This isn’t my badge, I can say quickly. Not just yet – one toddling, exploring, mischievous little scrap is enough for us at the moment. No – but one of my friends did recently announce her pregnancy to the world of Facebook like that (funny how posting something on social media now makes it ‘official’).
Anyway, I think the badge is a great idea – not just as a shorthand for telling the world but as a real prompt for commuters. The Duchess of Cambridge has just been presented with her badge – and I’m really pleased. Not because she’ll be using it day-to-day – I shouldn’t imagine she has much need to catch the Piccadilly line from Green Park on the way home from the in-laws’ – but because the more people that know about the badge, the better.
After promising myself when I was pregnant and really needed a seat on the tube that in future, I’d always scan the carriage after each stop to hunt out a pregnant person and relinquish my seat immediately, I’ve now realised it’s not as simple as that. I do try – but sometimes I forget, or I’m engrossed in my book or close my eyes for a moment, feeling the effects of a broken night.
And when I do look, I’ve frequently found myself in that difficult are they/aren’t they? position. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to know if someone’s pregnant or it’s just the way they’re standing/dressed/built. I’ve offered seats to people who’ve looked incredibly embarrassed or offended – and once you do that two or three times, you’re even more wary.
So the more pregnant people who know about and choose to wear the badge, the better. There’s no confusion or awkwardness (or there shouldn’t be) and it gets passengers in the habit of noticing and offering seats to pregnant people.
Like Bryony Gordon in this piece, I’ve found the badge isn’t foolproof. Sometimes you still need to ask or other people need to ask for you. And sometimes, even then, you get awful negative reactions – which are especially difficult to deal with if you feel hormonal and vulnerable. I was once asked to vacate my priority seat by a couple of older (but not doddery) men. When I pointed out I was seven months pregnant with pelvic difficulties, they and others around me didn’t relent but just stood, stared and waited. Humiliated, I heaved myself up and ended up pleading for a seat with a young man further down the carriage. I then sat in the seat and sobbed. A horrible experience all round.
So while I know the badges aren’t a fix-all solution – and I think a lot more could be done in the way of communication and awareness ads on the tube – at least they’re a step in the right direction. I urge every pregnant woman to get one and wear it with pride. And I urge every tube passenger to remember to take note and act on them.