the little life inside of me and anxious to understand how God could do such a thing. It is simple, pure, and beautiful.
Then there is everyone else. I work at one of the biggest parishes in the Denver-metro area (approximately 6,000 registered families at last count), so people are never in a shortage around me. There are nearly 500 children in the Faith Formation department, children who I see on a weekly basis, along with their parents. I never really imagined how it would feel to have people who are, in some sense, strangers, come up to me and rub. I can’t really put my finger on it, but kids touching vs. adults rubbing is a totally different thing. Kids don’t always know better than to ask, adults do. But somehow, more often than not, the courtesy of asking flies out the window and before I know it, not only am I being touched, I’m being rubbed.
Last week Anthony and I went out of town for a little getaway. As we moseyed around the town, I saw little Buddha statues in the window of one of the stores. I told Anthony that I wanted to buy one to carry around with me so that I could tell people if they wanted to rub someone’s belly, they could rub the statue. I wasn’t entirely kidding.
There are days I’ve really struggled with my feelings about people touching me. Shouldn’t I be more open, shouldn’t I witness to life and the joy of pregnancy by letting people touch/rub my belly/stick their face up to my belly and talk/sing/shout at my baby? Maybe, but maybe not. The fact of the matter is that I’m not Buddha. I’m not a good luck charm, a crystal ball or a genie in the bottle. I don’t mind a simple pat or someone wanting to feel the baby kick (though she’s adorable shy about kicking for people other than Mommy and Daddy), but rubbing my belly makes me want to rub yours and ask you what you had for lunch. (No, I haven’t actually said that out loud to anyone…yet.) So what? Does that somehow make me less pro-life? Less of a witness to the miracle God is growing in me? No, it doesn’t. It simply makes me me, not Buddha, not your crystal ball, not something I’m not. Not wanting to be rubbed doesn’t make me selfish or a bad mother, it makes me who I am, and encourages me to be joyful in pregnancy in other ways that I’m comfortable with, and that’s perfectly okay.