Please Do Not Pet the Baby Bump—or, Motherhood in the Surveillance Society

“Hi. I’m just going to duck in your office for a second and hide. I saw Barbara* come in and she’s probably going to try to pet my belly again.”

The colleague who whispered these words to me had slipped through my half-opened door with remarkable speed and stealth for someone in her third trimester of pregnancy. I gestured to a chair and offered a quiet, sympathetic laugh, and though she joined me, her laugh was a tired one, mingling wry amusement with embarrassment and consternation. The offending belly-petter was an older woman, kind and well-meaning, but abounding in far more maternal advice than actual expertise, and cheerfully unconstrained by any sense of personal boundaries. Continue reading →