It’s Not a Disability

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had since being pregnant is travelling. I travel every day into Central London for work during rush hour. It’s a twenty minute journey and most of the time the train is very busy.

header-badgeVery early on, I invested in one of those fab “Baby on Board” badges  that London Transport supplies. I read an article a little while ago about a man who offered up a seat for someone he thought was pregnant and it turns out she wasn’t. She was upset and he got the sharp end of her tongue, so since then he said he wouldn’t offer up a seat unless someone was VERY clearly pregnant or was wearing one of these badges.

I carry a bit of extra podge, so I figured one of these badges would be very helpful. Around ten weeks pregnant, I popped it onto the strap of my bag. It was clearly visible. Some might argue that at ten weeks, I didn’t “need” a seat because there was no weight of baby or whatever, but the tiredness and general crappy feeling that comes with first trimester need not be underestimated. I was exhausted and constantly battling not to vomit in my shoes. I was quite lucky that I didn’t vomit much in first trimester, but the nausea was certainly debilitating. I was never offered a seat, not once.

I eventually struck up the courage to actually ask for a seat. If you want a seat, ask, right? Direct approach. So I approached those sitting in the priority seats and asked for a seat. I had spent a while thinking about how to do this, because I’m very much aware that some people have invisible disabilities. So, when I asked I said “If you don’t need that seat, could I sit down please?” What I didn’t expect was to be completely ignored… Totally blanked. Not even looked at. And no, the people weren’t deaf. They had been conversing moments before. So, I stood.

Anyhow, this carried on. Right up to now, at twenty five weeks, with a visible bump. No, the nausea issues are not there any more but MAN am I tired. Doing this five days a week is hard. It’s not even a little bit easy. I’m lucky that my pregnancy is progressing relatively normally. I don’t have SPD, I don’t have low blood pressure or any other pregnancy related mobility or health issues, but this journey was exhausting pre pregnancy, so it’s much worse now.

I posted on Facebook. You know how a good Facebook rant can clear the cobwebs? It was a particularly bad day where I couldn’t even get near the seats to request one. It was the middle of the week and I was so tired and stressed already. I said “You know what my favourite thing in the world is? Paying a shitload of money for a season ticket to STAND all the way to work because I can’t get to the seats to ask for one. Really is my absolute favourite thing in the whole damn world.”

I got a mixture of results, but one in particular surprised me. Someone pointed out that “it’s not a disability” and “I just think sometimes pregnancy is taken too far to be honest.” I was quite surprised to see this coming from someone who has been pregnant, and was quite hurt by the fact that they were belittling my perfectly valid feelings about the situation. So, after removing that person from Facebook, I got to thinking about whether pregnant women should be entitled to a seat on public transport, or should it just be reserved for those who have a verifiable disability.

Now, we all know that pregnancy is not a disability. I’ve never actually heard anyone refer
to it as such. And we all know people who whine about every little ache and pain, BUT I have to ask, does that make those aches and pains any less valid? As I said before, I’m blessed that I’m having a relatively normal pregnancy (apart from high blood pressure) and am lucky enough to not yet be cursed with SPD or similar. However, pregnancy itself is pretty difficult. My body is changing. I’m carrying extra weight in the form of a baby bump and boobs that will not be restrained. I’m exhausted pretty much 100% of the time, despite getting enough sleep. Sometimes I feel dizzy. Sometimes I’m overheated.

My general rule (pre pregnancy) when it came to giving up a seat, was that I would offer 1160my seat to anyone less able to stand – just like the signs say I should. I’m lucky. I’m able. I can stand for twenty minutes. If someone else is less able for whatever reason, I think it’s common decency to give up my seat. Many of the reasons suggested on the “priority seat” signs are not disability related. I have offered seats to people holding young children or people who just look unwell. I’ve offered seats to elderly people, pregnant people and people with injuries who are on crutches or similar. None of these people are necessarily disabled, but all are entitled to a seat as far as I am concerned.

The other thing I thought about was safety. When the train is packed, the last thing I want is people falling on me. The other day I actually had some donkey in a suit “tut” at me because I couldn’t move any further out of the way for him to get past. What if there’s a sudden stop? What if I get pushed up against something and hurt myself or Eden? The safety aspect of sitting is very important, because standing in a packed train carriage can be haphazard with precious cargo on board. I would imagine it would be just as difficult if on crutches or with some kind of injury – you just don’t want people knocking into you.

So, yeah, as much as I agree that pregnancy isn’t a disability, I do think some of the effects of it can be disabling. I also think that this is about more than whether someone is disabled or not. I think it’s about looking out for your fellow human and making life that little bit easier for those around you. Having a seat on the way to work and the way home really does make a difference to me. My biggest problem is tiredness, and being able to sit down for that journey instead of trying to stay upright with my slightly dodgy centre of gravity (thanks Eden) makes a big difference.

I’m not expecting special treatment. I chose to be pregnant. BUT that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s difficult. Growing a human is hard, so I do think that if people are able to give up their seats, they should be going ahead and doing that. Treat people how you would expect to be treated and look after your fellow human, because you never know when you might be the one asking for a seat for whatever reason.

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13 Responses to It’s Not a Disability

  1. hopingonhope says:

    I hear you.
    Not wanting to sound catty, but each time I have been offered a seat, its been from men, including a senior man who once offered his seat saying he had just 5 more minutes of travel and he could stand that distance.
    Women, are generally very selfish with seats, esp if its priority seating.
    Yes, I agree pregnancy is not a disability, but I know one person who has had a knee replacement and is pregnant. The extra weight is a disability to her. What I am saying is there is no shame in asking for a seat and shame on those who judge.
    However unless you get hit hard in the belly by the bars your baby is in no danger.

    • Bizarrely I find the opposite. Every time I have been offered its been by a woman, but plenty of people have told me men are more likely to offer so maybe it’s different in different areas.
      With the danger thing, I always think it’s about minimising risk of danger. The majority of time everyone will be fine, but if you do et hit hard or fall over or similar it could cause an issue.
      It’s just about common courtesy really 🙂

  2. Penny Lane says:

    I am in total agreement. It’s amazing – not just in London but in other countries how a pregnant woman is overlooked. Must I have two legs blown off to clarify I need a priority seat? In Mexico I found it fantastic, I got special parking because they INCLUDE pregnancy and even at the airport a little cart thing because they also recognise pregnancy. Light headedness, feeling woozy, tired, sick will only be made worse if you’re forced to stand while some suit sits reading the telegraph. The mere fact you needed to justify this on Facebook and got negative responses is just not sensitive. I have been so desperate to pee because of my pregnancy I have had to use disabled toilets when there’s a long line. Also when you get bigger, it’s useful to use the bars to lift up. It’s basic common courtesy and frankly anyone that doesn’t respect that should wait until the time they need a seat because of illness or injury. Not so easy to preach then

  3. True Hugbo says:

    I’ve actually also found that men have given up seats to me far more often than women. Which is kind of sad, I think. I don’t ask people to get up because I feel awkward about invisible disabilities and I don’t want somebody to feel like they have to justify why they are sitting down so I end up standing sometimes too. I know the priority seats are the ones that we should have access to but I actually give people in them the benefit of the doubt (I know, probably too generous) and find it more annoying that people in regular seats would rather spread their bags and shit all over them than let me sit. Like you I do feel quite tired now at nearly 33 weeks but for me the bigger concern is that the train ride is not smooth and it feels really unsafe to be flailing about while standing.

  4. 21andsensory says:

    I take the tube too and always always give up my seat to elderly and pregnant people – I think it’s awful people don’t I can’t understand it !!!

  5. Agreed, not a disability but they give out those badges for a reason. Next time you ask politely and get blanked you should return the favour of treating them like they aren’t there and plonk yourself on their lap.

  6. I try to follow the golden rule – do unto others, etc. I give my seat to seniors, preggos, people with obvious injuries, moms holding little kids, etc. I also hold doors, help with shopping carts and make small talk (more so with seniors) because I think showing respect is important and they’re from a different, more chatty generation. I don’t really distinguish between disability versus a sense of helping someone who appears to need a little more community support, like pregnancy or a broken ankle.

    I too get really annoyed when people who clearly need a little extra are ignored and I think pregnancy falls into that category. I’m surprised that people could feel so strongly about not showing common courtesy!

  7. I get a busy commuter train everyday, 45 minutes each way. Every day I am shocked by seemingly normal people, loosing all manners and sense when a train pulls up. From pushing their way on before the people get off, to letting less able people stand. What I am most shocked about is the fact a train with a likely population made up of 75% men can be so ruthless, I dont expect special treatment from any man, but I do believe in manners and old fashioned as it may be I am appalled that groups of men can ignore standing old people, pregnant people and disabled or injured people. Of course the able and young women are as bad, but these are the ones usually squashed in a middle seat. There is a sudden morphing of people into the worst kind of humans as soon as they walk through train doors. Perhaps they feel that it’s their right to have a seat because we pay so much for train travel, I could buy a couple of cars every year for the cost of mine, but actually, I think it’s their ignorance and the others around them creating an atmosphere where if you don’t look directly at it, it doesn’t exist thus no need to do anything.
    Should a pregnant person always be given as seat, yes, of course, as should the elderly, the families, the person that’s feeling a little ill, the person that’s hot and feeling weak, but I don’t think in this world any of those people can expect that because the ignorance of many commuters, the inability to look up and think of others means this simply won’t happen. 😦

    • I totally agree with you. I often say that people lose all manners when it comes to transport. The amount of times I have been pushed out of the way for someone to get on a train is amazing. Even a train where there are plenty of seats… People do really seem to lose their sense of compassion when it comes to the “rat race” that is commuting. Every man for themselves.
      I’m all about caring for your fellow human being. I know I very much appreciate a seat at the moment, and that’s the reason I used to give up seats when I didn’t need them. I’m a believer in treating your fellow human how you wish to be treated.
      I just wish people would use a bit more sense and compassion.

  8. I actually got pushed out the way and nearly fell down the stairs at Aldgate tube station when I was 25 weeks pregnant. The guy didn’t give a shit. The amount of times I’d just stand there and no-one would offer a seat was crazy. I found middle age women the worst. They would glare at me! Young people were surprisingly more accommodating, particularly young girls, business men were very busy with importunate business but usually gave me a seat.

    • Oddly I do find that trains that go to the city are worst. I can get a train to Cannon Street or one to Charing Cross. I always get the Charing Cross because people are less likely to be asses on it. Just something I’ve observed…

  9. My experience in New York has generally been that someone will give up a seat to a child or anyone who seems to need it.

    When I first came to NYC last fall, my (now) fiancée told me her subway riding rule was, get on, go as far into the car as possible and never sit down. If one is able to stand, there’s no reason to sit, and there’s bound to be someone who does need to sit. I’ve adopted that rule. I never sit on the subway, even if the car is empty.

    She’s does two things on the subway that scare me: She gently chastises people for using vulgar language (in the $%#@*ing NYC subway?!?), and politely asks fit young people to give up their seats if anyone is standing. If she’s ignored or gets back talked, she will – politely but firmly – verbally cut them to pieces. It almost always works. If it doesn’t, she really lets them have it.

    • See I do find NYC folk are a little more polite in that way. The times I’ve been there I’ve found people do have respect for one another- obviously I’m viewing that as a visitor and not as a resident.
      I need your fiancée to come travel to work with me for a few weeks!

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