In Her Words
Give that Pregnant Woman a Seat!
Chivalry does still exist – but only by force
There I was, standing up on the subway, as round and conspicuous as a Butterball turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
As the train skidded forward and I held on to the pole, hoping fervently that I wouldn’t go bouncing out of control if I lost my grip, I looked at the two men sitting directly in front of me.
BOTH were occupying seats that were supposed to be reserved for the elderly or disabled. Or, ahem, for pregnant women like me. One of them glanced up, and I could swear he immediately hid his face in his newspaper.
I guess he was pretending not to see me, but when the Goodyear blimp is bobbing near your head, how can you ignore that?
We always assume that people will do the right thing. However, as I advanced in my pregnancy and slowly ballooned in size, I noticed that the larger I got, the more likely it was that I’d be standing during my 40-minute ride on the subway to work each day. As some of us already know, when you’re eight months along and have swollen ankles and increasing pressure on your groin, a 40-minute ride while you’re standing up can seem like 40 years in the desert.
Apparently, I’m not the only pregnant woman who’s done this, but after witnessing this lack of chivalry, I decided to conduct my own sociological experiment on the subway. I started keeping a mental log of seated commuters who offered me a seat, those who didn’t offer me one, and if they didn’t, whether it was because they actually didn’t see me or because they just pretended not to see me.
As my ninth month rolled around, I tabulated my results, and this is what I found: Women were more likely than men to offer me their seats. True, a few older gentlemen did give up their seats. I counted three of them during my pregnancy experience on mass transit. But for the most part, the younger and more well-dressed the guys were, the more likely it was they’d let me bob around on the pole, my belly threatening to sock them in the knee like a giant medicine ball.
The women who gave up their seats were either young women or moms who had suffered a similar hell on public transportation. One bossy woman, bless her, took it upon herself to be my personal advocate. She all but wrenched two young dudes from their seats, demanding that they “let the pregnant woman sit down.”
Sometimes the train was crowded, and people, engrossed in their reading material and headphones, simply didn’t notice me. One day, swollen, uncomfortable and fed up – not to mention full of hormones – I decided to make myself be heard.
“What is wrong with all of you, especially you men!” I screamed. “I am pregnant, and I need to sit down, now!”
As if by magic, the Red Sea of people parted, and I was immediately escorted to an empty seat. I don’t know whether my public outburst triggered feelings of mass guilt or people were suddenly afraid I’d give birth on their laps.
All I know is, whenever I get on the train these days, I always scan the aisles for pregnant women, the elderly or anyone else who needs a seat more than I do. And only then do I sit down.
Have you noticed that people don’t give up their seats to pregnant women? Did this ever happen to you when you were pregnant?
Jennifer Lubell is a health-care reporter in Washington, D.C., and mom to Alex, her spirited 2-year-old.