A woman's body pays a heavy price to carry and deliver a baby. That's what my doctors say and what I've twice experienced. During the first half of each of my pregnancies, I was so nauseated I could barely function, even with anti-nausea medication during the second pregnancy—nearly bedridden. For the second half of each, a bevy of other issues sprung up, including retention of so much water I could hardly walk. My legs looked like logs. They felt like logs, too. Indeed, if I lived in another time or in another place where I didn't have access to health care, neither me nor my babies might have made it.

But my physical discomfort was matched by social discomfort—and not of my own doing. During the first pregnancy, Shawn and I were youth leaders at our church. When we announced our pregnancy to the kids, I was all red-faced with embarrassment, my protruding belly evidence of our sexual intimacy. My awkwardness? Foolish, I know.

However, during both my pregnancies and post-partum, I've had plenty of legitimate reasons for embarrassment. Apparently, since a personal thing like marital intimacy was now made public, many people felt licensed to let the comments fly. I could cite a litany of inappropriate remarks and behaviors. Here's my short list:

1 … So, who's the father? Christian men I know posed this question. I realize it was in jest, but really? The question rankles me because anyone who knows me understands how sacred and joy-filled my relationship with Shawn is. The mere suggestion of adultery is odious. Joking about it is beyond the pale.

2 … Boy, you're getting fat! Said by a few different Christian men. I know these guys weren't being malicious—they were joking, grasping for a way to strike up conversation about the obvious.

I let this particular comment slide. But given that women can be especially sensitive about their bodies during the pregnancy and post-partum seasons, I advise against making any comments about weight. (In fact, shouldn't we always think twice before commenting on anyone's weight?) If I had low self-esteem or was overly self-conscious, I'd be crushed. For the image-obsessed media and women who take their cue from them, weight gain during pregnancy is now considered a faux pas. Expectant mothers are now expected to be "skinny pregnant." I know women who've undernourished themselves during pregnancy; they put themselves and their babies at risk because they feared weight gain. Let's not make their situation worse by joking about the extra 30 pounds they are carrying around.

3 … You look like you're about to pop. I wanted to let you know that we have a sale on diapers. You'll need some. A Target associate was trying to be helpful to me. Indeed, I was "about to pop." Two 50-something women who overheard her laughed incredulously. They too found the comment rude. I was within earshot when one blurted to the other, "I can't believe the associate told that pregnant lady that she looks like she's about to pop!" I was a bit ticked myself. The associate used my late-pregnancy state to tactlessly induce me to buy diapers.

4 … I love seeing the new-mother glow and nice round breasts. I was mortified—speechless. I'm olive-skinned and don't blush easily, but I could feel the flush red crawling up my neck and onto my face as the Christian man said this in front of his wife. I wanted to fall through a hole in the floor.

5. … Are you trying to hide the fact that you're married? Since I retain so much water during pregnancy, it's not long before I have to remove my wedding ring. Apparently this Christian lady had no problem questioning my motives. "If I want to salvage my wedding ring, I've got to take it off," I responded. I suppose I could've used a twist-tie around my ring finger. Instead, I bought two rings from Charming Charlies.

6 … And then there are all the strangers and acquaintances who, without hesitation and without asking, rubbed my belly. I'm Hispanic and likely more huggy than the average person; still, I've never touched another person's belly like that, not even the belly of a pregnant friend. Would you feel free to touch my belly any other time? I wondered. The least we could do is ask permission before doing so.

When it comes to proper protocol in this area, I tend to agree with Lucinda Sutton's assessment on this matter:

Some of this might be remotely acceptable coming from a close family member, but from a co-worker? A vague acquaintance at church? The nice old lady at the grocery store who had twelve of her own? What is it that makes people lose all sense of decorum or boundaries here? Shouldn't we actually be more sensitive and caring of women's feelings at this time?

During my pregnancies, I was a shut-in. I felt like the world passed me by. For a long time, I couldn't eat, sleep, read, write, or participate in most family activities. I was lonely. Thus, I am deeply grateful for those who remembered and visited me. And I am deeply grateful for my co-workers who stepped in to help me fulfill my job responsibilities. They sensitively walked alongside me as I labored to carry my daughters through pregnancy.

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We would do well, in our Christian communities, to treat pregnant women like, well, people, not like spectacles walking around wearing sandwich boards that read, "Touch me. Say whatever you want. No, really." The familiar sight of a pregnant woman within our Christian communities doesn't give us license to transgress boundaries or fling decorum out the window just because we're excited on their behalf. And if we are going to treat pregnant women differently because they are pregnant, we should be more sensitive to their needs, not less. And what woman ever needs a man who's not her husband commenting on the roundness of her breasts?