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What It's Actually Like Wearing A 'Baby On Board' Badge On Public Transport

So I’m pregnant. It’s my first time. And I’m definitely not the type of person who ever pictured themselves pregnant (with the exception maybe of looking at my unbuttoned jeans after an excessive portion of pasta). When I first found out, I felt totally unprepared in terms of information, customs, and the general day-to-day admin of pregnancy. I’ve also never been the type to ask a lot of questions of the pregnant people in my life, meaning I went into this feeling blind.

For those reasons, I’ve decided to share some of my observations and experiences with others like me who might have kept themselves in the dark about what actually goes on when you’ve got the world’s most beloved parasite growing inside of you. Day one: My first day “out” as a pregnant woman on public transport.

Thankfully, my wonderful husband took the initiative to order me a ‘Baby On Board’ badge, which had been sitting on our kitchen counter for a couple of weeks as I worked toward putting aside my pride and wearing the damn thing. But, alas, I am now four months pregnant and have a rather prominent “bump”, which makes me feel like I can finally hold my head high while wearing my badge.

Something I struggled with during the first trimester was that although I didn't look visibly pregnant, I was pretty much constantly nauseous and unable to cope with reality. It was when I needed to sit down more than I ever have in my life. And yet I felt horribly guilty displacing people from their hard-won seats without an obvious, watermelon sized abdominal burden.

I've been a commuter all of my adult life – first in New York City, and now London. I'm familiar with all of the cunning strategies for nabbing seats. I know which carriages are likely to be less full and where to stand on the platform so that the door to the correct carriage will open six inches from my face. I can still remember where to stand on the Manhattan Bound platform of the F train from when I used to get on at Jay Street in Brooklyn every morning (and this was 13 years ago).

So, with that, it feels a bit like cheating to be able to slide into a crowded train and be magically offered up a seat; it’s a bit like getting a gold medal as part of a winning team even though you personally sat on the bench the whole time. However, it's gotten to the point (especially on a hot day) where I need to admit defeat, strap my 'Baby On Board' badge on and take what I can get. I figured I can at least justify this by recording my experiences as a sort of sociological experiment to tell people what it’s really like for pregnant women in the big city... We’ve all heard the horror stories, we all know how rude people can be. I’m here to expose the scumbags!

I felt horribly guilty displacing people from their hard-won seats without an obvious, watermelon sized abdominal burden

The truth? People on day one were pretty lovely. It was prime rush hour in both directions but I never had to wait more than a few seconds before someone offered me their seat. My badge was placed prominently but my technique was to hold my head high, refusing to grovel or make pointed eye contact, and just see what happens.

Interestingly, during my morning commute (Dalston Kingsland to Oxford Circus via Highbury & Islington) on both trains it was women who immediately gave up their seats. I’m not sure if it was my imagination, but the men seated in my vicinity seemed to shrink into their newspapers and phones while the ladies went out of their way to get my attention and offer their seats.

I started to formulate a conspiracy theory based around the camaraderie of women and the indifference of men to the plight of women in general. But on the evening commute, it was men who immediately stood and offered seats on both trains, disproving the theory I had been ruminating on for the past eight hours. It was a pleasant surprise to find such courteous people, especially on one of the hottest days of the year, after becoming conditioned to think of my fellow commuters as rude, self absorbed psychopaths after having been mowed down one too many times by people ignoring the sacred ‘off before on’ rule.

I genuinely look forward to continuing this important research and to sharing my findings with you not only on the matter of commuting, but on all the other weird-ass shit that happens when you’re pregnant that no one tells you about (or maybe you never asked). Stay tuned.