One of the biggest struggles I’ve had since being pregnant is travelling. I travel every day into Central London for work during rush hour. It’s a twenty minute journey and most of the time the train is very busy.
Very early on, I invested in one of those fab “Baby on Board” badges that London Transport supplies. I read an article a little while ago about a man who offered up a seat for someone he thought was pregnant and it turns out she wasn’t. She was upset and he got the sharp end of her tongue, so since then he said he wouldn’t offer up a seat unless someone was VERY clearly pregnant or was wearing one of these badges.
I carry a bit of extra podge, so I figured one of these badges would be very helpful. Around ten weeks pregnant, I popped it onto the strap of my bag. It was clearly visible. Some might argue that at ten weeks, I didn’t “need” a seat because there was no weight of baby or whatever, but the tiredness and general crappy feeling that comes with first trimester need not be underestimated. I was exhausted and constantly battling not to vomit in my shoes. I was quite lucky that I didn’t vomit much in first trimester, but the nausea was certainly debilitating. I was never offered a seat, not once.
I eventually struck up the courage to actually ask for a seat. If you want a seat, ask, right? Direct approach. So I approached those sitting in the priority seats and asked for a seat. I had spent a while thinking about how to do this, because I’m very much aware that some people have invisible disabilities. So, when I asked I said “If you don’t need that seat, could I sit down please?” What I didn’t expect was to be completely ignored… Totally blanked. Not even looked at. And no, the people weren’t deaf. They had been conversing moments before. So, I stood.
Anyhow, this carried on. Right up to now, at twenty five weeks, with a visible bump. No, the nausea issues are not there any more but MAN am I tired. Doing this five days a week is hard. It’s not even a little bit easy. I’m lucky that my pregnancy is progressing relatively normally. I don’t have SPD, I don’t have low blood pressure or any other pregnancy related mobility or health issues, but this journey was exhausting pre pregnancy, so it’s much worse now.
I posted on Facebook. You know how a good Facebook rant can clear the cobwebs? It was a particularly bad day where I couldn’t even get near the seats to request one. It was the middle of the week and I was so tired and stressed already. I said “You know what my favourite thing in the world is? Paying a shitload of money for a season ticket to STAND all the way to work because I can’t get to the seats to ask for one. Really is my absolute favourite thing in the whole damn world.”
I got a mixture of results, but one in particular surprised me. Someone pointed out that “it’s not a disability” and “I just think sometimes pregnancy is taken too far to be honest.” I was quite surprised to see this coming from someone who has been pregnant, and was quite hurt by the fact that they were belittling my perfectly valid feelings about the situation. So, after removing that person from Facebook, I got to thinking about whether pregnant women should be entitled to a seat on public transport, or should it just be reserved for those who have a verifiable disability.
Now, we all know that pregnancy is not a disability. I’ve never actually heard anyone refer
to it as such. And we all know people who whine about every little ache and pain, BUT I have to ask, does that make those aches and pains any less valid? As I said before, I’m blessed that I’m having a relatively normal pregnancy (apart from high blood pressure) and am lucky enough to not yet be cursed with SPD or similar. However, pregnancy itself is pretty difficult. My body is changing. I’m carrying extra weight in the form of a baby bump and boobs that will not be restrained. I’m exhausted pretty much 100% of the time, despite getting enough sleep. Sometimes I feel dizzy. Sometimes I’m overheated.
My general rule (pre pregnancy) when it came to giving up a seat, was that I would offer my seat to anyone less able to stand – just like the signs say I should. I’m lucky. I’m able. I can stand for twenty minutes. If someone else is less able for whatever reason, I think it’s common decency to give up my seat. Many of the reasons suggested on the “priority seat” signs are not disability related. I have offered seats to people holding young children or people who just look unwell. I’ve offered seats to elderly people, pregnant people and people with injuries who are on crutches or similar. None of these people are necessarily disabled, but all are entitled to a seat as far as I am concerned.
The other thing I thought about was safety. When the train is packed, the last thing I want is people falling on me. The other day I actually had some donkey in a suit “tut” at me because I couldn’t move any further out of the way for him to get past. What if there’s a sudden stop? What if I get pushed up against something and hurt myself or Eden? The safety aspect of sitting is very important, because standing in a packed train carriage can be haphazard with precious cargo on board. I would imagine it would be just as difficult if on crutches or with some kind of injury – you just don’t want people knocking into you.
So, yeah, as much as I agree that pregnancy isn’t a disability, I do think some of the effects of it can be disabling. I also think that this is about more than whether someone is disabled or not. I think it’s about looking out for your fellow human and making life that little bit easier for those around you. Having a seat on the way to work and the way home really does make a difference to me. My biggest problem is tiredness, and being able to sit down for that journey instead of trying to stay upright with my slightly dodgy centre of gravity (thanks Eden) makes a big difference.
I’m not expecting special treatment. I chose to be pregnant. BUT that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s difficult. Growing a human is hard, so I do think that if people are able to give up their seats, they should be going ahead and doing that. Treat people how you would expect to be treated and look after your fellow human, because you never know when you might be the one asking for a seat for whatever reason.