Imagine you are on a crowded commuter train and you see a visibly-ill pregnant woman sitting on the floor. Do you volunteer to give up your seat so she can sit down, or do you look askance and keep playing Candy Crush on your phone? If you’re a regular rider of the Surbiton to Waterloo line in London, it’s apparently the latter.
What? Yes. Victoria Poskitt says she was forced to sit on the floor after no other passengers would give up their seats on a morning train—that certainly seems to be a rarity in how pregnant women are treated in public! She is five months pregnant and says she has attempted to secure a special pass that allows pregnant women to sit in first class when there are no other seats available. But South West Trains, the company that operates the train she rides three days a week, says they only give passes to women who are over 20 weeks pregnant and who ride the train with a weekly, monthly or annual pass. Poskitt only rides it three days a week; The other two days, she works from home.
When I first saw this story, I was distracted by the photos of Poskitt, in which she somberly holds her belly and gazes at the camera like the most serious deer-in-the-headlights ever. But that really wasn’t a charitable or kind reaction, especially when I actually read the story and learned what she went through. Poskitt told the Evening Standard:
“I thought they might be willing to make an exception, particularly after I told them about what happened, but after conversations with various managers they’ve flatly said ‘no’, saying policy is policy. I don’t honestly know [what to do next], I keep trying with South West Trains, I’m throwing myself at their mercy because they could make all the difference to the last few months of my pregnancy. They said to me that if I’m feeling unwell I should find a guard; if they’ve been on one of their trains they should know that’s impossible. Then they said if you’re feeling unwell you should pull the emergency cord. Really?”
I mean, come on. This company can’t give her a pass because she doesn’t ride the train often enough? If she’s feeling sick, find a guard? That’s bullshit. I guess there is some debate over whether or not the other passengers on the train realized she was pregnant when the incident she describes happened, but as horrifying as it is that no one stood up to give a sick woman a seat, the real injustice here is what’s happening with the transportation system. I think think her story should be more than enough to get her a pass. And hell, at this point, her experience has been covered by more than a few UK media outlets, so South West Trains should give her a pass if only to avoid the poor publicity!
I feel like I am always railing against unfair treatment of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers here on Mommyish. And hey, I guess I am. But weird, sketchy, and morally-questionable treatment happens all the damn time, all over the world! I am not saying that pregnant women are special snowflakes who need to be treated with kid gloves, but I don’t think it would kill South West Trains to give Poskitt a first-class pass. Let’s hope the fact that she went public will help her get a smidgen of human consideration.