I’m not normally one to complain and I don’t believe I’m privileged or expect anything from anyone, least of all their seat. However, I’ve never been on the other side of the whole seat debate on public transport before and I have to admit, as a pregnant women, I was quite surprised and ultimately disappointed in the reaction and lack of action on the part of my fellow commuters last Tuesday.
Is it an unwritten rule that a seat should be provided for a pregnant woman? I am not someone who would ask for a seat if I desperately needed one. I am a ‘suffer in silence’ kind of person. And that’s my own failing, no one else’s.
However, on Tuesday morning, I was left standing on the morning journey into work with the usual commuters who I have seen every journey for the past ten years. I am now at the stage in my pregnancy when it’s fairly obvious that I’m pregnant. At 23 weeks, the bump is nice and big and round. I’m over the severe bouts of morning sickness (thank God) but that doesn’t mean that this pregnancy is now plain sailing. My iron levels are low and I suffer light-headedness with the accompanying dizziness and nausea. A seat on the bus is particularly helpful these days. In fact , it’s necessary.
Luckily, my morning commute is a relatively pleasant journey where I catch up on blog admin, Facebook or, hell, have a quick snoozy nap. I always get a seat since this particular bus rarely hits capacity. In fact, I’m one of those people who likes to sit in the same spot, or near enough, every day. As are my fellow travellers it seems.
Tuesday morning was an exception. It was lashing out of the Heaven’s with the heavy rain clearly encouraging some ordinary car drivers to take the bus instead. Of course, who wants to get caught in the inevitable wet and cumbersome traffic. The bus was crowded.
My heart sank as I stepped onto the bus and swiped my Leap Card. Two men were already standing and all seats downstairs were taken. I checked upstairs. Nada. Not even a spot at the very, very back where five people can squish up against each other under the rumbling of the buses engine.
Disheartened, I made my way back downstairs and took up a prime spot which I felt would keep me and bump safe on the forty five minute commute. At this stage I was still wearing my coat, zipped up to my chin so the bump was relatively hidden. After stepping onto the bus, out of the miserable rain, the incredible mugginess and heat of the bus became blisteringly apparent. It was that kind of sweaty heat from sweaty heads and wet feet. I took my hat and scarf off and opened my coat.
Now, I wasn’t asking or expecting someone to give me their seat but I also wasn’t expecting anyone to catch my eye and quickly look away. As though I was about to launch into a tirade of ‘I’m pregnant. Get up you lowly non reproducing being and let me sit.’ Almost everyone closeby, who was still awake and not taking the journey as an opportunity for forty winks, clasped eyes on the bump and ignored it. They straight up acknowledged me and ignored me in the same second.
Amazing. I was stunned.
The journey got progressively worse as the driver let more people on. The heat rose, the air circulation diminished and my bump was getting poked as people crushed passed me to find a spot to hang on to. I ended up throwing the coat off and stood holding my bump as I regulated my breathing to stop myself from overheating and passing out. It wasn’t the most pleasant of journeys.
Of course, the traffic was shit because of the rain which in turn meant the commute was longer. I was almost crying, wishing I could get off the bus, desperate for some cold winter air.
Again, I’m not one to complain. I couldn’t ask a bus full of people if I could take someone’s seat. In hindsight, I’m an idiot and I won’t (I hope) let myself suffer like that again. But I needed a seat and here’s why.
Why I needed a seat:
- The heat was encroaching on me. I am petite and sank under the arms and heavy coats of others around me. It was suffocating. My breathing is not necessarily the best at the moment since my uterus is pushing on my lungs. I actually laboured my breathing to get enough air so I wouldn’t pass out and tried to regulate my body temperature.
- I had to stand bump out because I didn’t want to risk my bump being pushed in against barriers and railings. This meant Little Bean got an unwanted massage, poke and prod from handbags, elbows and rucksacks as travellers pushed past me.
- The bus jolted on more than one occasion sending me, and other passengers, thrusting forward into people, bags, and railings. My center of balance is off as the bump gets bigger so I could easily have gotten thrown further than normal, unable to catch myself.
- I was light-headed and dizzy from standing for so long with the all-encompassing heat. Heat, lack of air and standing are not a good combination for a pregnant woman.
One thing that quite upset me, was that the bus driver, I’m sure, saw that a pregnant woman was standing, awkwardly and dangerously on his bus. And the driver did nothing.
Is it the lack of Irish concern or is this a worldwide phenomenon? Have we stopped caring as a society? The flippancy with which I was brushed aside was surprising, not shocking but surprising. I know I’m not the first pregnant woman to have stood for forty five minutes on a hot bus and unfortunately I won’t be the last.
I posted on Facebook when I got to work about my journey and the outrage and sadness at my morning commute was obvious from followers. It made me think more about how dangerous it actually is for a pregnant woman to stand on public transport. My own stupidity and shyness meant I not only suffered a difficult journey but also potentially risked my child.
If I don’t ask for a seat, I am telling everyone on that bus who saw me and ignored me that it is perfectly ok to ignore a pregnant woman and not offer your seat. If I allow myself to stand on a commute when I so obviously need a seat, I am accepting that I am putting my health and my unborn child’s health at risk.
I’m an idiot… don’t be like me. Ask for a seat. Better still, if you see a pregnant woman, insist they sit down and give, don’t offer, give them your seat.
Would you give your seat up for a pregnant woman? I know I have and will again.