Olivia Wilde had taken to Instagram recently to explain how uncomfortable she felt with “strange men” following her and snapping pictures form bushes when she visibly very pregnant and set to give birth in just weeks. The actress, a New Yorker, also once (and rightly so) went on a Twitter rant over the fact that no one on the subway would give up a seat for her when she was pregnant and showing with her first baby, Otis. She was, understandably, frustrated.
And now other pregnant women are weighing in.
From being accused of stealing under their clothing, but it was a real baby bump, to being hit on at nine months pregnant by a man with a pregnancy fetish, these women are spilling their experiences with being treated rudely by strangers while they were carrying.
Laurenne, 30, from Indiana, says, “oh Lord I have so many stories,” but that a few in particular stick out.
“When I was pregnant with my first I went to visit my sister in London and rode the subway (tube) many times and not once did anyone offer to give me their seat...even when I really stuck my preggo belly out their looking for a little sympathy,” she says. “The second time I was pregnant, an older male co-worker would go out of his way repeatedly to tell me how huge I looked...he would say things like ‘wow, i thought you looked big before but now you look really huge.’”
Maria, from New York, says a strange man who had a thing for pregnant strangers followed her. “I had a guy hit on me on the subway when I was nine months pregnant. He told me he had a fetish. I changed subway cars, but he followed me to work. Creepy!”
But she adds that she also had some wonderful experiences with strangers, and not everyone is so rude to preggo ladies. “I also came across the opposite—super nice people. One man saw me trying to tie my sneakers on the street and crouched down and tied them for me!”
Amy, from New York, says that she commuted daily with people who refused to sympathize with her growing belly. “Every day while I was pregnant I'd stand with my stomach in a man's face on the train and notice men never gave up their seat. There are signs above recommending people to get up for the elderly, disabled or pregnant persons but it's NYC so politeness is out.”
Marisa, from New York, pregnant with twins, says oddly, it’s elderly women who are the ones who are the kindest. “The only people who ever give up their seat on the subway are elderly women. Which makes you feel even worse! Other than the subway experience, people are generally overly nice and kindly accommodating. But manners don't exist underground.”
Janye, from Rockland, New York, still remembers a story from 1956, when she was just 19 years old.
“Was just a few weeks before giving birth. I was shopping for sheets. In 1956 the maternity skirt had a T-string to tie the skirt. My skirt became untied,so I put my package down and tied my skirt.The counter was a small overnight suitcase.I walked out of the store and maybe took 50 steps when a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked me back into the store,” she says. “I was 19, and said happily, ‘did a win a prize?’ Just keep walking. He put me in a tiny room with four men and one woman. They accused me of stealing an overnight suitcase. They then attempted to lift my top. I was hysterical The woman said you made a big mistake. Then they were so nice.The police came .Put me in a taxi .Next week I gave birth!”
Courtney, from Los Angeles, says the worst experience ever while pregnant happened while taking public transportation. “I had the worst TSA grope of my life when I was visibly pregnant,” she says.
Rachel, from Los Angeles, says some people are so polite sometimes, it turns into rudeness.
"I had people insist on giving me seats at times when I didn't want them. It was more uncomfortable to sit and standing felt so much better. One guy made me feel really badly that I wouldn't take the seat offered. I wasn't injured or disabled, just pregnant!" she says.
But stop body shaming she says, and stop mentioning a pregnant woman's weight. For God's sake, you have no idea what's going on with her.
"People seem to feel entitled to talk about your physical appearance and weight in a way they never would of not pregnant. Even if they think it's a compliment it's still none of their business not something to be discussed unless brought up by the pregnant woman!" she says. "For the first six months I carried small and received many 'compliments' in regards. But inside I was terrified something was wrong, that my baby wasn't growing right and all those comments made it much worse. Weight gain is not the only or primary concern for pregnant women despite what society implies."
Joanna, from New York, says one day, unable to find a last minute babysitter, she ended up taking her baby to work—and the commute was not so pleasant.
“My pocketbook on one shoulder, tote bag filled with reference books needed for work, changing bag on the other shoulder and sleeping baby in my arms, rush hour train and not a soul willing to give up their seat. My husband was in the hospital and I was unable to find a sitter so I had to take the baby to work with me.”
Part of the reason strangers may be perceived as rude is that they are not really paying attention. They are caught up in their own world on the subway or bus and aren’t consciously noticing people around them, including mom to be.
National etiquette expert and The Protocol School of Texas founder Diane Gottsman has some advice for people who see a pregnant woman who needs a helping hand. (It may seem obvious, but then again, look how much this happens.)
"If you see someone not being polite, the first thing you can do, and the most responsive, is to give up your own seat," Diane says. "Asking someone else to stand for a pregnant woman is more intrusive. We often can’t tell when someone may be suffering with a malady that is unseen, such as an illness."
For a pregnant woman who gets an off-handed comment, it’s best to just ignore rather than challenge it.
"A rude or dumb comment does not require a retort," she says.
"Treat a visibly pregnant woman with respect by not touching her stomach, not asking her when she’s due unless she offers, and of course, offering her your seat on public transportation. Don’t offer advice or make comments that you think are funny...they can be taken wrong if they don’t know your humor," Diane says.
"Also, don’t ask mom-to-be if she’s having twins, say 'you look like you are about to pop,' and give advice on what you think the baby’s gender is based on how she’s 'carrying' the baby."
Use common sense. Be polite.
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