Back in the day, when I only looked like I had chomped on a few pies rather than the whole pie shop, I looked at pregnant women on the tube with a kind of envy. You see pregnant women had a magic power provided by their Baby on Board badge – the ability to get, nay to demand, a seat on the tube.
A seat on the tube is an amazing thing. You get to sit down rather than stand in someone else’s armpit. It’s incredible.
I didn’t understand my friend Maria, who at eight months pregnant was still standing on the tube, not parading her bump in front of the designated seat to inflict guilt upon its occupant. It made no sense at all!
I thought to myself that when I became pregnant I would get myself one of these magic badges and force people up from their seats to let me lounge. It would be my right – “Priority Seat – for people who are disabled, pregnant or less able to stand”. Mine, all mine!
And then I was pregnant. The first challenge was to get the badge. I thought it would be bestowed upon me at the booking-in appointment, so I was disappointed when my gift pack contained nappies and other such frightening paraphenalia and no magic badge. So I looked it up on the internet, and apparently you can write off for one (firstname.lastname@example.org) or ask for one at major tube stations. Working in central London, I figured they might have one at my tube stop, so I got up the guts to ask and the nice man from London Underground gave me my badge – I had a baby on board!
Then the guilt set in… I was less than three months pregnant, no bump beyond that associated with my normal less-than-svelte self, and not feeling too bad, what right did I have to demand a seat? So I refused to wear it, instead chancing the usual luck of the draw in the seat vs armpit lottery. Generally I was fine, occasionally I wished I was wearing one, in those times when my power of smell picked up some nauseating body odour or I just felt exhausted, but I stood through it – feeling vaguely righteous, take that 1st trimester – I don’t need to take you sitting down!
Then came the 2nd, and with the dating scan I felt slightly less fraudulent donning my badge. I still couldn’t do it consistently – just when I felt particularly tired. On one occasion when I was wearing my badge with pride sauntering around Westfield slowly realising that my shopping options were limited to one Mamas & Papas and that was about it, Fred asked why I was advertising to the world that I was pregnant. So that was that – off it came again!
Since the 20 week scan, I have started wearing it more regularly – especially in the mornings when the tube is busier. Its magic doesn’t work all the time, but I have been surprised by how it works when it does. In the vast majority of cases, it’s women who get up and offer me their seat, and not those actually sitting in the priority seat. I would have expected more chivalry from the men (it always tended to be men who offered me seats when it was just me and my inner pie-child), and especially more vigilance from the priority seat holders, but it’s always the women. I wonder if it’s a sense of empathy or that they could be the ones looking for a seat in the future and hope others will do for them what they’ve done for me.
As for my aggressive stance on taking the position which is rightfully mine, that hasn’t happened. I am almost coy about it – avoiding eye contact, not flaunting my badge, trying to blend in. I have no idea why really. I guess it’s that equivalent of the nonchalance of going dancing when you were in high school and hoping you’d be asked by some pimply youth (not that Fred was ever pimply!) to dance, but wanting to appear like you don’t care, just in case no one asks.
Maybe things will change in the 3rd trimester as the need for a seat increases with my girth. Maybe then I will shout “Oi, you, up! That’s my seat that is!”.
Yep, that’s right, years of embarrassed Britishness will suddenly evaporate and assertiveness will reign!
Maybe Maria wasn’t so crazy after all…