My baby bump wasn’t just pregnant big; it was pass-comment-on-how-big-it-is big. “Twins!” people would squeak at me in restaurants. Nope, a lone dweller. “Are you calling your Christmas baby Noel or Carol?” Well, neither, as she’s not due until February. I was huge is what I’m getting at.
And yet Luas, train and bus passengers had a canny knack of not seeing the bump altogether. They would press their chins down into their collarbones, engrossed in their phones. In the scrum of the commuting crowd, I'd sometimes be forced to settle the massive baby bump on their shoulder. And yet still they remained oblivious. Then it would be on to the Rotunda waiting room, where men would be plonked on every available seat while pregnant women would stand in the hallway, waiting for their appointments.
In the end, the only people who would ever relinquish a seat on public transport were women. A look would usually pass between us. She had very definitely been where I was, lugging around an extra stone of baby, amniotic fluid and placenta.
It's a sorry state of affairs when it comes to this: pinning a badge on your person so that you can find temporary relief from the weight of a kicking person between your legs
I did wonder why that was. Were men afraid of being chivalrous, in case I called them out for not being all modrin and progressive by treating me like a dainty princess? Did they adhere to the (admittedly wise) mantra that you don’t acknowledge a woman is pregnant unless you actually see her baby’s head crowning? Or, not to put too fine a point on it, were they just not arsed?
Look, I get it. Life is busy and gruelling. Everyone wants to sit down and exhale a bit on a long commute to or from work. They’re boring enough without being able to read/scroll/play Candy Crush Saga. Besides, you pay for that seat, quite handsomely in some cases. You want to keep it to yourself.
By the same token, I think nine-odd pounds of baby pushing down into your pelvic bone affords you a bit of a pass on this one.
Transport for Ireland has had a Baby on Board badge campaign for all public transport in the State, including Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Go-Ahead, Luas and Iarnród Éireann, for the past 18 months or so – aka the time of two full pregnancies. You put on one of the badges to let other passengers know you have a very good reason to need a seat. Posters for the scheme – "Let them know you're expecting... to be offered a seat," they say – are all over bus stops and the Luas again.
It’s a sorry state of affairs when it comes to this: pinning a badge on your person so that you can find temporary relief from the weight of a kicking person between your legs. But, alas, it’s where we are at as a society. The badge may seem a bit look-at-me to some women. And there are, no doubt, a faction of whatabouters who will wonder very loudly why there aren’t badges for people with all sorts of other health challenges and physical conditions.
I didn’t wear one myself – personally, I found the passive-aggressive brushing-my-bump-up-against-someone-who-is-ignoring-me thing helped while away the journey – but here’s the thing. The badge is not a sign of weakness. It simply forces people to notice that a woman is pregnant in a culture where they are more inclined to look the other way. You can’t pretend that you didn’t notice that massive pregnancy bump. And the badge is a very handy shorthand. It says, “Yes, I am ready to accept a seat,” for passengers worried about offending someone by coming across as a bit too old school.
We’ve a way to go before we have the sort of high-quality transport system where everyone who pays for one can have a seat. But, in the meantime, trust me when I say that, if you can see that bump and vacate a seat for a heavily pregnant woman, the gesture is always appreciated. A bit of old-fashioned compassion goes a long way.