Respect the bump – the future of our species depends upon it...
A FEW days after my son was born I popped to the corner shop for a loaf of bread and some milk.
Leaving the baby sleeping soundly at home with his dad, it was the first time I’d been out on my own since he was born – and for one of the first times in what seemed liked forever that I wasn’t sporting a baby bump.
To this day I still remember how unusual it felt to be just another face in the queue, with no special treatment, admiring glances or strangers attempting to engage in conversation – or (controversially) no one trying to touch the bump.
Because when you are pregnant you quickly have to get used to all of those things. You are seen as special and someone to be admired, respected and, most importantly of all, looked after.
And, in a similar way to the come-down after your wedding, when it’s over you suddenly have to get used to not being the centre of attention any more – unless you’ve got your bundle of joy with you, that is – then you can ride on their coattails for as long as they continue to do cute stuff.
While you are still ‘with child’ you are made to feel like a great hero of the community. After all, you are continuing the human race and all that…
Which is why the story of Islander Amy Williams is so surprising.
She recently criticised local bus passengers who were reluctant to give up their seats for pregnant passengers, saying that she had been left to stand on a number of full-capacity journeys recently.
The article, which included LibertyBus saying they had no intention of updating signs on board buses to encourage people to give priority to pregnant passengers, sparked quite a debate online.
And while the majority of people supported Amy and the point she made, there were those who disagreed that the onus lay with passengers to offer a seat, adding that the pregnant woman should ask for a seat instead of waiting to be offered one.
Others felt the behaviour was a societal issue, adding that it came down to a lack of basic manners, and some blamed people’s obsessions with smartphones, saying they could have an effect on how aware people were of their surroundings.
There is no place for bad manners at the best of times – as the saying goes, they cost nothing, after all.
It is even worse when the person on the receiving end is vulnerable in some way, which, despite all their incredible strengths, pregnant women will always be to some extent.
Because first and foremost it is a matter of safety, and pregnant passengers need to stay safe on public transport – especially at busy times.
It is also a matter of comfort, and a pregnant person’s comfort should always come before that of other able-bodied people.
And it is a matter of basic common courtesy, and one which means that a pregnant woman should not have to ask for a seat.
But – and it is a big but – it is not always obvious when someone is pregnant. And there is nothing worse than implying that someone is pregnant when they aren’t – for both parties.
Which is the only possible excuse I can think of that people would not be offering their seats up right away without asking.
So perhaps it is time that Jersey introduced the Baby On Board badges that have become commonplace on public transport in places such as London.
Pregnant women should be given one at their first midwife/ doctor’s appointment alongside all the info on immunisations, the kind of care they can opt for and the Tommy’s free pregnancy guide and they should be encouraged to wear it as soon as they are comfortable and they think it will benefit them.
And the rest of us should be called on to recognise it as an official symbol that demands not only admiration but also respect.
It should not, however, be a free pass to touch anyone’s bump without asking.