I smile and position my body where I know the train doors will stop so that I can slide into the car before everyone else. Once in, my movements are exaggerated, sometimes because they can’t help but be when carrying around a watermelon-sized fetus. But even on good days, I purposely keep the dramatic waddle and place a hand on my lower back, hoping it might make me that much more noticeable to the powerful, the privileged, the seated.
No one budges or dares to look up. I softly sigh and desperately try to make eye contact with the other humans on my train. I position myself in the middle of the car where the largest number of eyes have the greatest chance of running into my form. Perchance our eyes meet, and I will follow up with my best, “my whole body hurts but it sure is worth it” unassuming Mother Earth smile. If I’m feeling silly, I’ll stand head on to the sitters so that my pregnancy is literally staring someone in the face. On braver days, I may mouth the words, “Can I sit?” …
London’s Underground gives out “Baby on Board” buttons to expectant mothers that are meant to encourage seat charity and knock down the “I didn’t know if she was pregnant or fat,” rationalization.
And in our very own Chicago, while it’s still no crime to sit in the presence of a pregnant woman, the newest subway ads are much harder to ignore. In one, a woman presses her swollen belly against a seated man’s bearded face. And the copy line shames: “Remember, your mother was pregnant once.”