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pregnant women get special treatment


You may have heard about morning sickness and mood swings when it comes to pregnancy, but for anyone who has ever sported a 6 lb. human being on their abdomen, you’re probably well aware that there are some perks that come along with pregnancy too. Shortly after giving birth to my daughter almost three years ago I wrote about some of these perks with the number one spot going to the incessant niceness of strangers. Because who doesn’t love a pregnant lady whose got that whole glowing and giving life thing going on?

I commented on how pregnancy brings out the best in people from your relatives to passersby during your daily commute. Of course you’ll get the regulars who get a little too touch feely and forget that you’re your womb is not community property, but for the most part you’ll get to see the common courtesy come out from even the rudest of folks who will hold doors, offer to carry grocery bags to the car and offer their seats on the bus:

“Pregnancy brings out the best in people. No one wants to be the a**hole on the bus with his bags in the seat while the pregnant lady is standing in the aisle creating life and all.”

Well at least I would like to think that was the case. I couldn’t blame anyone for choosing to stand on the train so I could have seat, because I barely started showing until my third trimester. When I did finally start to show I couldn’t be bothered with the downhill walk to the bus stop that winter, and I ended up just driving in to work and spending a chunk of my savings in downtown parking. However an author recently pointed out that this perk of pregnancy is becoming harder to spot for many women and feminism gone too far could be to blame. In her article, “Did Feminism Destroy Common Courtesy Toward Pregnant Women?” author Allison Hope shares that her pregnancy didn’t come with any special privileges, and she’s not quite sure how to feel about it:

“I had zero expectations about anyone offering me any consideration or special treatment. Even when I started to show around five months along, I still didn’t want anyone to offer up their seat — perhaps because I was being macho and thought, ‘Hey, I don’t need anyone’s help.’ It was a good mentality to have, because as the weeks and months passed and I became larger and more blatantly pregnant, still no one helped me.”

She goes on to share that throughout her pregnancy, despite the fact that she was growing bigger and bigger, public transportation wasn’t exactly the place to seek any sympathy and at a certain point people weren’t just being passive or unobservant, they became downright rude:

“But even worse than refusing to offer me a seat, people were flat-out rude to me. Not only did no one extend a courtesy like holding a door, they did one worse and literally pushed past me. You know, because I wasn’t walking as fast as I normally could due to the bowling ball I was hauling around, but if you’re not going to hold the goddamn door for the pregnant lady, the least you can do is wait for her to walk through it. Why did shoving past a pregnant woman into a doorway become acceptable social behavior?”

Most days, I’m going to give up my seat to the woman who looks like her water could break on my combat boots any second or even the woman juggling groceries, a three-year-old and her three-year-old’s full set of Paw Patrol figurines simply because I’ve been there. Shoot, I’m still there and I get it.  And as funny as the memes are that shadily point out, “You should’ve procreated with someone who had a car,” the truth is public transportation isn’t about necessity for all women as much as it is about convenience. Shoot, as soon as my daughter got here, I jumped right back on that train because daily downtown parking isn’t a part of our new family budget. But regardless of why a pregnant woman is riding public transportation or wrestling with a dozen Target bags on her own, with many feminists loudly declaring that pregnancy isn’t a debilitating medical condition are we asking for too much by expecting total strangers to give mothers-to-be special treatment?

We now live in a world where the roadways are paved with eggshells instead of concrete and it’s all too easy for courtesy and genuine concern to be taken the wrong way. Just a few weeks ago, when an HR staff member at my job did a gender reveal for her pregnancy in the form of pink Dunkin Donuts she treated the office to one morning, a few of my colleagues and I joked it would spark a mandatory training about gender being non-binary and the harms of gender-stereotyping. People fear that if they offer the pregnant woman their bus on the seat they might be met with a lecture about assumptions and how she may actually not be pregnant at all which might initiate another lecture about appreciating all body sizes. Admittedly some days I find it easier to leave folks in their own defensive, politically correct worlds instead of extending courtesy or a compliment for fear that it would do more damage than just minding my business.

During my pregnancy I definitely enjoyed the kindness of strangers and appreciated those who made my day a little easier by holding the door for me without expecting a breakdown of potential baby names and my marital status as a thank you. But I didn’t expect people to sacrifice their comfort or convenience for me, because frankly they weren’t the ones to get me pregnant. And maybe that’s a harsh way of looking at the world, but honestly being polite is one thing, inconveniencing yourself for the decisions of others is completely different. While I hold the doors for pregnant women and those whose only responsibility may be a bonsai tree, who am I to say that person who is in a rush to make their train or that lady who just worked 10 hours on her feet at a job is rude or inconsiderate because they choose to stay in their window seat? Hope goes on to say she took her expectation to the next level, and I can’t say that I would do the same, particularly in these inner-city Philadelphia streets:

“I walked over to what appeared to be an able-bodied man and tapped him on the shoulder. I pointed to the woman with the baby and motioned for him to get up. He did. I beckoned to the mother, who looked gratefully my way and took the seat. Of course, no one else got the hint and offered me a seat, but I felt vindicated.”

“I continued to do this — asking parents with small babies or children if they wanted a seat, and then facilitating for them, asking people who looked healthy and strong and perfectly capable of standing on the bus or train to get up and give their seat up. Of course, I was making an assumption as to who might be able to oblige and I recognize that not all disabilities are visible.”

Look, as much as I get Hope’s frustrations with the world, I must say that most days a seat on the bus just isn’t worth it. I wish we lived in a world where people didn’t think a smile and nod replaces a, “Good morning,” when being greeted by your colleagues or where people weren’t one rude gesture away from a mental health breakdown. But the fact is whether people were retinas-deep in their Instagram feed or just simply don’t feel like it, I didn’t necessarily feel entitled to the world falling at my feet just because I was expecting. They may not be trying to prove a point like Rosa Parks or going out of their way to make your life difficult, they just got on the bus before you and may not be the shiniest examples of human decency at all times and that’s OK. And honestly, if standing for a fifteen minute bus ride is making you lose sleep, let me tell you a little something about toddlers and late naps. Trust me, if you’re bringing life into the world you’re about to have a lot more to stress over than a window seat.

Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a  passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.


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