Pregnancy is a crash course in physics. Gravity, once understood as an airy concept connected to celestial bodies and apples, takes on new weight. It’s not weakness so much as an acute awareness of edges, heft, and drag. Life in a big city changes.
And so the casual knocks and bumps of a tram ride become a high-stakes affair. How will I hold myself up now my abdomen has split down the middle? Will this sudden lurching damage the baby? How can I ‘tap off’ without flying through the air?
It’s taken me the pregnancy-transformation to understand how important that public transport special needs chair. Poised in the corner close to the doors, it’s a guaranteed island of stillness and security in a world of push and pull. Seated, I don’t need to brace myself or cling to those around me in the case of sudden stops. I’m protected from the crush of people on overcrowded trams. It also gives me time to plot my next move or relax for a few minutes. After a full day’s work I hunger for that pale-red oasis.
But my goodness it’s a battle for this seat.
Over the past few months, it’s been offered to me once. Most of the time, I board the tram, seek out the chair and find an athletic young thing lounging here, head dipped into a mobile phone. They do not look up. Or simply a healthy, middle-aged human staring blankly into space. I slip into their orbit but they’ve already preemptively erased me from their field of view.
At first I thought I wasn’t visibly pregnant enough. It was my winter coat or deceptive pregnant glow. But now, ‘properly’ pregnant, I know it’s not me. It’s all of us, and our immense indifference or blindness to the bodies with which we share our public spaces.
The fact is we no longer see each other (I know you’re hearing this in the feeble, fist-shaking tones of an old curmudgeon, but please hear it in mine - a young woman with zero nostalgia about the past). We see our smart phones, a blur of bodies, the thoughts and anxieties we carry from work and life. But our attention towards the other has been switched to minimum - register a body-as-obstacle but do not engage.