I believe the world would be a happier, more peaceful place if people treated each other the way most people treat a pregnant woman. Last year when I was pregnant, I was repeatedly amazed with the thoughtfulness and generosity of complete strangers. I was further astounded by how the consistency of these behaviors was directly proportional to my expanding girth.
In December of 2004, I entered my second trimester and continued to wear my regular clothes. Without a maternity uniform, people treated me like a non-pregnant woman. When I went to take my packages to the post office that holiday season, I felt annoyed that no one held the door as they exited. I managed to carry my large boxes, stacked precariously on top of one another, and balanced them while I opened the door and snuck inside before it closed on me. After the holiday, my belly began to rapidly fill-out like a beach ball, and I noticed a distinct change in how others responded to me. Now when I went to the post office, people would fall over each other to grab a door for me. It didn’t matter that I was only going to buy stamps, customers and employees would hold the door open, smile, and ask me when I was due.
These acts of kindness extended beyond the post office to restaurants, trains, lobbies, shopping malls, and grocery stores. Never before have I received so many unsolicited smiles, offers to take someone else’s seat, to have a glass of cold water, to enjoy an extra dessert, or to park closer to a store. Not only did people ask about my baby, but also they told me about their families. Instead of hearing about the heartache or trouble in their lives, most people recalled the joyful moments of meeting a new baby or watching their child become a parent.
These moments of intimacy with random strangers colored my perceptions of others and my mood. For example, the driver who cut in front of me during rush hour barely missing my bumper was transformed into a person in a hurry (maybe even someone on the way to the hospital). The male co-worker who announced in a meeting that my breasts appeared to be shrinking was not insensitive or inappropriate, but observant. The growing gift of hope inside me sprinkled with these regular positive human interactions resulted in me feeling more forgiving, more generous, and ultimately happier.
Now, I have a precious fourteen-month-old son and my belly is as flat as it was before I became pregnant (well maybe not that flat – but close). I’m back to opening the post office door myself, while I hold the baby, and the packages (thank goodness for the baby backpack). And even though the world would look pretty funny with men, women, and children waddling around with pregnant bellies – it might be a more tolerant and gentler place.
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