I don’t expect any sympathy for simply commuting to and from work, we all know that being wedged under a stranger’s sweaty armpit on a crowded train is not much fun at the best of times, but when you roughly resemble the dimensions of a garden shed things can get pretty ugly.
Throw in a bout of nausea and a leg-crossing urge for the toilet, and you may just find yourself cursing innocent bystanders with triplets (the worst thing I can imagine, btw).
Perhaps I only have myself to blame but I absolutely refused to ruin my carefully selected maternity outfits (Thank You TopShop and Zara) with one of those Baby On Board badges (call 0845 330 9880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) or, even worse, a t-shirt emblazoned with Under Construction (The Maternity Barn)
But after a couple of months of pretty shoddy treatment at the hands of my fellow travelers, I did resort to ostentatiously reading Natural Active Birth or Raising Twins or some equally blatant book with a title terrifying enough to strike fear into any man.
Even that didn’t always work though. What is it with these City types buried behind The Times or so engrossed in a ‘Dangerously Difficult’ Sudoku puzzle that they fail to notice an enormous belly swinging inches from the end of their nose?
OK, OK, I know they’re probably terrified of the ‘Is she just fat?’ conundrum but usually it’s pretty clear when a woman is heavily pregnant, and surely it’s worth the risk of a polite, and subtle inquiry.
During my (uncomfortably sweaty) twin pregnancy in the summer of 2008 I endured fitter women shoving me out of the way to grab the last seat on a train as I waddled unsteadily down the carriage, more than once. I had to feign deafness as two Essex girls argued loudly over whether to give up their coveted seats – one kept saying, “She’s not ill she’s pregnant.” (If I have my way she’ll end up with triplets too.)
Another time I was pretty shocked to be the only person to move when an elderly man with crutches hobbled on and I don’t know who was more embarrassed me, him or the four men who pretended not to notice.
A particularly busy morning in July, two weeks before I gave birth to the boys, I was advised not to travel in rush hour if I wanted a seat. That was downright disheartening.
And I will never forget the journey home, at six and a half months gone, when I felt so ill, and had turned such an alarming shade of green, that I just sat down on the floor and tried very hard not to cry, only to find people stepping over me for two stops until eventually a woman with a toddler on her lap offered me her seat. When I pointed out that would be rather unfair all I heard was a horribly loud and horribly awkward silence.
Perhaps I was just unlucky, or perhaps there is something wrong with passengers on the Northern Line (oh, let’s face it, the Victoria Line is as bad, and probably all the others too) but I had to laugh when a teenage girl asked me to stand up because she was saving a seat for her friend.
It wasn’t all bad though, once a lovely guy was so engrossed in his book that when he glanced up and saw me clambering aboard he leapt out of his seat before noticing he and I were the only people in an otherwise empty carriage. And there was the wonderful day a German medical student shouted loudly across a packed train: “I am doctor! This lady pregnant! Stand please!” We were all utterly terrified but it had the desired effect. Immediately.
I have a suggestion for Boris Johnson, how about copying the Japanese and introducing uniformed “manners squads” to ensure the elderly, disabled and pregnant have seats.
My journey quickly became the most stressful part of my day and when I eventually gave up work at a fashion magazine I was thrilled to be lavished with a bulging bag of expensive beauty products, gorgeous designer clothes for my newborns, and a huge bouquet of flowers.
But the greatest gift of all? A cab home.