I passed out on the subway when I was in my second trimester. Well, I managed to get off the subway and onto the platform before I hit the floor, but it was an unpleasant experience. (There were many people who helped me, and all was absolutely fine.) Since then, I’ll wait for crowded streetcars and subways to pass before I get on, and I’ll accept a seat when it’s offered, in case I need to put my head between my knees to prevent myself from passing out again. And other pregnant women may love a seat, too, to help them relieve pain, dizziness or just a general fear of toppling over (balance gets trickier!).
But the issue is, there are a whole lot of people who don’t offer pregnant ladies (or injured people, or elderly people, or those with mobility issues) a seat on public transit. The first time I was offered a seat on public transit, I was well into my sixth month of pregnancy. And, I will add that not ONCE has a seat been offered to me by a man. Not once. I should say: I am generally an optimist. Maybe an idealist. I tend to believe that people are inherently good and that the world is generally a nice place to be. But this has really baffled me.
I have used the following lines of reasoning to justify this lack of courtesy to myself: “Maybe they can’t tell because I have my coat on.” “Maybe they’re just too caught up in their book to notice my belly.” “I think they’re all asleep. They’re probably just all asleep.” “Maybe they’re not sure that I’m pregnant, and they are worried they’ll offend me.” But I have seen comfortably seated people (often middle-aged men, oddly), look directly at my clearly pregnant belly as I stand there in front of them and then look away. I’m even guilty of opening my coat, rubbing my belly in a maternal sort of way and looking as beleaguered as possible in the hopes that someone would offer. (I know I could ask. And if I was about to faint, I would. But it’s awkward, let’s be honest.)
A friend recently recounted a story in which a friend of hers said: “Why should I get up out of my seat for a pregnant lady? It was her choice to get pregnant, not mine.” An interesting argument, but not exactly a compassionate one. Yes, in ideal circumstances, getting pregnant is a choice. But does that make pregnant women unworthy of kindness or courtesy? If a person broke their leg while skiing, does it make sense to not offer them a seat on public transit because it was their choice to go skiing?
I don’t always need to sit down on the subway or the streetcar. And, as I said, I try to avoid situations where I won’t get a seat to begin with. And, yes, I’m sure you’d much rather be sitting down too. I try to make sure that I express my gratitude to the women who let me take their seats, but I’m not sure it really comes across. But I think I can safely say on behalf of pregnant ladies everywhere: if you’ve offered a seat (even if it hasn’t been taken), your kindness is very much appreciated. I hope it’s catching.