Updated on June 3, 2016
Bump to Buggy & The Decline of Courtesy
Oh pregnancy! Isn’t is just blissful? Yeah. Something’s been on my mind lately and it’s starting to bug me. I remember what it was like to be pregnant. I remember what would happen when I’d head out the door and people would notice me. There’s nothing quite like the presence of a pregnant mother to be that draws attention. Now I was fortunate enough not to have strangers touch me during my pregnancies (except that one time my dentist rubbed my 36 week pregnant belly while I was
held hostage sitting in her dentist chair), but nevertheless I attracted a little more than just looks. People did things for me. Random strangers did things for me. Now I don’t subscribe to the opinion that a pregnant woman is weak or incapacitated in some way, but a little common courtesy never hurt anyone. Am I right? From holding a door, picking up something I’d dropped, and offering me a seat, these little courtesies did not go unnoticed by me in all my pregnant glory. Then I had a baby, and a funny thing happened. I became invisible.
I can’t possibly be the only person this has happened to. Surely not. Sporting a big bump, I found myself practically needing to beat off kindly strangers with a stick. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but the kindness of strangers was everywhere. Elderly women at the grocery store always struck up a conversation in front of the seasonal fruit display. Men and women of all ages stopped and held doors for me. Some people even insisted I go ahead of them in line at Starbucks (and we all know how sacred a spot in a long Starbucks line was pre-mobile app ordering). If I dropped something people would get up and grab it before I could maneuver myself into a squatting position to start feeling around on the floor for whatever it was I dropped but could no longer see for the giant vision blocker that my belly had become. It seemed impossible to have an outing without someone noticing my presence and offering or attempting to help in some way. It was really just common courtesy, but it was nice to see that courtesy was alive and well.
So when The Heir was born, imagine my surprise when I became invisible. Now I know people could still see me. I was hard to miss with my bright green stroller and super adorable baby (if I do say so myself), but no one noticed me. On most days I appreciated the invisibility that having a baby had afforded me. After all, I wasn’t really spending a whole lot of time on my own appearance in those early days. Yet something was missing. Courtesy. It was GONE. Somehow the very reason I had become the subject of so much attention previously was exactly what resulted in my disappearance from view. The baby was no longer conveniently in my tummy. The baby was no longer quiet and unseen. I was taking up more physical space than was allotted to me thanks to my stroller and diaper bag, and that made me slip out of sight.
But you know what? I know I was seen. I could see it on the faces of strangers. I could see them turn away with purpose. I could see them roll their eyes when I pushed my stroller towards the entrance of a cafe or *gasp* a restaurant. I could see the darting eyes when my baby dared to let out a sound (whether a happy or not so happy sound seemed to make no difference). The elderly women in the fruit section of the grocery store were still there. They still saw me, and they still struck up conversations with me. Everyone else was gone. No one was holding doors for me anymore, no one was picking up something that my baby had tossed from the stroller, and no one was offering me somewhere to sit down. In fact, on one occasion I was struggling to move the stroller and myself through a tiny door that opened out towards us, and then I had to work us through a second tiny door after a minuscule vestibule while the first door closed firmly on my rear end. All that happened while a stranger stood just inside watching me and waiting for me to finish my awkward entrance before leaving the establishment themselves. I mean, really? That sort of thing has happened over and over again.
What happens to common courtesy once the baby is born? Why is it that a pregnant woman draws the most kindness from others while a mother with her child is just in the way? Look, I know babies can be noisy and babies can be messy. I get that. I do my best to soothe my child when he’s fussy, and I always pick up whatever mess is left on the floor (yes, I get down on the floor in restaurants/cafes and pick up as many muffin crumbs and cheerios as I can see or reach before I leave). But for crying out loud, I need to get out of the house sometimes too. I deserve to be out in public just as much as everyone else that isn’t towing a child around. My children are not with me so that I can inconvenience everyone else. They aren’t with me so I can ruin someone’s quiet coffee break. They deserve to be out in public just as much as anyone else. There’s no need to look away, and certainly no need to glare at us. I don’t need anyone to help me, I really don’t, but if you see someone struggling with a door would it be so hard to lend a hand?
What has been your experience with the courtesy of strangers during and after pregnancy?